APH’s Game Kit and the Sounds and Smells of Christmas

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

"The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.” Helen Keller

I love to shop during the holidays, looking for gifts for my friends, family and students. There is something truly magical about this time of year.

Shopping with my students who are blind is an, (excuse the pun) eye-opener. So many things that I fail to notice, my students will point out to me. For example: the smells, touches and tastes of Christmas. While I describe the beautiful sights, my students comment on the Christmas smells, sounds, tastes and touches.

The vision department once went on a shopping spree to North Park Mall in Dallas, Texas. A favorite of all the kids was a store named L’Occitane. L’Occitane had and has many wonderful smells and textures of different types of lotions, and get this, the labels are in Braille.

One student told me about the surprise later on. “Ms. Kristie, I could not believe that the lotion actually had Braille labels. It was so cool to be able to read the different labels,” Libby stated.

When walking through a department store, another student commented on the Smells of Christmas potpourri. “Wow, I can even taste the cinnamon smell on my lips.”

I asked my student this year what he noticed when shopping at the mall.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Do you hear different sounds, tastes or smells?” I asked.

“Well, of course. I hear the Salvation Army man or woman ringing a bell for charity, choirs that normally are not in the mall, and cool Christmas and Hanukkah displays. Plus, it is a lot more crowded!”

When the vision department takes our students on trips to the mall we cover such compensatory skills as: counting money, self-advocacy, orientation and mobility skills, reading, socializing and a host of others.

Some school districts are not so fortunate as to be able to take their students who are visually impaired on trips to the mall, so I have designed a plan for them, too.

Since APH has an exceptional Game Kit that allows creativity to flow, I created a Christmas Mall Game called, “Sounds and Smells of Christmas”. Here’s how it’s played:

Sounds and Smells of Christmas Mall Game

  1. Choose one of the cool game boards that APH provides. I’m choosing the snake-like green game board with tactual dice, index cards with labels: ‘good luck’, ‘bad luck’, ‘challenge’, ‘reading’, embossed symbols from APH, game pieces and a spinner. The goal of the game is to reach Christmas Mall gold at the end of the game board. (Place a tactual piece of foil at the end of the board)
  2. Place embossed symbols around the board (I do every five spaces and place the symbol in the sixth space).
  3. Each player rolls to see who has the highest number. The player with the highest number goes first.
  4. The first player rolls the dice and advances that many places. If he lands on a tactual symbol he must spin the spinner.
  5. The spinner will be labeled with only one’s and two’s. If the player lands on a one, he draws a ‘Good Luck’ card, and if he lands on a two, he must face a ‘Bad Luck’ card.
  6. Examples of Good Luck cards: a. You just saved $50.00 for the pair of jeans you purchased. Move ahead five spaces. b. While eating at Thirsty’s, you gave the waiter a twenty percent tip, move ahead three. c. You gave money to the Salvation Army move ahead two.
  7. Examples of Bad Luck cards: a. You overspent on your credit card, go back five spaces. b. You bought yourself Christmas gifts instead of presents for others, go back ten.
  8. If a player rolls a double then he must answer a challenge question. Example of a ‘Challenge’ question- a. Your meal at Pizza Pies is $34.25. How much money will you give the waitress if you are leaving her a fifteen percent tip?
  9. Players that land on a brailled ‘R’ must read the index cards labeled “Reading”.
  10. Examples of ‘Reading’ cards: a. Read the following Dolch words within one minute. b. Read and identify the Braille labels on the lotion.
  11. The first person to reach the mall gold wins.
  12. Other ideas may include: identifying lotions, foods, soaps, etc. (simply rub the scent on an index card and create a new category).

Children love to learn when learning is fun. APH has invented the best game board for expanding ideas and developing concepts. The game board need not only be played at Christmas but throughout the year. Helen Keller was correct when she said that the only blind person is one who does not carry Christmas in his heart. Why not carry the Christmas season, fun, giving, games, and laughter throughout the year?

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