Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tactile things Part 1

I began making tactile play things for Sophia when she was very little. With little if any vision and limited hearing and mobility most commercially available infant toys did little for her. In her case her hands were her eyes. She didn't have fine motor skills but liked to touch things. And with short arms that she didn't bring to midline it was hard for her to be able to reach things on her own as well. The creative skills I honed during my four years at Moore College of Art helped me to design numerous items over the years. I first made a cloth book with crazy trims all over it. Eventually when I learned to knit, taught by a doctor in the PICU, I made balls with highly tactile yarns and jingle bells inside and eventually a "sensory dress" I hoped she would be able to touch and explore while she was wearing it. I made a board to fit over her tray table that I glued all kinds of interesting feeling objects that I had been collecting for just this purpose. I also made a patchwork fabric tray mat to fit over her stroller tray. I got lots of positive feedback on these items from all of the specialists that worked with Sophia. I made a series of "discovery quilts" and tray mats made of black, white, and red (the easiest to see colors for infants and visually impaired individuals) highly tactile fabrics and sold them at the Perkins School for the Blind annual conference for parents of preschool aged children. I eventually started a website called Unfortunately people rarely stumbled upon it in the vast world of cyber space. I did make occasional sales and got positive feedback. I took the site down with the intention of redoing it quite a while ago but that never happened. Last year I submitted my traymat design to the Abilitations catalog. They are the largest catalog of special needs equipment and are known to produce items designed by special needs parents occasionally. They did a year of product testing with developmental specialists. They will make them and give me royalties on sales and I am still allowed to make and sell my own if I want. They just came out in their April catalog. I must say I'm disappointed. They don't look as well made, don't have as many different fabrics, and are not shown attached to a tray or being played with, so unless you stop and read the description you probably have no idea what they are supposed to be. Additionally they are shown at the same angle and are similar shape to a tank top/vest on the facing page. Oh well. We'll see if anything comes of it. I don't have time to be making them right now anyway, but they could have done a much better job.
I will post another entry showing more of the items I've made.


  1. Well that's pretty cool I think. Sorry that the production version and presentation is a little disappointing, but I still this it's wonderful that your BRILLIANT ideas will make it to the masses and probably be incredibly helpful, loved and appreciated by other children and their mommies and daddies. Go Reb (yet again)!!

  2. Hi there,
    I was wondering if you still make sensory things to sell. I was wondering how much you charge for different things. My son has both a vision and hearing loss... I stumbled upon your site while looking for tactile stimulation!
    Thanks so much!