- Eye health and eye care
- Parents of Children with Vision Impairments
- Friends and Relatives
- Education professionals
- Health professionals
- Architects & Engineers
- Students and Researchers
- Ways you can assist a person with sight loss
- Best practice guides
- Home >
- Information for >
- Parents of Children with Vision Impairments >
- Discovering the Environment With Your Pre-School Child
You are here
Summary: If your child has a vision impairment and is approaching the age for playschool or school, there are some practical ways in which you can assist them in developing their senses, helping them to gain independence.
Explore the environment
Children with vision impairments need to explore their environment to discover sounds, shapes, textures and smell. You can help your child by talking about different sounds around the house and the weight, size and feel of different objects.
Learning through sound
Learning the sounds of everyday objects and activities will help your child to develop their hearing and use this sense more effectively.
With your child, find out about the different sounds of surfaces such as concrete, gravel, grass, sand, twigs, leaves, wood or carpeted floors. Together, you can listen to sounds outside, like wind, rain, dogs, horses or bicycles. Make collections of sounds on a cassette tape to listen to and talk about later.
You could also talk about the rhythms of movement, including walking, running or skipping. Listen to rhythm and reproduce it by clapping or tapping. Start with a single beat at first, then a double, and so on. Clap the rhythms of names. Make loud sounds and quiet ones by raising your voice and whispering, or banging and tapping. Produce high notes and low notes, standing up for high ones and sitting for low ones.
Recognising the sound of different movements
By listening to people moving, you and your child can guess whether they are running, walking, jumping, skipping, limping or hopping. Listen to people walking out of a room, or going away. Call your child from one part of the room or ring a bell. Play this game outside too, because sounds will be different. Drop something on the floor and encourage your child to listen as it falls so that they can try to find it.
Movement will play a very important role in the development of children with vision impairments. Feeling free to move around and explore their home environment will encourage independence and confidence. It will also make it easier for children to find their way around unfamiliar environments.
You and your child can have fun by moving into all kinds of different positions, like lying on your back and tummy, sitting on all fours, stretching high and narrow, stretching high and wide, bowing, bending to the floor, crouching, squatting, etc.
You could also introduce games that involve climbing in, over, under and through, as well as playing on the slides, swings and pushing or pedalling a tricycle.
Orientation is very important for anyone who is blind or vision impaired. By walking around the edge of a room, following the walls, your child will learn about the size of the space and the relationship of objects to one another, for example the armchair is to the right of the door.
- Play sound hide-and-seek with your child. The person who hides calls from their hiding place and the others follow their voice.
- You could also play a game of ‘Hide the Thimble’. Hide an object and then give directions to help your child to find it, that is, ‘it’s on the table’, ‘under the table’, ‘under the book on the table’, etc.
- Examine the movement of a bush in the wind, or sheets blowing on the line, or a dog wagging its tail, and try to copy the movements.
What shape does this object have?
Find as many different shapes as possible in the everyday environment, such as cups, wheels, toy bricks, tubes or a magazine and trace around the shape with your child’s finger. Cut out round tarts with a pastry cutter or round tin lid. Tiptoe around a mat on the floor. Roll dough into round sausages.
What size is this?
Talk a lot about size, using the words ‘big’, ‘little’, ‘medium-sized’, ‘bigger than’, ‘biggest’ and ‘smallest’, and organise everyday objects like spoons or forks by size.
- Relate the idea of short and tall in relation to people your child knows. You could also stick something high up on the wall and encourage them to reach for it.
- Make hand and foot prints in wet sand or dough. Compare hand sizes or shoe sizes. Play at dressing up with clothes that are too big, too long, too short or too small.
Hot and cold
Become familiar with what may be hot, warm, cold and icy cold.
Talk about the texture of materials from which everyday things are made, like wood, plastic, stone, metal, wool, silk, leather and paper. Are they smooth, rough, very rough, crinkly, soft, hard or spongy?
Playing in water and sand with containers can help your child to learn the meaning of empty and full. Try emptying several small containers into one large one, or transferring water or sand from containers of similar size but different shapes.
Develop your child’s sense of quantities and numbers by counting fingers, objects, stairs, etc.
Learn to recognise everyday smells like soap, perfume, flowers, bread, meat or grass.
At this stage you will be encouraging your child to feed themselves and to go to the bathroom independently. The skills your child learns at home will be continued when they start school.
Using the bathroom
- Use the same routine every time. Think about a simple route in and out of the bathroom and add tactile points in the room to help your child’s orientation, such as bells on the door or an elastic band on the handle.
- By creating a routine whereby your child uses the toilet, flushes the toilet, washes and dries their hands, it will become easier for them to tell where everything is located and to do it on their own the next time.
- Let your child do as much as they can independently.
- Let the child use their fingers as well as using spoons, knives and forks.
- If your child has difficulty feeding themselves, guide their hand from the dish to their mouth, working from behind and gradually reducing your involvement.
- For older children, use the clock system to describe the position of foods on the plate, for example sandwich at 3 o’clock. Put their hand on the glass so that they know where it is in relation to the plate.
- Placing a Dycem mat or damp cloth under a child’s plate will prevent the plate from slipping.
- Some cutlery has enlarged grips and may be useful.
Visiting Teacher Service
The Department of Education and Science provides a regionalised visiting teacher service. This service is available from birth and follows through to third level. A visiting teacher visits children with sight loss in their own home. The visiting teacher will carry out an assessment of a child’s needs and provide guidance on the implications of sight loss on teaching and learning. Emphasis is placed on working as a partner with families, enabling them to make informed choices in the education of their children.
Apply to the visiting teacher service on Tel: 090 647 4621.
Public health nurse
Public health nurses are employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and work from your local health centre. Use the help and support of your local public health nurse, who will offer both advice and practical support about caring for your baby. You can contact your public health nurse by calling your local health centre or call the HSE infoline on 1850 24 1850, Monday to Saturday 8am to 8pm.
Family Resource Centre
The Family Resource Centre in ChildVision offers an extensive calender of event for families who have a child with sight loss.
Féach is another useful support service. Féach is a support group for parents of blind and visually impaired children.
NCBI Community Resource Workers
If you have not already done so, you may wish to make an appointment with a community resource worker at your local NCBI office. As well as giving advice, information and support, your community resource worker can also refer you to some of our other services that you may find useful, including our low vision service, library service or professional counselling service, for example.
NCBI’s Early Learning Centre
NCBI’s Early Learning Centre (ELC) in Clondalkin caters for children with sight loss from the ages of 0 to 6. If you would like some advice or additional information please call the staff at the ELC on 01 405 6950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.