In recent weeks I have shared my daughter’s 10 Favorite Light-Up Toys and some holiday activity, gift, and dollar store ideas for children with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI). But, I feel compelled to build on these posts and share some wonderful new items because my daughter, Rosalie, just received several Christmas gifts that I have been able to seamlessly incorporate into her everyday life with CVI – in play time (the best therapy!), bath and dressing routines, scheduled therapies, and when we are on-the-go (car rides, stroller rides, medical appointments, etc.).
I hope this list of 14 “CVI-friendly” gifts sparks some ideas for those of you seeking holiday, birthday, or “just because” gifts for your loved one(s) with CVI.
FYI: Rosalie is currently in Phase II CVI, is 15 months old, and is not fully mobile (but can roll/do tummy time and is working so hard on sitting independently and the pre-crawling “quad” pose). Some of these items may be more appropriate if any of these things are also true of your child with CVI, but some can be used by a child of any ability in any of the 3 Phases of CVI. Without further ado, here are 14 fantastic gifts my daughter received for Christmas.
1. Infantino Turtle Cover Band 8-Piece Percussion Set
This musical toy comes with 8 percussion pieces: the turtle drum, 2 fish drumsticks (which can also be used as rattles or maracas), a caterpillar maraca, a frog tambourine, ladybug and bumblebee castanets, and (both Rosalie’s and my favorite!) a jingle bell duck (which works great as a rattle, but has jingle bells inside – so fun!).
I love that each instrument is either a solid, bright color or has a very simple pattern (of black paired with a bright color). Everything has eyes, which are appealing to my daughter since eyes/faces are, somewhat surprisingly for a child with CVI, one of her apparent visual “strengths” thus far. The eyes are simple and highly-contrasted against bright colors, which could potentially make them easier to see/interpret for those that struggle with the complexity of faces. Many of the small pieces of have actual handles, making them easier to grasp and use. I envision the drum being great as Rosalie continues working on sitting more independently. Retails for about $20.
2. Cosmic Ray Wands
These light-up wands first caught my attention when I started realizing several of Rosalie’s medical specialists had them on hand to examine her visual tracking. They are activated by tapping the sensory ball on the end and are very easy for her to hold. Personally, I wish the lights did not flash and would instead have a steady glow – but they are still fun! A pack of 2 retails for about $10.
3. Wristband Bells
The state agency that provides our teacher for the visually impaired (TVI) recently sent one of their newly-endorsed CVI professionals (check out the Perkins database to find the closest Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsee near you!) to shadow/mentor our current TVI during our vision session (something I advocated for). She had a nice idea of getting some colorful scrunchies to put around Rosalie’s wrists or ankles to help visually teach some body awareness. However, Rosalie can easily pull her socks off and now has no problem finding a hair elastic on my wrist and pulling/snapping it, so I decided anything I put on her wrist would need to be velcroed/attached securely. That’s when I thought of these bell wristbands! Rosalie loves music, so the additional feedback of the jingling has been great while she intentionally shakes her wrists or kicks her legs while wearing them. I love that the bands are sturdy and come in a variety of bright, solid colors, making them easy for her to see. This set of 12 retails for about $13.
4. SmartNoggin NogginStik Developmental Light-Up Rattle
This baby rattle comes with a little pamphlet of suggested ways to play with it at different ages to boost and/or track developmental milestones; of course their timeline of suggestions is designed for a typically-developing child without a vision impairment, but I appreciated having it to read through and get ideas all the same. It glows (alternating between blue, red, and green) with movement, rattles, can stand up on a flat surface, has a mirror on the bottom, has interesting texture on the handle, and has simple red-yellow and black-white patterns. Retails for about $20.
5. Glow Stick LED Flashlights
These already made it on my previous list of 10 Favorite Light-Up Toys, but because they are so great we made sure to add more colors to Rosalie’s growing collection at Christmastime. I get these for $1/each in the camping flashlight section at Wal-Mart.
6. Bright Starts Shake & Glow Monkey Car Seat & Stroller Toy
This toy is great on the go and has an on/off switch on the back. When it’s on, the red, blue, and yellow lights and monkey sounds are activated by movement (i.e. batting at it). It has a link at the top, making it easy to hang on a stroller, car seat, buckle, etc. Despite having a few colors, the presentation is not too complex since they are separated into different areas/are not mixed together in confusing patterns. Retails for about $8.
7. Shiloh Baby Activity Spiral Wrap Around Crib/Bed/Bassinet/Stroller/Rail Toy
At first glance this wrap-around toy has a decent amount of visual complexity, which could be challenging for Rosalie to process. However, she is at a point where it is appropriate to start challenging her with more color combinations – and I like that the colors change when looking side to side instead of being all jumbled together. PLUS, the hanging sea horse, crab, octopus, and fish are attached with velcroed loops, which means this toy can easily be visually simplified by removing any or all of them!
I have started by introducing Rosalie to each of the hanging sea creatures one at a time – without the large wrap-around piece or anything else distracting her. As she becomes more familiar with each item I plan to eventually show her two, then three, then all 4 together. I can also slowly build by hanging one on the wrap-around toy, then two, then three, etc. There’s no need to try and do all of it at once if it’s hard for her to process, so I will follow her lead. The hanging sea creatures could also be fun pieces to introduce on an activity toy bar, making it even more versatile! Retails for about $25.
