by Crystal McClain
Macy, left, and her twin sister Madison enjoy a game together at NFB Camp.
Editor’s Note: Crystal McClain has, for a number of years, been a source of information, inspiration, and leadership for parents of blind children throughout Ohio and the nation. She is president of the Ohio Parents of Blind Children, a former board member of the NOPBC, and a regular contributor of articles to Future Reflections. Her good sense, creativity, and high expectations for her daughter are evident in all that she writes—including this delightful little article reprinted from Advocacy in Action, the newsletter of the POBC of the NFB of Ohio. Here is what Crystal has to say about Macy and her toys:
When Macy was a baby her favorite toys were those that made sounds, furry toys, toys that had interesting or unique textures, and toys that squeaked. We often found ourselves shopping in the pet department because she loved squeaky dog toys! Stuffed animals that talked were also favorites. Talking Big Bird, Buzz Light Year, and barking puppies were some of her favorites. To this day she likes the Taz that talks and shakes the best.
I personally believe that all toys are learning toys. Macy learned about shapes, textures, and sounds from these toys. For toys that help to teach, I asked teachers to let me look at catalogs that they received. I also visited a local store called The Education Station, a shop originally designed for teachers. Also, I recommend that parents take a look at the Lilly Vernon catalogs “Lillie’s Kids.” I remember buying from that catalog a set of plastic vegetables. Each vegetable was in segments that were attached together by velcro. The vegetables came in their own basket with a plastic knife to use for “cutting” apart the velcro attached pieces.
When Macy was a toddler we started a collection of animals for her. These animals were the kind you can get anywhere. The ones we bought were small, a couple inches tall. We bought them from the Disney Store, Wal-Mart, the zoo, Natural Wonder Store, and so forth. We started with simple animals, cows, horses, etc. Then we started elaborating by buying characters from Disney movies: Simba from the Lion King, the cats from the Aristocats, and others. The zoo was a great source for animals that were hard to get elsewhere. At the zoo we bought an octopus, kangaroos, snakes, whales, sharks, polar bears, and giraffes.
Macy had a large basket in which she kept her collection. When her older sister had ball games, we took along what we called her travel basket. This basket held maybe fifteen animals. Macy would steal the show wherever we were with her ability to accurately name the animals from her basket. She could distinguish Simba from Mufasa, both lions from the Lion King.
At first, she just named the animals. Next, she began to unload and reload her basket. After that she started sorting her animals into categories: animals that lived on a farm, animals from a certain movie, and animals that lived in the ocean. As she matured she moved beyond sorting to pretend play. She would play jungle, farm, or ocean. As you can tell her basket of animals grew with her. She learned lots of things from, and had hours of fun with, her animal basket.
Another toy that piqued her interest was the swing set. We bought a tunnel to attach to her swing set. Playing in her tunnel at home helped her enjoy the experience when she was introduced to the play land at McDonald’s. She still loves to go to Discovery Zone, which is a commercial recreational place filled with tunnels, slides, and ladders.
A trampoline is an expensive toy but lasts many years. Macy discovered our trampoline when she was two years old. Macy is now almost ten and is far from out-growing the trampoline. Other games like Bop-it and Bop-it Extreme are great games that test attention, speed, and fine motor skills as you turn it, twist it, pull it, and bop it.
A swimming pool was a necessity with my kids. We started with the kiddy pools and continued to upgrade through the years. We are now anxiously awaiting the full-size pool that is going into our back yard this spring. Pool toys are a must when swimming, especially pool noodles.
As kids get older their toys get more expensive, this includes blind kids as well. Macy’s sister bought an air hockey game. This turned out to be a game that was very entertaining for Macy, too. Recently Macy tried a treadmill at a hotel we were staying in. Needless to say that has been added to her next Christmas list. However, there were still some cheap toys on her recent gift list. She thinks Koosh balls and Koosh ball sling shots are lots of fun. Pokemon’s are now popular, and blind kids can enjoy them as well.
If your daughter gets some cash as a gift you can try this. Take her to the mall and look for what I call a “junk” jewelry store. Claire’s Boutique is Macy and Madison’s favorite. My girls can walk in there with ten dollars, spend an hour shopping, and have a blast! Bath and Body Works sells great glitter body lotion that young girls love, too.
Music is tops on Macy’s list. The girls always ask for concert tickets. They went to see an N’Sync concert that I’m sure that they will never forget. Macy has had two different karaoke machines starting with a cheap one. She is now asking for a new microphone for her karaoke machine and a microphone stand.
I hope that this has given you some ideas when toy shopping. Remember one of the best experts on what to get your child, is your child! My husband and I try to take the girls toy looking, and then we insist that they give us a toy list. They know that we will not buy everything and that we will sometimes buy things that aren’t on the list that we discover when shopping. But the list is a good place to start. My advice is don’t get too uptight about finding the perfect toys; kids love most everything!