Early Years – World of play

Tactile sensory play for vision impaired children

Thank you to the MK Sensory Team at St Paul’s Catholic School for their help in compiling these sensory play ideas for you to enjoy with your child. Start exploring the tactile world through these fun activities, just please remember to do all of these activities under supervision.

Thank you to the MK Sensory Team at St Paul’s Catholic School for their in help compiling these sensory play ideas for you to enjoy with your child. Start exploring the tactile world through these fun activities, just please remember to do all of these activities under supervision.

Make a ball soup or cake

Fill a big bowl, sink or bath with water and throw in some plastic balls. It’s fun to chase the balls as they keep moving away from you. You can use big wooden spoons or ladles to mix the ‘soup’.  This is a fun activity that can be used with many different objects, it is also good to use different textured items and ones that make different sounds.

Check out this YouTube video that explores a dry version of ball soup!
Watch the video on YouTube here >

Water play

You can set up a low level of water in a bowl, paddling pool, water table or tray. Always supervise children around any level of water play. Use different types of containers and spoons and start filling, pouring, stirring and enjoying the feeling of the water splashing. Encourage your child to listen to the sounds of the water and the sensation of pouring water over their hands. Add a sponge and hear the difference in the sounds. You can use a variety of different items to explore, textures, floating and sinking. Use food colouring to enable a child with limited vision to be able to see water in clear containers or add scents for an extra sensory element.

Water play inspiration!  Here’s 10 accessible waterplay ideas for you to try at home:
10 water sensory play activities for kids on school holidays – The Sensory Specialist

Sand play

Use different containers as in the water activity but this time use both dry and wet sand. Squash the sand into the containers, using hands and spoons. Play games making ‘cakes’ and sandcastles. Try adding different objects into the sand to bury and find. By adding more water, you could create your own rock pool or seaside scene – be imaginative with what you add – you could add stones, rocks, shells and leaves and hide toys that relate to the setting such as fish and crabs.

“Sand is a toy – the less the toy does the more the child will learn!” follow the link for more ideas of how to incorporate sand play in to your sensory session: 
Sensory Play with Sand | Learning 4 Kids

Balloon play

While blowing up a balloon, let your child feel the balloon getting bigger, then while letting the air squeeze out, your child can feel the balloon getting smaller and listening to the sound of the air escaping.

Items could be put inside a balloon such as water (warm and cold), sand (wet and dry), small items (beads, plastic marbles, rice etc), blow up the balloon and tie a knot, follow the sounds, feel the items vibrate and hit the sides when shaken etc.

For a texture game, put items such as flour, rice, sugar, pasta or water inside the balloon. Blow the balloon up only slightly, this will allow the child to squeeze them safely without it popping, they will feel the different textures.

Want to learn how to use balloons as part of sensory play AND create a tactile piece of wall art at the same time? 

Jelly play

Purchase a packet of jelly and make as per the instructions and allow to set and cool in a bowl. You can give your child the bowl or break it up into a tray. Your child can then have lots of fun exploring the textures – they can touch, squeeze, pat and wobble the jelly. It’s a fun slippery, cold surface and texture for them to explore. Think about some toys that relate to a game that you can hide within the jelly to encourage them to dig in. For added fun, try making different colours/flavours within the same game. This is a great multi-sensory activity as it encourages smell and taste as well as touch.

Tasty and touchy.. the possibilities with sensory games in jelly are endless. Get some more inspiration and learn more about the benefits here… 
Sensory Play with Jelly | Learning 4 Kids

Water bead play

Water beads are a sensory item you can buy in a pack and make a lovely tactile activity. They expand when you add water to them, allowing your child to squish them and run their fingers through them, there bright colours also are attractive for children with some useful vision.

This article from Mother and Baby Magazine shares ideas on how to play with them and where to buy them: 

Tactile paint play

There are lots of materials you can add to paint to make it textured and tactile. Try adding sand or salt when you mix it. You can purchase puffy fabric paints that are naturally raised when you use them. Stick string to a sheet of paper and paint over it to create a raised image.

Art is not just for sighted children! Get them started young with textured tactile paint and it will help to develop a love of creativity from an early age: 
Homemade Textured Paint (sensory play to reduce raising picky eaters) – Kid Activities with Alexa

Wind play

Remember tactile play is a full body experience, you can try adding a fan to bring a new tactile experience. If you sit your child in front of a fan, they can feel the cool air blowing on them. You can also tie some ribbons or small balloons to the fan for the child to feel the wind moving them around them. Just remember to do this activity under supervision!

