Keeping children with sight loss active at home
George is our Children and Young People’s (CYP) Enablement Officer, delivering weekend activities across Greater Manchester. George also has a background and lots of experience in sports for people with sight loss.
In this blog, George gives some tips to support children with sight loss to remain active whilst at home. It offers ideas of various sports and activities that you can do in the garden or in the house, and where possible it does this with the addition of audible instructions to support the needs of young people with a visual impairment.
The majority of children develop their learning visually whilst they grow from toddler to teenager; however, children with sight loss rely on other senses to develop this stage of learning. We hope that the examples of activities provided in this blog will help in some way to keep active within the environment of your own home.
But first a little note to parents and guardians…as your child grows and develops in confidence, they may want to attempt more challenging outdoor activities. Whilst you may have your doubts about this, it is important to let young people try out new things and sometimes this means allowing them to take safe risks. By trusting children to test their growing strength and abilities and face new challenges, you are enabling them to gain confidence and belief in their own decisions.
Here are some tips to stay safe while staying active
- Walk around the space with your child to allow your child to become familiar with the area they are in. You may also want to explore the space by seeing how long it takes you to run/walk/hop/jump to the end of the garden.
- Ensure the garden is secure; check for gaps in the fencing or hedge that a child might wander through.
- Ensure your child is aware of any steps, obstacles, tables and chairs, and cover any ponds. In time, support your child to navigate these safely and independently.
- Spend time ensuring your child becomes familiar with the size, shape and location of any different equipment or activities.
- Look for edges, uneven surfaces, level changes and so on. Being able to notice changes in the environment and what they might mean is great for learning to travel independently; for example, noting a change underfoot from paving to gravel, or the difference between an area which feels ‘open’ and one that feels ‘closed’.
- Finally, ensure you consider obstacles at and above your child’s head height as well as at ground level.
Games to try at home
Ball games and exercise
Most children enjoy throwing, catching and kicking a ball. For children with a vision impairment, try to choose a ball according to the age and needs of your child (i.e. a small ball for a small child), and it is also good to use a ball of a good colour contrast to the floor they are playing on. If your child has severe sight loss, try and use a ball that is audible, i.e. bearing/beads/led-shot inside, so it makes a rattle noise when you move or shake the ball. Try this idea for a ball game:
- If you have a ball and you are in the garden, try walking or running towards someone who is calling you towards them. They can call ‘travel’ so you know to travel with the ball.
- Try to keep the ball close to your feet at all times.
- They should call ‘stop’ if there is a reason for wanting you stop straight away.
- If there are 3-4 people available, they can be human cones standing approximately 2 metres away from each other in a straight line.
- You can dribble the ball around them and back to where you started.
- Each person can then take this in turns.
- You can set up a goal using something for goalposts.
- You can practice shooting the ball at the goalkeeper.
- You can dribble the ball around the human cones and shoot at the goal at the end.
Trampolining and swings
Time on a trampoline or time on a swing in your garden (if you have them), is a fun way to exercise. Try spending time playing on each apparatus, particularly when the weather is nice!
Trampolines are a great way to have loads of fun, burn off that excess energy and increase your pulse rate. Learning to fall safely is a skill that you can develop. Try these tips:
- You can assist your child on the trampoline by holding their hands while facing each other to help them with balance; help them feel the sense of bouncing while sitting, on their knees and standing on their feet.
- Practise bouncing on the soft surface of a trampoline from a sitting or kneeling position.
- Make it into a game so that your child doesn’t develop a fear of falling.
- Use a simple phrase like ‘hands in front’ so your child knows to put their hands in front of them, almost as though they are holding a beach ball, to make a protective arc.
All children fall, but if parents can maintain a positive and calm attitude it makes a big difference to how the child reacts. If you are positive it will help them be calm and feel safe.
Have a go at setting up a fun, competitive skittles game at home:
- Explain the aim of the game and how the skittles are set up before beginning.