8. So Big! (Sesame Beginnings Board Book)
These book pages are about as simple as a CVI parent can hope for from a mainstream board book! Elmo is on each page with a different solid-colored background. I have a piece specifically about books like this in the works, so I will elaborate on this fun one soon (stay tuned!). Retails for about $8.
9. Gund Sesame Street Take Along Cookie Monster
Shortly after we received Rosalie’s CVI diagnosis (and I knew she could visually process both red and yellow) I went on the hunt for Elmo and Big Bird dolls that would be a good size for babies and toddlers. I absolutely love the 12-inch plush “Take Along” dolls made by Gund; the size is just right and the eyes and faces are not hard plastic like on some Sesame Street dolls!
Rosalie can now process several colors, so we decided to add blue Cookie Monster to her collection of adorable friends. Retails for about $15.
10. Reversible Sequin Pillowcase
These sequin pillowcases are currently en vogue, so they can be found in lots of places (I saw pink, purple, and blue ones at a Michaels craft store just last week). By running your hand along the sequins you can reverse them, revealing a second color. I love this one in particular because the sequins are red on one side, gold on the other, and the back of the pillowcase is a solid red suede. I knew that Rosalie would love this item visually, but she has surprised me by how much she is already capable of interacting with it physically. She rolls around the floor to go grab it and play with it on her stomach while laying on her back – and has a lot of fun touching/hitting it when I support her in various seated positions. This pillowcase retails for about $7 and I found a throw pillow insert for about $8.
11. Brightly-Colored Fruit of the Loom Everyday Active Socks
Not only are these some of my favorite kid socks (unlike many baby socks that are scratchy, these are super soft and stretchy), but the colors in this pack are brilliant for a child with CVI! Each pair features a bright color on the toes and heel, the ones with multiple colors are very simple patterns, and two of the pairs are solid black (with bright pink and purple on the toes/heels). This is a fun way to help my 15-month-old see her toes, and I imagine older children (in Phases II or III) might be able to find them in a drawer on their own. This pack of 6 retails for about $5.
12. Yellow Terry Cotton Bath Towels
Do not be fooled by the photo – these plush towels are BRIGHT yellow! I was trying to think of more ways to adapt Rosalie’s bath time, and having bright towels in a color I know she can easily process visually seemed like the next logical step. This will be extra helpful when she gets older and learns to pick out her own towels from the linen closet. This set of 4 retails for about $35 (and comes in a variety of bright colors).
13. Red Exercise/Stability Ball
Our occupational therapist (OT) was bringing her own stability ball to Rosalie’s OT sessions for several weeks, so it’s exciting to now have our own in a bright color that Rosalie should be able to easily locate. Rosalie loves bouncing, so letting her sit on top of the ball and bounce (with support from an adult, of course) has been a super fun way to improve her core strength and balance. Besides, what child doesn’t love to play with balls? This can be used for all kinds of fun as Rosalie grows! Retails for about $15.
14. Merry-Go-Round Music Drum
Last – but certainly not least – is this merry-go-round music drum. I’ve never seen anything like it! The toy has a moving (protected/enclosed) carousel with lights, a variety of sounds, and a large, yellow button on top for drumming. You can select different settings, which include: 36 learning sound effects, 19 children’s songs, 13 stories, 6 musical melodies, and 5 levels of volume adjustments (with an on/off switch on the bottom).
The second we turned it on, Rosalie was mesmerized (she loves, loves, loves the children’s songs). We now use it every day – whether as a drum while we practice sitting and reaching, for her to explore during open floor play (a very relaxing yet stimulating activity after she finishes dinner, for example), or as a visual target while she is seated in the Tumble Form chair, etc.
It’s safe to say it’s (hands down) Rosalie’s new favorite. It is sold by a few manufacturers, but we have been happy with this one from Wonderland, which retails for about $25.
If any of you are wondering how Rosalie was gifted so many fantastic items that are appropriate for her developmental skills and where she is at on the CVI Range, I’ll tell you:
I made an Amazon wish list and shared it with family members I knew would be giving her gifts.
Of course our family is aware she currently has developmental delays from her hydrocephalus and CVI, but I do not expect them to have a complete understanding of what that means or where she is at right now. So, I explained that items from the wish list were things she could interact with and enjoy – and made myself available if anyone wanted alternate gift recommendations. And you know what? Every single person stuck to the list!
The only thing not on the list (the Elmo book) was thoughtfully selected by my mom, who has a good awareness of Rosalie’s CVI since she now lives a few minutes down the road and works as our part-time mother’s helper/nanny. 🙂
It can be challenging when people want to give gifts but do not fully understand our child’s special needs, so the Amazon wish list was a great solution; it let people feel confident they were giving a wonderful gift without wasting money on things Rosalie cannot use. And hopefully they know that selecting items from that list demonstrated a sincere level of thoughtfulness, regardless of whether or not they came up with the gift ideas themselves. I consider it a win-win for everyone involved – so if you have issues with people giving things your child with CVI physically cannot use, I highly recommend creating a wish list to (lovingly) share.
Happy gift-giving and Happy New Year!