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Parents and children discover the three little picks

Tips for parents of blind and visually impaired children

developed for a seminar for parents and children

August 25 and September 8, 2012, in Berlin

(German Association of Blind and Visually Impaired People

 in the framework of the EVEIL-project)


Exemplified by Elizabeth Shaw’s book “Zilli, Billi and Willi” (“Three little piggies”) we’d like to demonstrate, how you can use a children’s book in order to support your child in various ways.

„The three little piggies“ are just an example that can show you, how many possibilities a simple book can contain.

You can proceed in three steps:

  1. Analysis of the book

Which contents of the book could be interesting in order to work on it with a blind or visually impaired child?

  1. Analysis of your child

Which of the contents you have found in step 1 your child is already familiar with and do no more have to be explained?

Which contents does your child probably not yet know exactly?

-          Does your child know all the objects and animals that occur in the book?

-          Can your child really imagine what it is?

-          Does your child know all the actions that happen in the book, e.g. cutting, climbing a tree, baking bread, making fire etc.?

-          Can your child imagine all the incidents in the book, especially those ones, that deal with seeing (e.g. hiding, terms like in front, behind, over, under, right, left). Hints for learning new concepts and terms (concept formation) can also be found at

  1. Plan activities for working on the book with your child

Thereby you mainly have three possibilities:

-          Activities in order to bring the book to life, e.g. going into the woods, riding a boat, cutting or chopping something

-          Getting to know original objects, e.g. different kinds of scissors, cars, diggers/excavators, animals, plants etc.

-          What cannot be explored originally, can probably be palmed/touched and explained, e.g. plush toys, plastic animals, toy cars or trains, recreated objects of building blocks or other craft materials

You cannot work on all subjects at a time or immediately one after the other. Concentrate on those things which are exciting for your child and you yourself have fun with. Later on you can move on to other subjects.

You can also complement the book together with your child. For our parenting seminar we therefore have

-          copied and enlarged the pages

-          intensified contrasts and lines

-          laminated the sheets and filed them into a folder

-          recreated the pages for touching and playing

-          added the texts in Braille on overhead transparency film


Elements from the book “The three piggies”

Content of the book

The three little piggies – Zilli, Billi and Willi – each build a house: one of straw, one of wood and one of stone. Now they are no more afraid of the big bad wolf. The wolf comes and blows away first the straw house, then the wooden house. But when he tries to blow away the stone house, he bursts from the strain. So finally the piggies are very happy.

  1. Materials

Straw, wood and stone. Show your child different pieces of these materials. Your child can investigate them, e.g. concerning firmness, weight, warmth radiation, noises etc.

Use daily life opportunities to advise your child of materials, e.g. “Give me first the heaviest, then a lighter, then the lightest one!” etc.


Purpose and use of materials, also possible by experiments:

-          Stones for constructing, paving, throwing …

-          Straw to feed animals, for bedding, combustible, dung

-          Wood as construction material, combustible, material for toys


  1. Constructing with straw, wood and stone

Experiment together with your child with these materials: Construct with wooden logs or slats; let your child touch “real” building bricks and explain to him at house walls, how the stones are kept together; show or tell them how difficult it is to build with straw.

Show wooden houses or huts to your child.

  1. Blowing/Wind

Experiment with your child:

-          How does blowing and wind sound?

-          What does the wind do? Blowing, puffing, wind wheel, fan, hairdryer, vacuum cleaner, draught when train or subway passes

-          Clarify: one cannot see the wind itself, but its effects

-          Observe and notice wind, cold, warmth, pressure, noises

Construct a little wind wheel with your child and try to make it rotating by blowing or with a hairdryer.

  1. Running away / into the house

The piggies escape into their houses. You can do running games with your child.

-          Your child can run towards you. You call it. Once it has arrived in your arms, it is saved from the wolf.

-          Depending on your child’s abilities you can shape the game differently: larger or shorter running course, running with or without an assistant, bumps or other unevenness, changes of direction, barricades or other obstacles

-          The house can be a big cardboard box, which your child must seek and then hide in.

-          Several children can first run alone, then in a twosome or threesome hand in hand (Zilli and Billi escape into Willi’s stone house).


  1. Houses

You can work with your child on the following issues:

-          How does a house look? How does it feel, inside and outside?

-          Which elements are there? Let your child touch as many as possible: fundament, cellar, basement, different floors, attic, roof, doors, windows, rooms, stairs

-          Heating, fireplace, chimney, rising smoke

-          Make the size of houses clear to your child: Call out of windows in the ground floor, second, third and fourth floor, while your child stands downstairs. If possible, let your child throw a ball out of the window and listen, how long it lasts, until the ball lands at the bottom.

-          Discover your own house or apartment and create a haptic plan/map of it.

-          Build models of houses, e.g. with LEGO.

-          Show models of houses to your child, e.g. at parks or haptic models in museums etc.



  1. Animals

Offer your children the opportunity to touch and pet animals.

-          Visit zoos or farms

-          Let your child pet a German Shepherd as comparison with a wolf

-          Plush toys, plastic or wooden animals

-          Discuss body parts of animals: Visually impaired children develop a body scheme only gradually and slowly. Discuss with your child where the different parts are located at the body. Compare wolf and piggy and let your child discover the differences. Compare the body of animals with the human body. Your child can seek and show the different body parts at itself or at your body or at other persons or dolls.


  1. Tactile labels/inscriptions

You can add Braille texts to the book. Therefore you have got many different possibilities:

-          Word version: Just glue particular words, names of objects or persons into the book. You can also write them on little cards, which your child can affix with Velcro to the correct objects.

-          You can write the complete text to the filed pages directly, to overhead slide, transparent adhesive foil or, of course, paper.

-          You can write the page numbers directly to the original pages or to transparent adhesive foil. Or glue the correspondent number of glue dots instead of Braille numbers to the pages.

-          Perhaps your child can already practise to write its name. Then you can glue the name into the book: “This book belongs to …”

-          The Braille text should have double line spacing, for some children perhaps double letter spacing, too.

-          The following Braille systems are possible:

*Basic font with all letters spelled out

*Integral Braille with the abbreviations ch, ei, au etc.

*If applicable, 8-dots-Braille, if your child will presumably learn this at school first

*With the regular 6-dots-Braille it is easier for preschool children to omit the marking of capital letters.


  1. Image descriptions

When reading, you should describe the original pictures of a book to your child. In doing so, the following keywords may help:

-          What is in the picture?

-          Where is what?

-          What does who do?

-          Whereof does one recognize that?   

-          How do the persons and things look?

-          What is important in order to understand the picture and the actions?

-          First a general description, then the details

-          Keep in mind: Does my child know the terms I use to describe?

-          Are there exciting or funny marginal details which should also be described?

-          The descriptions are not supposed to be too long.

-          You can also record the read out text with the descriptions so that you have an audio book for your child.


  1. Haptic drawings and pictures

In general you can add tactile pictures to every children’s book. Hints for good haptic books can be found at For haptic drawings there are different possibilities, e.g.

-          Paint with wax crayon to thin paper on a fly-screen pad

-          Special drawing foil on silicon pad or other drawing pads with Braille stylus or empty ball pen refill

-          Finger paint with scented oils, e.g. for a book with fruits

-          Different 3-D colours/glitter-glue

-          Waxed threads

-          Motive punches

-          Models, forms and reliefs of all materials