Tac-Tivities Using APH Products

By Kristie Smith

Last summer I browsed through one of my favorite catalogs for teaching children who have a visual impairment, American Printing House for the Blind (APH). I honestly love the items and enjoy creating activities that will help children who have visual problems understand concepts like their peers who are sighted.  I have also been fortunate to be a blogger for APH's blog, Fred’s Head.

As an educator, I list my students and then comb through the amazing items as I am looking over my IEP goals for each child.  Some of my favorite items (although they are too numerous to mention in this paragraph) are:  Tactile Town, exercise kits, All-in-One Board,  mini litebox and materials that go with it, the literacy set, The Sunshine Kit, The Game Kit, Focus in Mathematics, The Draftsmen Kit, Talking Calculator, Computation Braille cards, clocks, the Sensory Kits, and so many more.

In my first year of teaching children with a visual impairment, two of the best who have since passed away, taught me to be a better teacher. Betty Donovan and Susan Matlock at different times sat me down and said, “Stop spending your own money. APH has everything you need and more to educate and level the field of learning concepts for our students.”
My focus is to demonstrate that through fun, Tactile Town, Recipe Cards, the exercise equipment and more that educators can teach IEP goals and concepts that are creative, enjoyable and will create a long-lasting learner who will be equipped for employment in the future. The materials APH offers will help people who have a visual impairment have an enjoyable and worthwhile life--all human beings have a soul, and everyone has something to offer.  

After thirty years of teaching, I have discovered that any child, any age will learn and have long-lasting learning if they are having fun and feeling productive.  One year our school motto was, “Leave no child behind!”  That phrase rings loudly in my ears when I analyze my caseload each year.  All children can learn! They may learn slower or through very small steps, however, ALL CHILDREN CAN LEARN!

         "To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart." —Pearl S. Buck

The Game of Life Skills

“It’s all in a Day’s Work”
APH offers many creative and concept-building materials that help level the playing field of academics for our students with a visual impairment.

This entry will demonstrate how much fun and how many amazing goals and objectives can be accomplished through Tactile Town and one of my other  favorite products, “Focus in Mathematics,” as well as many other amazing items. 

The following activities may help children of all ages to understand orientation and mobility, directions, math and daily living skills using these many amazing products.

THE BANK (Math, Compensatory and Expanded Core Curriculum)

  • ·       Use the felt board and create a community. Ask the student to name the town, for example, “Adelio Town”.  Simply label and place buildings around the board with either Braille from the Braillables (APH) or the large print letters (APH).   
  • Make a spot for a library, school, bank, a pond, a grocery store and two houses.  Make a compass rose on the other small felt board naming the directions.  Ask the child to move his or her movable person from the house to the bank and then to describe to you the route he chose.
  • When the child goes to the bank, use real money (one dollar, two dimes, one nickel and one penny) Ask her to identify the money and to count it back to you.    
  • Use the blocks of ten from the “Focus in Mathematics” kit when she is counting out the dimes, one nickel and the penny.  (Hands-on will keep the child from guessing and will help her to understand the true value of each).  There is no guessing when a student uses real manipulatives once they are asked a question.  (Set the student up for success. If they are stumbling, give hints or choices and then role-play the scene again.) 
  • Use a toy register and allow the child to play banker.  Help him to count out the change and identify the coins by feeling around the outer rims of each.  Ask him to hand you .26 (26 cents), then .37 (37 cents).  On the tactile number line, identify what negative and positive numbers are and how the dollar represents 100% and that the cents are parts of the whole.  (This is a wonderful activity for recognizing wholes and parts of a whole as well as a great introduction into fractions.  (Focus in Mathematics is an exceptional to use for this objective.  
  • Use the iPad and look for apps that will identify money.  You place the bill where the window on the iPad is and it will read the amount aloud.  (Thank you, Dawn Adams, for this wonderful tip.  
  • I once watched a teacher label real food items from the grocery store with Braille.  The child and she pretended to call and set up a time for the manager to assist with the cost of the food. They role-played the entire grocery store scene with the exception of the little girl reading the Braille on the canned goods.  The child used her Talking Calculator to estimate the cost of what she could or could not purchase.  
  • Change the position where the bank is and ask the student to guide you using the compass rose on the felt board.  Once the two of you arrive at the bank, the two of you will practice writing her name from the tactual letters from APH.  Explain concepts for writing a check and other reasons for learning how to write in print.  
  • Talk about counting out dollars to make a five-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill and five ones to make a ten-dollar bill, etc. 
  • Use “The Game Kit” with the smaller board.  Roll the dice and as the child advances up the board, he must read the Braille or large print number.  If he lands on the number five, he draws five cards from the game kit index cards and selects one card.  The card may read, “Hand your teacher .36 using dimes, nickels and pennies. 
  • Practice using an ATM machine.  Use one of the Money App’s for the iPad.  
  • Take your student through the line of a bank and practice greeting the bank teller and asking questions. For example, he could ask the teller for change from a one hundred dollar bill and ask the teller to count the change aloud.  Have the child also use the Money App to check the change for himself.


  • ·       Braille or write the following problem:  “Use the child’s name” _________traveled in which direction from the bank to the restaurant.  Next, teach the child how to ask for a menu in Braille, large print or for it to be read to them.  Braille or write out a small menu and ask the student to order at the restaurant. Next, ask the child to pay for the meal.  (They may use their Talking Calculator from APH) if they understand the concept of how much money each item, tax and tip add up.  To ensure that the child understands the money exchange concept, ask them to use the base ten blocks from math kit  
  • While at the restaurant, take out the plastic fork, knife, and spoon from The Mathematics Kit (APH) as well as a paper plate.  Ask the child to spread butter onto a small cracker.  The student may add M&M’s, Chex mix and pretzels to bowl and stir the ingredients with the plastic spoon and serve a treat to someone. 
  • Mix up plastic forks and spoons and place in front of the student.  Time the child and see how quickly he or she can sort the plastic utensils.  
  • Ask your student to make a new item for the restaurant.  Simply mix M&M’s with Pretzels, and Chex Mix into a large bowl.  Melt white chocolate morsels in a saucepan and spread over the mixture in the bowl.  Spread the mix out onto wax paper and let cool.  
  • Take out the Braille Writer and paper (APH) and encourage the child to make up a name for their own restaurant.  (You can do this for them if they struggle or are too young to Braille or write and create a language experience story.) Use the Draftsmen Kit (APH) and allow him or her to illustrate what they want their restaurant to look like.  Another idea is to use the blocks from The Mathematics Kit (APH) and build a restaurant.  
  • Use the All-in-One-Board to design a new restaurant and practice left and right hand movements.


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