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Fall 2004 Table of Contents
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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

By Kate Moss, Education Specialist, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Abstract: Thoughts about selecting appropriate gifts for children who are visually impaired or deafblind.

Key Words: Programming, blind, deafblind, toys, play

This time of year parents become painfully aware that Santa Claus is coming to town, sooner not later. Moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles all start searching for the perfect Christmas present for the children in the family. Sometimes when the child is visually impaired or deafblind finding the perfect present becomes much more difficult.

Part of the problem is that many toys are so visual there is not much pay off for the child who doesn't see or who sees very little. Most of the toys nowadays are made from plastic, so there is not much to offer that is tactually interesting. Other toys focus on sounds or require good hearing to be able to utilize them. For many children, the developmental level, in terms of cognitive and motor skills, is too advanced for the child or if the toy is at their level it may appear to be inappropriate for their chronological age. What's Santa to do?

Think about the things that are very interesting to your child

It's always a good idea to think about the things that interest your child. What things or activities really bring pleasure or interest? Is your child most happy when he is outside? Does your daughter like playing in the water? Is music the thing that always brings a smile? Start by making a list of these things then think about the aspects of these pleasurable things seem to be the most motivating. Is it feeling the water flowing from the faucet or is it pouring water from different containers? Is it the loud bass sound, the slow calming refrain or the singer that makes the music work? Once you have a clear idea about what your child really finds enjoyable it is easier to get creative about finding new things and activities that share similar characteristics.

Are there big-ticket items to consider?

Sometimes holiday gifts are more costly such as bicycles, television sets, computers and so forth. Consider asking relatives who want to give gifts to contribute to the purchase of more expensive items. For example, if your child is using some of the Active Learning equipment at school and you think he might also enjoy playing with these things at home, could duplicate materials be purchased if everyone pitched in to pay for it? Maybe the child could ride a bicycle if it were a tandem bike. If family members typically want to buy gifts, suggest that they may want to make a contribution toward a bigger ticket item instead of buying individual inexpensive gifts.

Think about a coupon for a special activity

Instead of a toy that may not appeal to the child, family members might consider giving a coupon for a special outing or event. For example, one trip to the ice cream store with Aunt Susie, a fishing trip with Grampa, a ticket to a skating rink with dad, or a day at the beauty shop with mom might make lovely gifts. The coupon can be attached to something the child would like such as a candy bar or small stuffed animal if you want to make sure he has something to open. Planning for the outing and sharing the experience with others later gets a lot of mileage out of the event.

Think about traditional and nontraditional "toys"

There are many wonderful manufactured toys and games, but sometimes the thing the child might like most isn't a toy at all. Is the child interested in keys? How about getting him a collection of different kinds of keys? Maybe you could throw in a few locks as well. Does the child like lights? What about getting an aquarium with very colorful fish inside and interesting plants? The child could have the enjoyment of watching the fish in the aquarium and maybe learn to feed the fish as well. Let yourself think outside the box when purchasing gifts.

If you do buy traditional toys, consider these guidelines mentioned in the article, Helping Your Customers Choose Toys for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, from the American Toy Institute and American Foundation for the Blind:

Here's wishing you a merry holiday shopping season. Have fun!


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Last Revision: September 1, 2010