For this blog post I thought I’d list a few suggestions of free days out for you and your family that hopefully if you have a visually impaired child, they will love too. Here’s my Top Ten! (Please do let me know below if you enjoyed/didn’t enjoy any of the suggestions)
1. LOCAL PADDLING POOL
We have couple of these local to us and we love them! They are normally located within or next to a play ground and tend to get super busy on sunny days. This is a great day out if you have a pre-school aged child as they will always be quieter during the day. Because they do get crowded it might not be suited to everyone, especially children with autism, however they shouldn’t miss out so it’s probably going to be best to get there as soon as they open so that your child can get a less stressful experience. Pumpkin does struggle at first with all the splashing and noise but luckily he’s really strong willed and he’s soon loving it. I always look for a paddling pool on the smaller side as its easier for a visually impaired child to navigate. Hint: Take the cane and let them use it to walk around the paddling pool whilst they’re getting used to the size and depth.
2. THE PARK
Which child doesn’t enjoy a good swing or whizz round on a round-a-bout? There should always be something in a park that your visually impaired child will love. Look around/search the internet for accessible play-parks which may be a little easier for your child to navigate. Early mornings are usually much quieter and less busy.
3. THE BEACH
When Pumpkin was a baby he hated the feeling of sand so the beach wouldn’t always have been my top pick for a day out but now he is older he loves it! I think the most important thing about heading to the beach with you visually impaired child is preparation! As well as the obvious things like sun creams our kiddos often need some extras like sunglasses, a sun shade, hat and beach shoes if they’re sensitive to the feel of sand on their feet. Because of the sensory overload that the beach offers I found that short visits at firsts and then build up to a full day out.
4. SOFT PLAY
Many soft play centres offer sessions for special needs children – and quite often they are free.
Trampolining centres seem to be popping up everywhere and again they often offer sessions especially for special needs children and their families – the one local to us offers the child’s admission at a discounted price and the parent/carer goes free. It’s a great exercise and way of burning off energy in a safe environment.
6. TRAIN STATION
This may not be for everybody but for my train-mad boy he loves nothing more than visiting the local train station and listening to the trains whooshing by. His favourite thing to do is to make videos on his iPad of the trains and then to watch them close up later on.
7. A BUS RIDE
Another fun activity is to take a bus ride. The sound and feelings are very different to being in a car and it’s a fun and cheap way to introduce your VI child to public transport. Under fives ride free and visually impaired people are entitled to a bus pass here in the UK.
8. SENSORY GARDEN
This is a lovely thing to do and something that people often don’t know exist. Many botanical gardens, parks and museums have sensory gardens with things for children to feel and smell. Take a picnic and make a trip out of it in a pretty and relaxing environment. If you’re in Hampshire, Lepe Country Park has just opened a brand new sensory garden.
9. WOODLAND WALKS
Another great sensory experience is simply to take a walk in a local wood or forest. Trees are just amazing and letting your visually impaired child feel the bark and all the other wonders of nature is a great, relaxing and educational thing to do.
This one is worth planning ahead because if you contact the museum beforehand they often offer touch tours and special days. Particularly in London, the Science Museum is free to enter (they do ask for a donation) and they have regular visual impairment themed days.
NB: I really hope you liked reading my ideas. I realise that lots of the suggestions might seem obvious but when Pumpkin was diagnosed I remember being full of fear “What would he do?”, “How would he play?” etc so this is maybe just a ‘beginners guide’ to days out incase there is anything that you haven’t thought about before.
I also completely understand that every child is different and I can only write about my own experiences. Children enjoy different things and some of the above suggestions may not be suitable. If you do have any ideas or experiences you’d be willing to share please do comment below, I’d love to hear them!