If your child has some useful vision use a light up fan as part of play, not only will they feel the wind put also see the moving lights.  There is an array of them to purchase online, here is an Amazon example: 
The Glowhouse Flashing Swivel Fan LED Light Up Adjustable Windmill Spinning Toy : Amazon.co.uk: Toys & Games

Play dough play

Play dough is the perfect staple for any sensory play toolkit. You can even make your own dough and add scents – you’ll find recipes and scent ideas if you’d like to give it a go yourself here.

When setting up your play dough session, think about all the ways your child can interact with it and reinforce the language – they can squeeze, roll, pull, pinch, poke, pat, twist, push and squash their lumps of mouldable dough. You can use tools to shape and mould the dough to build fine motor skills. You can hide a wipeable toy inside the dough to build excitement and encourage them to peel the dough away. A fun way to play with dough is to hold a tea party or a play shop and use plastic cookie cutters, plates, cutlery and cups.

Choosing none toxic play dough – or even better using some homemade play dough created at home is a great way to make sure that you know exactly what your child might potentially be putting into their mouth, here is a great DIY recipe for you to try at home: 
The Perfect Homemade Play dough Recipe (Safe and Non-Toxic) (lovelymomhood.com)

Tactile game play

Try not to discount games that you might think are too visual, you can be creative when adapting them for a child with low or no vision. A great one to try is tactile snap – you can cut some cards and make matching pairs by sticking different materials onto them. Example textures you can glue to card could be crumpled tissue paper, sand, raised sticky dots or shiny paper. Put the cards into a container or on a mat in front of your child and encourage them to explore the textures and find the matching cards. When they are older this can progress to memory games. You can create a similar game using a bag containing matching shapes and materials that they can dip into to find them.

If you want to use an existing board game that has been tactile adapted visit the list below to see if there’s something that the whole family can enjoy! 
Cognitive Toys | Cause and Effect Toys | PlayopolisToys

Building brick play

You can buy giant LEGO style bricks or DUPLO to help your child with their dexterity. Building, stacking and sorting are important skills for young children and larger, brightly coloured bricks are ideal for children with a vision impairment.

The possibilities are endless with this and the variety of sizes, textures and colours means that you can match the brick type to your child’s preferences: 
How to Extend Block Play for Early Learning – Includes Free Factsheet (theempowerededucatoronline.com)

Rolling tube play

Use a large cardboard or plastic tube, if you can’t purchase one, use the inside of a kitchen roll or wrapping paper – you may find you have more options for play with a wider tube. Tilt the tube down towards your child on the floor and roll different items down for them to try and catch. Before you release the items, build some suspense and your child will build anticipation and prepare themselves with a countdown to go. Let them feel and explore each item and chat together about what they’ve discovered and its different tactile elements – is it soft, hard, smooth or rough? You can use items such as balls, small toy animals, cars or even dried pasta.

These tubes are not only small enough for mini hands, but also have the added benefits of being brightly coloured, they also make a noise when they are extended: 
Fidget Pop Tube Toys for Kids and Adults, 4 X-large Pop Multi-Color Tubes Sensory Toy (Blue&Green) : Amazon.co.uk: Toys & Games

Parachute play

Parachutes are a really versatile play item to roll up and keep in your toy box. If you don’t have one, try using a sheet. You can hide underneath it with your child which makes a great dark space for playing with light up toys, or you can hold it up while they run or crawl underneath while following your voice or a sound. If you ripple the parachute you can create the sensation of whooshing wind and they can enjoy the sensation of the sheet slowly falling over them. If you have enough people to hold the different sides up you can add different items to the middle such as foam balls, jingly balls or toys relating to a song. If you gently shake the parachute, the items will slide and bounce and your child can enjoy the vibrations and movements.

Parachutes are so versatile for full body stimulation and not just tactile for little hands.  Follow the link below for more inspiration of how to use one of these items during a sensory play session: 
Parachute games for children and young people with SEND – Brixton Dramatherapy

Looking for ideas for playing with the tactile items in your Early Years Sensory Discovery Pack?

Keep exploring…