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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Toy Guide 2002: Introduction

Go to the current version of the Toy Guide.

Do you remember being a child? Feeling excited to discover the world, and having the energy to make sure you did? Whether you discovered this world by dressing up and playing make believe, riding a bike or caring for a doll so much she felt like your own, you most likely began this exploration through play. Toys are a wonderful outlet to that world of play. Play is a part of growing up and discovering the world around us. It teaches children about themselves, their surroundings and how to interact with others.

Toys and play:

  • Inspire children's curiosity to move and explore
  • Promote awareness of people, places and things
  • Encourage communication with others
  • Provide opportunities for social and emotional growth
  • Stimulate children's intellect, imagination and creativity
  • Build skills for recreational activities and sports

It's very easy though to take for granted how much we rely on sight to learn many of these skills. Children with visual impairments need additional support to learn these skills and become familiar with their environments. Play can be the first step in this process.

Toys are designed to create positive experiences for children. These experiences will vary with each child. The purpose of this Guide is to select toys that will have the most positive play experience for children who are blind or visually impaired. Each of the toys in this Guide offers children with visual impairments the opportunity to have fun and enriching experiences through play!

The American Foundation for the Blind selected the toys in this Guide based on their play value for children who are blind or visually impaired including those with special needs who have additional disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments or developmental disabilities.

All of these toys were chosen by a panel, made up of child development specialists, teachers of children with visual impairments, and the real authorities…children at play! Each toy in the Guide is marked with a symbol that indicates who may find them most enjoyable.

       B and LV:  Children who are blind, as well as those who have low vision.

         LV:  Children with low vision only.

         SN:  Children with special needs.

The age ranges that appear in this Guide were determined by manufactures for children who are not blind or visually impaired and may not be appropriate for the children you have in mind. When selecting toys, be aware that children develop skills at varying rates. In addition, be sure to consider a child's own interests and skills. Be imaginative when selecting toys for children with special needs, who may enjoy a unique way of having fun with their toys.

Remember as you use this informative Guide that the products featured in this Guide are examples of the thousands of fun, safe and appropriate toys for children who are blind or visually impaired, including children who have additional disabilities.

Most importantly, keep in mind that the biggest part of play is interaction. We encourage parents and caregivers to be a part of this experience by making playtime a priority… and playing often! Remember that there is no substitute for sensible adult supervision of children's play, and that it is advisable to seek input from a physician or occupational or physical therapist if your child with special needs has fine or gross motor impairments, or other health concerns.

The toys in this Guide were chosen using the criteria below. Apply these same guidelines to select additional toys for children who are blind, visually impaired or have special needs.

Look for toys that:

Talk or produce sounds:
Children with visual impairments will benefit from the influx of technology in today's toys. Toys that talk or imitate real life noises attract children's attention, help them understand cause and effect, and teach them to use auditory senses effectively as they grow.

Have bright colors, high contrast and emit light:
Toys with simple contrasting patterns of lines and shapes that are brightly colored or light up during play stimulate children to use their vision to its best potential.

Feature a variety of interesting surfaces and textures:
Toys that have dials, switches, buttons and other surfaces that are fun to touch and operate encourage children to use their fingers and hands to explore. Textures introduce children to the way everyday objects feel. Interesting, flexible or rubbery surfaces make dolls, rattles and balls easy to play with and appealing.

Stimulate thinking and creativity:
Puzzles, railroads, blocks and other building toys help children discover how parts make up the whole and stimulate their imagination to plan and build. Toy letters and numbers marked in Braille, as well as phonics toys introduce children to the wonders of learning through reading. That sense of wonder is also experienced as they play with craft kits and art supplies, which help enhance creativity.

Encourage movement and exploration:
Climbing and riding toys, athletic equipment and other action toys engage children in movement and exploration. Physical activity promotes the growth of strong muscles for walking, running and sports; toy rattles, hand puppets and musical toys enhance the development of fine motor and hand skills, and facilitate graceful and easy movement.

Promote cooperation, sharing and social growth:
Games and ROLE PLAYing activities engage children in play with their friends, family and teachers. Games that encourage cooperation and sharing build the foundation of friendship and relationships with others.

Develop awareness of people, places and things:
Dolls, stuffed animals, puppets, vehicles and play towns introduce the sights and sounds of daily living, acquaint children with the jobs that people do at home and at work, and stimulate creative ROLE PLAY.

We hope you are able to use this Guide to use these toys, or find products that will help you interact, encourage and inspire your children through play!

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