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Back in the fall, I was thinking about some of the fine motor goals I have for my daughter’s play time. She is 2 years old and very much loves “cause and effect” toys – things where she can push a button and make it light up, sing, dance, etc. These are really fun, rewarding toys (“I make an effort and this cool thing happens!”), but I also want her to be able to move beyond simple cause and effect toys as she grows (something we take for granted with typically-sighted children, but must intentionally teach and/or provide access to for a child with CVI).
When I reflected on this, my mind came up with two major categories of play that I wanted to move towards: “pretend play” and “building.”
Today on the blog I want to focus on “building.”
Do I expect my two-year-old that has physical developmental delays and Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) to suddenly become a mini engineer building the kind of elaborate Lego Duplo inventions her (typically-developing and sighted) big brothers began creating at age two? NO. But I often look to her typically-developing siblings and/or peers to generate ideas of where I’d like her to be able to go and/or what I’d like her to have access to in play (and life).
“Building” is an open-ended concept that can be explored in various forms of play with all kinds of assorted “tools.” But in my mind, the foundation of building starts with something super simple that gets babies all over the world shrieking with glee: stacking – and then knocking down whatever has been built (which I tend to introduce first as “knocking down” and then show that the same fun can be experienced again by re-building what has been knocked down – so it can be knocked down again). 😉
I’ve seen some pretty neat blocks made out of foam at various children’s museums, but they tend to be extremely large and not always the brightest or most eye-catching colors for someone with a vision impairment. So, I wanted to find blocks that:
- are visually accessible for my child that has CVI
- are not too challenging for where my daughter’s fine motor skills are at
- are a reasonable size to store in our (crowded) play room at home
I went searching (online) and quickly found these Brio Magnetic Building Blocks, which are one of my proud “CVI-friendly” finds!
These blocks are SOLID, BRIGHT colors that come in blue, green, yellow, and red. This means they have low visual complexity (no confusing patterns or pictures) and are more likely to draw and maintain visual attention (with “color” being one of the 10 characteristics of CVI). Red and yellow are often preferred colors in individuals with CVI, since these are the earliest colors our brains learn to visually process as infants.
These blocks are sturdy and small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of my hand, which provide an easy, chunky grip for my 2-year-old. AND DID I MENTION THEY ARE MAGNETIC?! This nifty feature makes it easier for those learning how to stack, because the light/subtle magnetic pull can help keep the blocks together even when they are not stacked with the best precision.
Can my daughter stack these yet? Nope. We are not there yet with vision and fine motor planning, but we’ll get there. In the mean time, these are awesome for teaching color and shape recognition! They are also a great size for practicing “put-ins” and “pull-outs” with various containers, like the silver bowl pictured above.
(Psst, do you also want a shiny, stainless steel bowl that is visually eye-catching and can make fun sounds when dropped, drummed, or while shaking items around inside it? You can pick one up for cheap at a pet store…because it’s a dog food bowl!)
One box comes with eight blocks (2 of each color) and retails for around $20, but I wanted more yellows and reds so (thanks to family members purchasing Christmas gifts off of an Amazon wish list for my daughter!) we got two boxes. Currently, I’m setting just the reds and yellows out in a bowl for my daughter to find in her defined space in the play room.
You can see a brief video clip of these blocks (and other favorite “CVI-friendly” toys) over at the Instagram page (@everyday.cvi) by clicking on the saved “Highlights” (the little circles at the top of the page) labeled “Toys.”
Have you found any other “CVI-friendly” blocks that you love? Leave it in the comments for other readers to find below!