Choosing Toys and Creating a Play Area for Your Blind or Low-Vision Child

Young girl playing in ball pit

When selecting toys for children, we often focus on their appearance. Sighted kids smile at cuddly stuffed animals and vibrant cartoon characters. However, for a child who is blind or has low vision, looks take a backseat. To ensure your child’s playtime is fun and stimulating, opt for toys with multi-sensory appeal.

Multi-sensory means engaging more than one sense. So, look for toys that make noise, offer diverse textures, and provide visual stimulation. These toys engage three out of your baby’s five senses. If your child has some vision, bright, high-contrast colors might be appealing. But also consider toys with sounds, various textures, or hidden surprises for exploring little fingers.

Choosing toys isn’t just about fun; it’s also an opportunity for learning and development. To support your baby or toddler’s growth, consider toys that challenge them. Toys with knobs to turn, pull, and push can be both enjoyable and great for enhancing manual dexterity.

Think about toys that mimic common household items—a toy smartphone that rings when a button is pressed, for instance. Don’t overlook an old computer keyboard, phone or remotes. It can serve as a practical “toy” to familiarize your toddler with a tool they’ll use frequently in the future, like a braillewriter or a real computer keyboard.

It’s worth noting that many children who are blind or have low vision might not prefer the texture of stuffed toys. Plastic toys, while colorful, often have similar shapes and textures, making them less appealing.

Some of the features to look for in toys for your child are:

  • Unbreakable with no sharp edges
  • Moving parts that are fun to wiggle, press, or pull (be sure they’re firmly attached and too big for your baby to put in their mouth and possibly swallow)
  • Sound—for example, a wooden duck that quacks when it’s pulled or a soft plastic mouse that squeaks when it’s squeezed may be appealing
  • Surfaces that are multi-textured or in some other way pleasing and interesting to touch

Creating a Play Area for Blind or Low Vision Children

  • To foster your child’s playtime, ensure they have a designated, safe space they can call their own. This special place could be in their bedroom, a cozy corner of the kitchen, or a convenient spot in any room. Consider setting it up between two low bookcases, using a multi-shelf unit against a wall, or simply having a couple of spacious boxes or baskets for toy storage. The aim is to provide a secure and familiar environment where your child can play, feel at ease, and better understand their surroundings
  • Put your child’s smaller toys in a shallow container or a tray with a raised edge. That will keep them from sliding or rolling away.
  • Encourage your child to roll, crawl, scoot, or walk to get a toy for themself. That will help develop good motor skills. Also, if you always bring toys to them may not realize where the toys are or that they can choose the ones wanted.
  • Help your child store toys in an organized way. You might suggest putting all mechanical toys in one bin; blocks and similar toys in another; and soft, squishy toys in a third. Gluing an identifying toy of each kind on each bin can help your toddler know just where to find each type of toy.