Preschool fingers explored a tactile foam fish on a story board.

Preschool: 2D tactile materials supporting play and literacy

Looking for ways to enrich your preschooler's experiences?

This is the first post in a series of providing tactile graphic rich environments for preschool and elementary students. This post has four easy ideas of how to provide two-dimensional tactile elements that support play and literacy for preschoolers.

Play Boards

This tactile play board was created with the students and is made from a cardboard box which has been unfolded and laid flat on a table. This particular play board is “The little Farm” with a house with a pointed roof created from foam sheets with raised windows and doors, a rectangular foam barn, two ponds outlined in Wiki Styx, a garden with various foam sticker shapes. There is print and braille labeling these items. The group of kids are playing with small plastic farm animals and plushy animals, plus several cardboard boxes perfect for ‘buildings’ (such as the animal hospital in their play) for the plushy animals. This play board can be used as a center activity in the preschool classroom with multiple students. It is a wonderful social activity engaging students to play together while encouraging pretend play.

Image 1: The Little Farm Play Board

The little farm cardboard play board with tactile house, barn, ponds, and garden and small plastic farm animals.

Story Boards

The Story Board has a story in braille and print, 2D image of an outline of a house, foam stars and a foam sliver moon in the sky, a foam fish (with raised fins), a turtle with a textured back and eyes, and a wavy line for the ground with ‘bumps’ representing crickets. The board itself is a recycled braille textbook cover or can be order on APH Quota: Covers for Braille Documents. Nearby is a 3D plastic turtle and a plushy fish. The story board with its tactile illustrations is an engaging literacy activity that helps the student to develop concepts as it links the salient features of 3 dimensional objects with two dimensional tactile drawings.

Image 2: Fish and Turtle Story Board

Fish and turtle story in print and braille with tactile illustration of a house, stars, moon, fish and turtle. a 3D plastic turtle and plushy fish are nearby.

Tactile drawings

Just like sighted peers have access to visual ‘educational’ drawings around the classroom, students who are blind should have access to interesting tactile drawings. Place simple tactile drawings on vertical spaces at preschooler height around the classroom; after reviewing the drawing with an educator, have the student help place the drawing on the vertical space and encourage him/her to explore these drawings during free time.

These teacher-created hand drawings continue to build the student’s concepts and the tactile images are models for student drawings. Drawings are not intended to be perfect and require a little piece of imagination to identify the animals. Jessica purposefully includes salient features in her animal drawings, such as the duck’s webbed feet. Jessica and Logan explore the drawings together, discovering the salient features used to identify the animal, ‘reading’ the braille together, and counting the number of the each set of animals. Logan uses the drawings to help him recall the braille words.

This drawing was created using a tactile drawing board. The drawing has “2 little bucks” and “2 little ducks” in print and braille, along with 2 hand drawn bucks and two hand drawn ducks.

Image 3: Raised line tactile drawing

Hand drawn tactile outline of 2 bucks and 2 ducks with text in print and braille.

Link to academic tactile graphics

As always, students should be introduced to the real object (if appropriate and available), then a realistic 3D object, before moving to a 2D object. The next step is to introduce ‘academic’ tactile graphics that Logan will be exposed to in class, such as educational materials created by APH and/or tactile graphics found in braille textbooks. In this activity, Jessica has Logan compare the more familiar plushy fish to the 2D diagram of a fish available through APH Sense of Science kit.

Image 4: Logan with one hand the plushy fish and one hand on the 2D tactile diagram of a fish.

Photo of preschooler Logan comparing the plushy fish and the 2D diagram of a fish.

In the video below, Jessica discusses these four types of resources; video clips of Logan are embedded into Jessica’s video.

Transcript for 1 Preschool: 2D tactile materials supporting play and literacy video.

Key points

Preschool Strategies to support fluency with tactile pictures and drawing


Other posts in this series:

Ideas and videos are by Jessica McDowell; post co-written by Diane Brauner

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