Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jumbo Work/Play Tray Helps Children with Disabilities Have Fun at Play

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

The Jumbo Work/Play Tray by APH is an excellent resource that provides children with disabilities the opportunity to explore and learn independently.

The 24X24 inch high contrast yellow tray is a favorite among special educators for many reasons; one being the large size, the bright yellow color with a black background and ample space that keeps toys and balls from rolling off the tray.

As a vision specialist, I am excited about this product for many reasons. The first thing that comes to mind is that when used with a swing or hammock, a child is able to look down and manipulate objects with her/his hands or feet. Children can choose their activity and be independent during their play. For example, one student may choose to look down and manipulate objects with her hands, while another student may choose to stand upright while being held by a swing to feel textures with his feet.

I walked into the classroom filled with wonderful children with special needs the other day. The teacher and teacher aides at North Mesquite High School in Mesquite ISD saw the large yellow tray and said, “This better be for us because you aren’t taking that anywhere else.”

The innovative teacher began telling me how the texture of the black background would provide a scratchy feel for one of her students who loves to feel of ‘scratchy’ textures and three others who have cortical vision impairments would benefit from the dark background and bright yellow color and be able to process the toys or objects below. Since the color yellow is the first color that the brain distinguishes, children with processing difficulties can easily see the bright yellow color with the dark background.

How true is the following quote from Evan Esar, “ Play is work that you enjoy doing for nothing.”


  1. Children will enjoy manipulating objects while they are being held by a swing. Place colorful balls on the large tray and watch the fun, as the student is able to do independent play with balls.
  2. Place the child in an upright position from a swing or hammock and allow them to feel different textures with their feet such as touching a Swirly Mat, bubble wrap, balls, marbles, pillows, and pompoms.
  3. Have the student sit on the Jumbo/Work/Play Tray with pillows stabilizing their back while they play and work with favorite objects on the tray.
  4. Students will love playing with different textures like beans and macaroni on the tray. Allow the child to kick, scratch, touch and play with the different textures.
  5. Use the fun items from the Let’s See Kit from APH. Children will love to place the colorful squares back into the hot pink bowl after collecting them from the tray. The foam letters will also be easy to touch and encourage reaching and using lower fields of vision.
  6. The more fun a child has, the more the brain will retain the knowledge, so look for their likes and interest while incorporating fun materials to accomplish their goals and objectives.
  7. Remember, when we play, we really do learn.

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