Future Reflections Spring/Summer 1993, Vol. 12 No. 2
IDEAS FOR SELECTING EQUIPMENT AND TOYS FOR BLIND BABIES
Editor's Note: The following material is reprinted from the Overbrook School for the Blind Parent Early Childhood Education Series.
SELECTING EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR BABY
The right baby equipment and toys can further your child's development and enhance the enjoyment of his/her surroundings. Here are some things to consider about baby equipment: A front carrier which offers good support for your baby is very useful. Use a front carrier rather than an infant seat to keep your baby with you around the house.
Playpens can serve a purpose for a while only. They provide a confined and safe place for your baby, a limited area which your child can get to know before “braving” more of the world. They also provide a form of support for attempts to stand and walk as your child is ready for those skills. But your baby needs opportunities to explore his/her whole environment þ do not limit the experiences to a playpen area. Babies who become comfortable lying in the playpen listening to sounds (i.e., the television, radio, music, and other “household” noises) become passive and withdrawn. Lack of purposeful exploration and movement can lead to the development of self-stimulatory behaviors such as rocking.
Many parents feel, naturally, that a baby walker will promote earlier walking as well as provide a safe place for their baby. It is important to keep in mind that walkers, like playpens, can serve a purpose, but should not be overused. For babies who are visually impaired or blind, keep in mind the following thoughts on walkers: A child with sight can maneuver a walker, see where he/she is going and know where the walls and furniture are in relation to his/her body. A baby who is blind or visually impaired doesn't get a sense of where his/her body is in space in a walker. He/she can't explore walls, furniture, and objects because the walker tray “protects” him/her when he/she bumps into things. The “shield” all around his/her body gives him/her a false sense of where he/she is-he/she can only feel the walker tray. He/she becomes less eager to move about on his/her own because movement isn't purposeful for him/her. Babies who are visually impaired or blind tend to let walkers “hold” them; therefore, they don't learn to bear weight on their feet or to perceive where their feet are. If your baby has physical disabilities, be sure to consult your physical therapist before using equipment such as a walker or “Johnny Jump-Up.” Any baby who uses a walker needs to have enough control and strength to hold his/her head and body upright. If your baby was premature or has any physical disabilities, do not use a walker without consultation.
Johnny Jump-Ups are designed to allow a baby to put weight on his/her feet. They should be used only under supervision, and only when your baby shows good body positioning in the Johnny Jump-Up. The bouncing and jumping can offer a lot of fun; roughhousing and movement are good activities for a baby who is visually impaired-but remember to use caution, too.
Other equipment which your baby will enjoy as he/she grows is listed below. Many things can be made or bought inexpensively:
**These materials were prepared by the Early Childhood Unit of the Overbrook
School for the Blind especially for use by parents in the home with young
children who are blind or visually impaired.
SELECTING TOYS FOR YOUR BABY
Though your baby may not be able to reach out and actively grasp something, you can introduce a variety of infant toys. You do not need to buy a lot of toys. There are many household materials that make excellent toys. Also, keep in mind the things your baby will enjoy the most for his/her age and developmental levels.
Babies from birth to about three months like to:
You can provide:
Toys and equipment you may find useful:
As your baby gets a little older and begins to open his/her hands more to explore objects and learn more about his/her environment, you can offer some other activities and toys. Your baby may like to:
You can give your baby:
Toys which you may find useful:
Some specific commercially available toys which are very good are:
Remember that your baby will be putting everything in his/her mouth. Make certain that any toys or objects given to him/her are large enough and do not have small, removable parts that could be swallowed. When your baby gets used to manipulating objects and becomes more skilled in using his/her hands, sitting up, and perhaps moving more, you can offer activities which will continue to stimulate his/her curiosity.
Your baby may like to: