Abstract: Hold Everything!, is a booklet that provides parents and educators with “stay-put” play spaces for children with sensory impairments and other special needs.
Key Words: blindness, deafblindness, Hold Everything!, Ohio Center for Deafblind Education, stay-put play spaces, Lilli Nielsen, Active Learning, self-initiated exploration.
“Stay-put” play spaces are play environments that:
include high interest, multi-sensory materials that appeal to a variety of young children, with and without special needs;
have parts that are anchored down in some way so that young children can keep track of them and do not have to rely on adult help to retrieve them;
facilitate and encourage repeated, self-initiated exploration of materials;
are easily adaptable to match individual children’s strengths, needs and personal preferences;
may be used individually or with other persons; and
are inexpensive and easy to make or to put together at home or school.
Lilli Nielsen’s Active Learning philosophy and materials have contributed greatly to the development of these “stay-put” play spaces (see the Resources section on page 43). The premise of the Active Learning approach is that ALL children are capable of interacting with the physical environment around them, no matter what their level of cognitive, motor or sensory abilities may be.
The key to promoting self-initiated exploration lies in structuring the physical environment in ways that children can use their unique abilities to exercise control over the environment. For example, a child who is blind may be unable to visually explore his play space, but may use his hands to find objects that are anchored in place so they won’t roll away when bumped. At the same time, a child who is unable to reach out her arms to grasp an object may be able to use her mouth to explore the qualities of an object that is hanging within reach of her lips.
Adults, then, must be willing to step back and allow children time to discover, problem solve and explore on their own. For some children, this may be the first time in their lives that they have been able to initiate actions independently, without adults coaching them or manipulating their bodies.
Keep in mind that not all “stay-put” activities presented here will be a good match for all children. Pick and choose activities for a particular child that seem to be a good developmental match and that may pique the interest of the child. The activities may also be modified to better fit the abilities and interests of each child and his or her family.
“Stay-put” play spaces provide children with opportunities to practice and develop a variety of skills. The booklet provides a reference chart that identifies the major skills targeted for each type of play environment. The specific activities that are set up within a play space will, of course, determine the actual skills practiced. Use your imagination and prepare to have fun!
Kay L. Clarke and the Ohio Center for Deafblind Education have published Hold Everything!, a booklet based on a workshop by the same name that aims to provide parents and early childhood educators with 20 initial ideas for developing “stay-put” play spaces for infants and young children with sensory impairments and other special needs. It is hoped that the readers of this booklet will use some of these ideas and go on to develop additional creative approaches that will encourage self-initiated exploration, play and learning.