Making Winter Holiday Traditions Accessible

child scooping cookie dough
Child scooping cookie dough

What winter holiday festivities are important to you and your family? Traditions, priceless and unique to you and your family, can be passed down from your immediate family to future generations. When sharing longstanding and new traditions as a family, take the extra time to ensure accessibility for your child who is blind or low vision. Your child will better understand their key components and be able to participate more independently.  

child preparing to crack an egg
Child preparing to crack an egg

Good ‘Ole Traditions 

Cookies

Baking holiday cookies is one of the most popular winter holiday traditions and one of the sweetest gifts to share with friends and family. Depending on the age of your child, consider making a few no-bake cookies or puppy chow (there are so many flavors such as mint, lemon, or even cookies and cream.) Consider, too, sugar cookies to allow for a variety of shapes. Royal icing is another way to make the cookies more fun to feel, as the icing will harden when dry, enabling your child to feel the layers and designs of the cookies. 

Visit Recipes (lilaloa.com) for the cookie and royal Icing recipes. 

Gingerbread House

Constructing and decorating gingerbread houses allows your child to be messy and enjoy the many different textures. There are a variety of methods to making gingerbread houses from Pop Tarts to all-in-one precut kits. One tip is to decorate the sides and roof of the house before building it, allowing your child to be more hands-on without fear of the house falling apart. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to describe the parts of the house as you decorate and compare it to your home. 

Gingerbread House Kit | Michaels  

Wilton Ready-to-Build Mini Village Gingerbread Kit, 13-Piece – Walmart.com 

Ugly Sweater

Creating an ugly sweater can be a hilarious holiday tradition! Allow your child to decorate their sweater or sweatshirt with their own creative ideas. Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabrics has many different fabrics and textures, and you can use fabric glue and Velcro to allow for more independence. For those who are ready to stitch their design, consider low-vision sewing aids to provide greater independence and accessibility. 

MaxiAids | Sewing Aids | Tools | Magnifiers 

Volunteer

Volunteering together can create a family culture of empathy and compassion. Your child could shop for another child; a school counselor can share items that a family in the school may need and you can allow your child to shop for that student. Alternatively, you could stock food pantry shelves together or your family could put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. 

Placemat with tactile markers
Placemat with tactile makers

Make a meal

Cooking a holiday meal or dish together can help your child gain independence in the kitchen and can create lasting memories. To make the tradition accessible, utilize a recipe in large print or braille. Additional accommodations include labeling measuring cups with a permanent marker or with tactile bumps, using a food chopper, and using safe starter knives. Take the extra time to have your child use their hands and get messy. Don’t forget to teach your child to set the table! 

Jr. Knives: Amazon.com: Tovla Jr. Knives for Kids 3-Piece Nylon Kitchen Baking Knife Set: Children’s Cooking Knives in 3 Sizes & Colors/Firm Grip, Serrated Edges, BPA-Free Kids’ Knives (colors vary for each size knife): Home & Kitchen 

Braille Measuring Cups and Spoons: MaxiAids | Braille Measuring Cups and Spoons 

The Night Before Christmas or Other Holiday Story

Sharing traditional stories as well as favorite childhood stories brings joy to all. Your child can enjoy the story just as much as you did as a child—with a few additions. Explore items that represent the story such as snow or shaved ice; bells; a sleigh; sounds of hooves clopping; something cherry flavored such as a sucker; and a cool fireplace with a chimney. Providing information about how they relate to the story will help your child better understand the story. 

Child reaching to explore an ornament on an outdoor holiday display 
A child reaching to explore an ornament on an outdoor holiday display 

New Traditions to Consider Adding 

Game Night

Gaming together can make an enjoyable tradition! Check out Braille Uno or Go Fish or 64 Oz Games Store games such as Apples to Apples, Clue, Exploding Kittens, Sequence, Catan, or Cards Against Humanity. Maxiaids has Monopoly, Braille Jumbo playing cards, checkers, Racko card games, and many more.  Invite friends and family over to enjoy a game night. Don’t forget to bring snacks to share! 

64 Oz Games Store – 64 Ounce Games 

MaxiAids | games 

Child exploring an outdoor holiday display of stacked presents 
A child exploring an outdoor holiday display of stacked presents

Christmas Lights

Some families are syncing their exterior Christmas lights to music from local radio stations. See if a homeowner will allow your child to walk around their house during the day while you describe what is on the house. At night when the light show is on, describe what parts of the house have blinking lights that change colors to the music.  

Make Ornaments

Making ornaments is a fun tradition that gives you the opportunity to remember former holiday seasons when you explore the previous years’ creations. Use salt dough, roll it out like a cookie, and cut it into shapes. Your child can then paint the ornament once it is baked and cooled. There are also simple ornaments made of melted pony beads. Whichever you choose, you may wish to create additional ornaments to give as holiday gifts! 

Easy Melted Pony Bead Ornaments – Kids Craft – A Few Shortcuts 

The Best Salt Dough (for Ornaments and Crafting!) to Make with the Kids (yummytoddlerfood.com) 

Hot Cocoa Bombs

Making hot cocoa bombs is all the rave and actually very easy. You need a mold for the chocolate and ingredients to put inside of the chocolate such as hot cocoa powder and mini marshmallows. Melt the chocolate and pour it into the mold. Use descriptive language to help your child tip and cover the mold with the melted chocolate. Place it in the fridge to harden, pop them out, and fill them. Warm a plate in the microwave; place the top of the cocoa bomb cut side down to melt a little of the edge to “glue” to the bottom of the cocoa bomb. Add to hot milk and enjoy! 

How to Make Hot Cocoa Bombs – Shugary Sweets 

Watch a movie

Making popcorn with fun fixings such as flavored salts, pretzels, M&Ms, marshmallows, or other seasonings is delicious and multi-sensory! After making decadent popcorn together, gather and watch a movie using audio description. Netflix, Amazon- Prime Video, and Disney have quite a variety of movies that are available with audio description options.   

https://www.adp.acb.org

Listen to FamilyConnect program manager, Melisa Matthews, share about adapting old and new holiday traditions for children who are blind or low vision on the APH Change Makers podcast: Change Makers: A Podcast from APH | Aging Loved Ones 

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