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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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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

APH’s Tactile Town Teaching Tool for Tomorrow’s Traveler

Tactile Town kit

By Kristie Smith

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
                     – Robert Frost

American Printing House (APH) has outdone themselves with a product named Tactile Town, and rightly so because this tactile 3-D town helps children and adults to view directions with objects that are movable and three -dimensional. The town items come neatly packaged into green grass areas, railroad tracks, a pond and a fountain, directional arrows, brailled labels, stop signs, two small felt boards, the large fold out felt board and traffic lights as well as movable plastic people, houses, and many other items that will encourage children to understand directions and mobility in a fun way.

Also included in the kit is a teacher manual with many fantastic ideas for layout ideas that will encourage a child’s imagination, directional ability and make learning so much fun the children do not want the game to end. Such games as tic-tac-toe, question games like what direction is the lions’ cage in location to the birds’ cage? So many creative activities are within the kit that comes in an easy-to-handle bright red carrying case.

Since there are many places, lessons and activities for learners to understand mobility goals and objectives, I selected the format for the zoo to demonstrate how fun and what a great teaching tool this remarkable kit is capable of doing for all learners of mobility.

I chose the large tri-fold felt board and laid out the items listed in the teacher’s manual for a zoo layout. I placed the pond, two small houses, restaurants, a fountain, grass, directional arrows equipped with hook/loop material and labeled the parts of my zoo. I asked the student to name the zoo, so it became Ms. Kristie’s Kritter’s Zoo. We played and laughed while role playing the different parts of the game. For example, I would ask my student to locate the pond. She would feel for the pond at the zoo and explain to me the direction and stated the actual directional words like northeast of the lion’s cage.

We even became silly and allowed our movable plastic people to stumble into the pond when they were not using their best cane and mobility directions!

This amazing kit is one of the best items used by O&Ms and vision specialists. Our O&M in Mesquite, Texas, Harriet Hall, was ecstatic to receive her tactile town and explained that it was not only a life saver for the two rainy days when she normally did outside travel, but that it was a game that taught well and was simply one of the most fun items she had ever used for mobility.

Since I enjoy writing activity books, I have listed a few fun ideas that will enhance this already well-made, brilliant item from APH.
  • Read the large-print book by Kristie Smith, Dottie and Dots See Animal Spots – Located through Amazon and B&N (No real Braille; however a Braille teacher could add embossed letters.) Dottie and Dots are two fun-loving Braille cell characters who teach young children the Braille alphabet through representational Braille. Dottie is bossy and Dots is goofy, so the children laugh hard when the two travel to the zoo and begin to see Braille dots on animals at the zoo as well as on Dots’ favorite foods at the zoo restaurants.
  • Read Learning Braille with Dots and Dottie also by Kristie Smith. Children will learn the dot count for each Braille letter through rhyme. (Email Kristie for more information or visit Kristie’s author spotlight on
  • Keyboard all the songs and favorite books that relate to a zoo like : “I went to the animal fare”, “Dear Zoo” by Rod Cambell, Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” by Dr. Bill Martin, Jr. and “If I Ran the Zoo” by Dr. Seuss
  • Create a delicious dessert after children spend their imaginary day at the tactile town zoo. Simply pour delicious vanilla ice cream into a large stainless steel bowl and add colorful plastic zoo animals. Children can scoop their ice cream and compare their zoo animals to other children’s animals. 
  • Ask the child to bring her or his favorite zoo animal to school. They may bring as many as you suggest. Discuss features and attributes of the zoo animals. 
  • Braille, keyboard or write all the words that rhyme with zoo – have a contest to see who can find the most rhyming words 
  • Using APH’s Draftsmen Kit, the child can illustrate their own design of a tactile zoo. 
  • Use the Tic-Tac-Toe game inside of the tactile kit
The creators of Tactile Town created a masterpiece for children who have a visual impairment when they took the road less traveled and invented an item that has made all the difference.

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