Hesperian Health Guides

Early Stimulation

In this chapter:

As Rani’s grandmother realized, a child with loss of vision has the same needs as any child: she needs to be loved, and she needs to get to know the members of her family, and needs to recognize other things by touch, sound, smell, taste, and using whatever vision she has. The whole family can help her to become more aware of her home, and the things that are going on around her, and engage her in activities that help develop any vision she has.

A baby’s first plaything is her own body. Since she cannot see her hands and feet move, you may need to help her to feel, taste, smell, and explore them.
a person talking while touching a baby's foot.
This is baby's foot.
Have him compare by touch and sound his own and other people’s faces so that he begins to recognize different people.
a woman talking while holding a baby's hand to her mouth.
Here is mama's mouth.

Activities to help a children’s early development are discussed in Chapter 35. Most of these activities can help children with loss of vision, and can be adapted to the amount and kind of vision a child has. Children with vision loss will need more stimulation in other areas, including sounds and touch, and in beginning to reach toward things and move about (see "Toys to Encourage Looking and Listening" and Helping Children Who Are Blind).

At first you may need to place the toy in the child’s hand, or guide his hand to it. Or hang different things near him so that when he moves his hands they touch them.
a baby lying on his back touching wind chimes.
At each stage of the child’s development, attract her attention with a noisy plaything. Have her reach for it and then try to move toward it.
a person speaking while shaking a rattle near a baby.
Find your rattle!
Good girl!
Praise her
when she does well or tries.

In addition to these activities, children with loss of vision benefit from situations where they can keep learning about people and things. Talk to them, tell them the names of things, and explain what you and they are doing. At first they will not understand, but your voice will let them know you are near. Listening to words and names of things will also help them learn language skills.

Talk to the child as you do housework. Tell her what makes the sound she hears. Sing to the child and encourage him to move to music. Also encourage children with vision loss to make their own music.
a woman speaking to a child while sweeping.
I'm sweeping the floor. Can you hear the broom?
a woman singing to a blind child while 2 older children play music.
Mama's little baby loves
For ideas on homemade musical instruments, see "Rattles and other noise toys".
a woman and child speaking while touching a cow.
This is Moli, the cow.
She says 'Moo.'
Take the child outside often: to the market, the river, the cowshed, the village square. Show and explain different things to him, and tell him what makes different sounds.

Many children with vision loss still have some vision that they can use. Help them to best use this vision, and further develop it. Try these ways to help children see more.


  • Select a well-lit place for play so children can see objects more easily.
  • Try using different kinds of light (daylight, regular electric or neon lights) and different lighting ideas (focusing light on just the play area, or making the whole room brighter).
  • If the child is squinting, try dark colors (like a dark rug or cloth) on the floor or table where they play.

Clutter and distraction

  • Clear the play area so children can focus on one toy or object at a time.
  • Use a surface that is a single solid color with no pattern underneath the toys or objects that children are playing with.
  • Let children focus on one sense at a time — while they are looking at something, talking may be distracting.

Contrast, color, and size of objects

  • Choose toys that are a single color that contrasts with the background — for example, a yellow balloon against brown soil, or a red balloon against a white bedsheet.
  • Some children see smaller objects best. Do not assume bigger is better.

Encourage independence

  • Be patient and give children time to figure things out for themselves. When something is not seen clearly, they may need several minutes to focus and understand what they see.
  • If a task is too difficult, change it so that the child can do it without your help.

This page was updated:04 Apr 2024