Future Reflections Fall 1995, Vol. 14 No. 3



Editor's Note: Written by Terri Connolly, this article appeared in the March 1993 Kid-Bits newsletter of the Kentucky School for the Blind. It was reprinted from Pitter-Patter, newsletter of Project First Steps. The original title is "You've Got It: Learning `Toys' Around the House." This version has been edited and reformatted to make it easier to read and to use as a reference.

For those readers who have been looking for toy ideas for blind babies, please note that these general ideas for toys are as useful for blind children as they are for sighted children. Don't ignore the few visual aspects of these toys either. Remember, your baby will gradually learn (as all children do) to play with other children. His/her toys should have visual appeal for sighted playmates. Activities such as painting may be adapted for the tactual sense by adding sand or such to the paint. With or without this adaptation, however, your child needs to experience at least the act of painting, coloring, or drawing because it is such a common activity among his/her peers.

The most important influences in your baby's development are you and the environment. Actually, you are the greatest toy around. Your face, your voice, your hands, and your heart are "toys" which are all responsive to your baby's needs and actions. Your home, which is your baby's learning environment, should include safe spaces and safe materials or toys to play with. Play is as important as food, sleep, and love. Fun learning or "non-stressed skill development" occurs naturally through play with enhanced experiences in an enriched environment.

Toys, toys, toys, toys everywhere. Sound like your house? Babies do need toys. Today, toys for young children are highly researched, incredibly available, and downright fun. There are so many appropriate commercial toys available that, without careful planning, the toys that "enrich" our babies' environment will "en-poor" our pocketbooks. Not to worry, there is much fun and learning to be had with inexpensive, ordinary, and natural household materials. It is interesting to note that many manufactured toys are replicas of ordinary household objects such as nested cups or objects in a bowl. Because home-found or home-made toys are not made according to federal safety guidelines, please use them only during special playtimes when you can directly supervise their use. Consider the skills your baby is practicing as well as his/her likes and dislikes when choosing appropriate games to play together.

Easy props for play

Cardboard Tubes...
* Look through.
* Blow through.
* Sing or talk through.
* Bang for sound.
* Slide sideways on a string tied alongside the crib (hang other tubes on short yarns from that one to bat around).
* Roll.
* Tie or tape a long tube on the banister to drop a toy through into a pan at the bottom.
* Drop a spoon through.
* Tape two short ones together for binoculars.
* Thread several on a rope to pull around.
* Line several standing up on the floor and knock down with a ball or by hand.
* Hold one hand over each end of the tube as you roll or shake objects inside, such as a spool, by tilting it each way.
* Use a tube as a bat or golf club to poke or hit at a rolled up sock or ball of newspaper.
* Draw faces and bodies on the tubes to talk with them like puppets.
* Hold the tube while baby throws a ball over the tube or rolls it under the tube.
* Cut apart a six-pack rings and place them onto the tube (supervise carefully when using small objects to drop into the tube).

Boxes...(Discount shoe stores or departments will often give you a dozen boxes on request.)
* Using a lid, cover and uncover to find a hidden special toy. Stack and knock down.
* Nest inside each other.
* Cut a circle and a square hole in a box to sort blocks and short tubes or balls.
* Cut the ends to make a tunnel for a car.
* Lay a doll all wrapped up in its own special bed.
* Add a string for a fun pull toy wagon.
* Tie several boxes together for a train.
* Turn over and beat like a drum with a tube or spoon.
* Reach in without looking to feel a hidden object.
* "Skate" with a shoe box on each foot (be sure to hold toddlers hands during this activity).
* Glue magazine pictures on each side of a cube box to point to, find, and talk about.
* Cut opposite sides corner to corner to turn over for a ramp to roll cars or tubes down.
* Cut a narrow slot in the lid to play "mail" with index cards.
* Use two to three same-size boxes to introduce the concept of discrimination and classification by sorting and storing toys.

Larger Boxes...
* Cut doors and make into playhouse.
* Paint with water using sponge or brush.
* Tape paper on it for a sturdy large easel to paint on.
* Cut a large opening in one side, remove flaps, and dangle toys on strings from top of hole for baby in infant seat to bat at and reach for.
* Sit baby in a large diaper box with blanket for padding to play. Gently push and pull for a Abumper car@ game.
* Securely tape Busy Boxes, Jack-in-the-Box, or other manipulative toys on and around a large box for a fun learning center.

Cereal Boxes...These have wonderful colors and graphics for visual appeal.
* Empty several of the snack-pack variety into a large bowl for a fun snack, then tape the ends of the empty boxes for fun stacking blocks, or to line up like a train.
* Cut the front side off and cut into two or three pieces for a fun, easy puzzle.
* Leave a few pieces of cereal in a large cereal box, tape securely, and string across crib for a pretty, but noisy, kick toy.

Grocery Size Paper Bags...
* Stuff with crumpled newspaper, roll, and tape ends closed for large stacking blocks or for throwing with two hands.
* Cut open front, armholes, and neck to make costumes for older children to decorate.
* Cut and lay flat for great sturdy paper for drawing or painting. Great to stack canned goods in, just like shopping at the store.

Lunch Bags...
* Stuff and tape for small, noisy, soft blocks.
* Draw eyes on bottom and mouth on flap edge for an entertaining puppet.
* Put on baby's feet to increase awareness.
* Put on toddlers' feet with rubber bands and let them stomp around in their "boots."
* Inflate by blowing into gathered neck of bag, tie end with a short string for a soft, noisy object for baby to swipe and bat. Place dry cereal or crackers in for baby's regular snackCit's fun to reach in and find a surprise.
* Put a toy in and shake, let baby pull out the surprise.

Towels, Scarves, or Baby Blankets...
* Hide toys under.
* Play peek-a-boo.
* Roll baby up in and unroll.
* Drag baby slowly around on floor (best if baby lays into blanket for head support)
* Drape over chairs or table for a cozy crawl-through tent.
* Dance and sway to music as you shake scarf to the rhythm.
* Wrap and cuddle a doll in a cloth.

Plastic Lids...
* Cut hole in to drop objects into fitted containers (can or bowl). String several together and tie tightly.