Activities for Visually Impaired Kids

Focus on the other four senses when playing with a visually impaired child.
Focus on the other four senses when playing with a visually impaired child.

You don't realize how geared toward sighted people the modern world is unless you've tried walking around in a blindfold for extended periods of time. It can be just as frustrating for people with impaired vision. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, we don't even have accurate numbers for how many kids in the U.S. have vision impairments of varying degrees. Kids with impaired vision can feel left out at school if the activities are all about sight. Here are a few that aren't.

  • The nose knows: Gather an even number of small containers with lids (you're going to want two jars for each scent) -- baby food jars work well. When you pick out your scents, anything distinctive will work: pickles, syrup, vanilla extract, lemon juice, rosemary. Line up your jars and put a bit of each substance into two jars. You can mix them up and have your match the scents and identify them.
  • Get a green thumb: Gardening isn't just for people with 20/20 vision. Raised flower beds can help someone navigate around a garden, and plastic kids' gardening tools aren't too difficult to find. Labels for plants on large printed cards (or in Braille) and an organized layout make it easier to identify what's growing. You can teach your child how to identify weeds by the way they feel or smell (although you'll want to watch out for plants like poison ivy first). If you plants seeds evenly (using a piece of notched wood or seed tape), it will be easier to tell what's a weed and what's a plant.
  • Play in the dirt: At first when your child plays with clay, let him or her just enjoy the feel of it -- What happens when you roll it up into a ball? When you squish it? When you add water to it? When you pound it flat? When the feel of the clay has been explored, you can encourage your child to make things with it with no guidance from you. What did he or she make? The model can be turned into a story. For example, if your daughter sculpted a fish, you could ask where the fish is going or what the fish is feeling or what it's been doing all day. This can be a good way to let your child be creative and also lead into discussions about emotions.