If it Makes Noise, You can call them Toys
By David Hyde
Not long ago, the mother of a young blind girl called me. She wanted to know about special toys. Now I know that there are a lot of special things out there that vibrate, whistle, bing and bong; they sing, play music, talk to you and respond to cues. And for that matter, most of them weren’t designed for blind and visually impaired children. Oh yes, I forgot the flashing lights and bright colors.
Now it wasn’t always this way. Growing up, although I had trucks and blocks, and stuffed animals like every little boy, one of my favorite places to play was the kitchen. The best place by far was the cupboards where we kept pots and pans. What a marvelous sound you could get with a metal spoon and a sauce pan. If you could score the soup pot, you got a much louder and deeper tone. The saucepan was a soprano of the culinary orchestra, while the soup pot was more of a baritone, and if I found the big roaster, that was the basso profundo, and like many a singer, its presentations were shortened by requests from the audience. I never recall my mother crying “encore” during my percussionary exploits. I learned that size matters, when you’re talking about sound. At three or four, I knew that bigger was better and hitting with different things made different noises. There was a difference between the soup can and the coffee can. You could get a lot of different sounds out of either, depending on how and where you struck it. An oatmeal box had differences too, and I became interested in how to make things change their sound.
The tool box was an interesting place too. It is amazing how many sounds you can make with a hammer, and how fast parents react to them. A screwdriver had all kinds of possibilities, and I remember one early morning when a friend and I were discovered by my awakening parents, taking out the screws that held up our storm windows. The screwdriver went away with the hammer, and the toolbox began living on a high shelf, but I digress.
But back to the mother and the little girl. I learned that she was about ten months old. She was crawling. I asked about her favorite toys, and it got quiet on the phone.
“Well, she really likes to make noise with things,” and I began to chuckle
“Has she found the pots and pans?” I asked
“Yes, I can’t keep her out from under the cupboards,” mom admitted.
I told her of how much fun I had had as a young boy playing with kitchenware. “She’s going to be fine,” I said, She’s curious, and she’ll get in to trouble as much as she can. You have a normal little girl, who just happens to be blind.
Later that year, I met the young couple and their daughter, and I was charmed. It was clear that she has mom and dad wrapped around her little finger. She has a bright future ahead of her, and it all starts with making noise.
Toys are everywhere for a blind or visually impaired child. If it makes noise, its good. Be aware that like other children, yours will find new and unusual ways to use everything. The only limit is his or her imagination, and reach. Encourage exploration, and if they need it, help them play with what they find. Be sure that everything they find will be a toy, whether that was its design or not. Put things that can be injurious, or will cause harm to your home, in a place where little hands won’t find them, but do not assume that they will be hurt by everything. Like any child, yours will learn from their mistakes. With new experiences, and lots of love, you will help them grow.
David Hyde is a Parent Liaison and the Professional Development Coordinator at WCBVI. You can contact him by email at email@example.com or by phone at (608) 758-6152 or toll free 1-866-284-1107 x6152.