- Children with little or no sight, will need someone else to stand behind the pins and clap three times whilst shouting ‘skittles’ as a guide.
- If you do not have any skittles, plastic bottles filled with bells, dried pasta or rice make good skittles with an audible quality that allows a visually impaired child to tell whether they have hit them with the ball they are rolling.
If you have a set of cricket stumps with a bat and large size ball (size 2/3 is ideal), this is all you will need. If you do not have these, try using a marking on a wall or fence as the stumps, a tennis racket, or even use your hand to hit the ball with.
- The batsman stands with a bat in their hand in front of the stumps.
- The person holding the ball (bowler) stands approximately 15-20 yards distance away from the batter. If you have another set of stumps, place them were the bowler stands.
- The bowler calls ‘Ready’
- The batsman calls ‘Yes’
- The bowler calls ‘play’ as they throw the ball towards the batsman.
- The ball must bounce at least twice before a totally blind or low sighted batsman, but must not be rolling.
- The batsman can run towards the bowler’s stumps to get 1 run and run back to their original batting stumps for 2 runs.
- People in the spaces available have to try and catch the ball to get the batsman out. A totally blind fielder can make a catch after the ball has bounced once.
- You can put a limit on how many hits with the bat a player has, for example each batter gets 10 chances to hit the ball and score runs. If they get out they lose a run but still continue batting until they have had their 10 chances. You are out if the ball hits the stumps, a fielder catches the ball, or they are run out.
Other games to try
These relay races for kids make fun activities. Some can be run indoors, and some require no props. Try these 11 kid-friendly relay races to get you started to bring the fun (and help you burn off some energy).
Boccia was first popular with people with cerebral palsy, but is now also played by people with other issues affecting their motor skills, such as muscular dystrophy. It is also a great game for the whole family to play. The aim of the game is to throw balls as close as possible to a target ball, or jack – a bit like bowls or French boules. Find out more at bocciaengland.org.uk
Online accessible sports and activities
Eyes-Free Fitness – Free Accessible Fitness For All
You just discovered the home of a complete set of the Eyes-Free Fitness audio exercise programs. All programs are completely free for your downloading pleasure — no strings attached! These programs allow you to stretch, strengthen, condition, and tone your body, all without the benefit of eyesight. All of these programs are thoroughly described with extra supplementary audio and text materials, should they be needed. Watch the videos here Eyes-Free Fitness
Louise and Sue are fab! They run an inclusive and accessible sports equipment and training business, and have given sessions to Henshaws Children and Young people which have always been great fun! Check out their website http://lususports.com and follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LuSusports/ for lots of inclusive sporty games activities.
British Blind Sports #stayinworkout
Check out British Blind Sport’s new initiative #stayinworkout on their website https://britishblindsport.org.uk/stay-in-work-out with lots of information and links to audio and accessible home sports workouts; include yoga and pilates, and information and ideas specifically for children and young people.
Our friends over at Look UK have just launched Look Active on their YouTube channel, with daily yoga and fitness videos for CYP with sight loss – check it out!https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCigfQuPUDaWd_z0hUuAuyjA
Parasport home workouts
Parasport teamed up with Kris Saunders-Stowe, a qualified fitness instructor, to bring you this short, easy to follow guide to stretching and improving your mobility. This workout routine is ideal for people who might not have taken part in sport or activity for a while, and are looking for that first step into getting active again. There’s no equipment necessary, all you’ll need is a little bit of space to follow Kris’ instructions. Click here to watch the video.
Henshaws and Touchdown Dance VI Dance & Movement
Watch this space for some new audio mindful movement, dance and story recordings for children and young people to try at home, as well as some virtual gatherings to dance and move together!
I hope you enjoy trying some or all these activities, and that you are able to keep your children active at home. Please note, this information is guidance only and you should only take part in exercise and physical activity that is suitable for you and your needs. If in doubt speak to your doctor or healthcare professional first.
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