Fall Family Fun: Explore an Orchard with Your Child Who Is Blind or Low Vision
Your child has likely sunk their teeth into a crisp apple bursting with sweet juices or taken spoonfuls of sugary, smooth applesauce with notes of warm cinnamon, but do they know how their snack came to be? Do they know how apples are grown and harvested? Do they truly know what an apple tree is? Have they run their fingers over the scaly bark, wrapped their arms around the girth of the trunk, stroked the affixed oval leaves, or tugged and twisted off mature apples? Thankfully, it’s the perfect time of year to do so! Consider visiting an orchard with your child who is blind or low vision.
Preparing for the venture
Suggestions for before you head out to the orchard:
- how to choose the right orchard for your family
- recommendations for finding an orchard with additional activities such as hay or tractor ride
- accessibility considerations and recommendations
- suggested activities for preparing your child for the adventure
Exploring the orchard
We know children who are blind or visually impaired should engage in active learning, exploring, and discovering with their remaining senses. As they interact with the world—physically exploring objects and processes—an adult or individual can provide words to help the child make sense of the experiences, as explained in Building Knowledge in Blind Infants and Toddlers.
This means that while you’re at the orchard, your child’s job is to touch, pull, pat, hug, push, grab, and shake. It’s to sniff, whiff, and smell. It’s to lick and bite! Your job is to name what they’re exploring and describe what you’re seeing. Sound fun?!
Also fun…You can invite your child(ren) into a conversation. A favorite nature (literature and art, too!) exploration questions are from The Laws’ Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws:
-What do you notice?
-What do you wonder?
-What does it remind you of?
Such questions teach one to think methodically, to investigate independently, to develop curiosity, and to make connections—all working to help the individual discover, understand, and learn.
So, let your child get their hands dirty and experience an apple tree first-hand. Ask what they notice (Yes, even if your child is non-verbal!). You’ll provide your child an opportunity to be an active and engaged observer. Ask what they wonder. You may be surprised at their clever questions, some of which they may be able to experiment with or investigate at the orchard or at home. Ask what the elements remind them of. Does the tree bark feel like anything they’ve touched? Do the leaves? The soil? Does the tree remind them of a tree from a story? Is the scent familiar? Does an apple taste like any other food? Does the process of a tree growing and bearing fruit remind them of anything? Now, don’t ask all the detailed questions—let their mind and imagination do the work when simply asked, “What does it remind you of?”
Ah, connections are the heartbeat of learning.
It’s time to connect the hard, smooth apple from the refrigerator to the apple tree at the orchard.