From the Braille Pals Buzz: Learning Braille Letters Can Be Fun!

Vol. 2, Issue 8 of The Braille Pals Buzz has some “practical and simple tips to foster a love of literacy in your child.”  Ooooh–love of literacy.  You know I’m there.  Admittedly, they offer similar tips in each issue, but I thought this one, “Learning Braille Letters Can Be Fun!,” was especially timely–likely because I’m currently working on braille ABCs with my very own toddler.

I’ve pasted the article in its entirety below and added my comments in purple:

One of the keys to enjoyment of learning is to make it fun for the child. There are lots of electronic games, toys, and numerous activities to make learning print fun for children. What about learning Braille? Are there any such activities? There are toys that you can buy to teach Braille, but there is not a variety, and very often they are not very affordable. The ideas below are fun ways you can use everyday objects that you probably already have in your household to help teach your child the Braille letters.

  • Give your child a 6 cup muffin pan, and allow your child to explore it tactually. Your child can think of the muffin pan as a Braille cell. The orientation of a Braille cell is as follows:  the upper left dot is dot 1, below dot 1 is dot 2, and below dot 2 is dot 3. The upper right hand corner is dot 4, below dot 4 is dot 5, and below dot 5 is dot 6. Have six tennis balls available. Ask your child to place a tennis ball in the upper left corner, dot 1, and check for accuracy. Repeat this with each dot in the Braille cell.   Ask your child to place 2 tennis balls in different dot spots. Do this several times until your child is accurate. Repeat with 3 tennis balls and check for accuracy.  Our Parents as Teachers educator brought in a 6-muffin pan once along with seven tennis balls as a way to help Peanut work on problem solving.  (Putting in 6 tennis balls is easy . . . but what do you do with number 7?)  The tennis balls are big and definitely easy to handle–and they’ll be a higher contrast than the golf balls and egg carton suggested next (although it’s cheaper and easier to have multiple cells with used golf balls and egg cartons than it is by purchasing tons of muffin tins!).
  • Cut an egg carton in half so that it is three down and two across, just like a Braille cell. Use this to help teach the child letters. You can use various objects to fill the compartments and make Braille letters. You could use M&Ms, small erasers, marshmallows, or anything that is round and could be the dots. Play games with the child to have him or her make the letters.  We used golf balls for ours; this might be better for a slightly older child, because I am still finding golf balls everywhere (Peanut has a bit of a ball fetish–they’re his favorite thing EVER, or at least high on the list.  He was more enthused by the balls than by the idea of the game.  I might try this again now that he’s older).  You can see my how-to post on building a set of these here.
  • Cut out six circles from cardboard. Put them on a carpeted surface with three down and two across to make a Braille cell. Play a game of Braille twister. When you say a letter, your child has to put her hands, feet, or other parts of her body on the circles that make up the Braille letter. For example, if you say “c” the child might stand with one foot on the dot 1 and the other foot on the dot 4. If your child has not mastered the letters, you could use the circles to teach the dot numbers. You could have the child stand on the dot number that you call.  This sounds awesome!  I think Peanut’s a bit young to “get” this just yet, but what a great idea for older kinetic learners!

The following activities were contributed by Merry-Noel Chamberlain, to the NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List for parents of blind children.

  • Find a book that has six buttons on the right side that make sounds.  Some have seven or so.  Seven is okay so long as the seventh one is larger and above or below the six.  These books can be found anywhere: Wal-Mart, drug stores, etc.  Many of these books have the six buttons like a Braille cell.  If you can get it Brailled, great!!!  The print on the book shows pictures of which button needs to be pushed as the story is read.  Instead of the adult pushing the button, say the dot number of which button needs to be pushed.  For example:  “I was so J when I jumped across the yard.”  The J face button may be dot number 2.  So, it would be read aloud as follows, “I was so ‘dot 2’ (child pushes dot 2 for the delightful sound) when I jumped across the yard.”
  •  Play Dough – The student makes a snake, presses it flat, and then uses a stylus or peg toy to press holes in the play dough… This strengthens the hand and introduces the slate & stylus. Peanut is also in love with Play-Doh–I can see where this would work with even the youngest children, and my stylus, at least, is wood and metal, so I can’t see it being harmed (or even hard to clean) from Play-Doh contact.

Activities like these will help you teach your child Braille letters at the same time that sighted children are learning their letters. They will help motivate your child to use Braille as a tool for reading.

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