My son Liam just turned 7 and we celebrated his birthday at our home with family and friends from school. Liam happens to be deafblind and attends first grade in a mainstream setting. I wanted Liam's birthday party to be accessible and include all the children at the party. Here are a few of the things we did for Liam's special day:
1. Tactile invitations that include braille
Before the party, Liam helped add braille and tactile stickers to all of the birthday invites. He was able to bring them to school to pass out to invite his friends.
2. Birthday book
Every year Liam gets a birthday book for his birthday. Each page of the books are created by friends and family that attend his party. Every book has a theme. One year it was shapes, last year it was the number 6 since he turned 6 years old and this year it was a "Person Book". Every year the books include more and more braille as Liam's reading level and interests change.
This year I sent a blank page with the birthday invites that included braille sentences attached to the pages along with a letter that included instructions. Every page included a wood cutout of a person. The friends got to decorate their own wooden person and page, creating a person representing them. They were then invited to wrap the page and bring it as their birthday gift to Liam. (Liam's favorite things are books!) We added the pages to his birthday book as he opened them.
3. Braille cupcakes!
Add candy to cupcakes to create Braille Cupcakes! Another idea I had (maybe next year?) to make birthday cookies and the children could decorate their own cookies and add Braille letters and words.
4. Decorations at touch level
It's important to me that Liam gets to experience and explore decorations. We had birthday balloons tied to his chair at the dining room table. His birthday sign was in Braille and at his touch level. Streamers hung from our house where he was able to touch them. Some parts were high, so I helped him stand on a chair to feel that some of the streamers were high up! I also blew up some balloons to be scattered on the floor throughout the house for Liam and friends to play with.
5. Tactile wrapping paper and cards
I like to have Liam's gift wrapping be just as much fun to touch as it is to look at! You can add stickers, puffy paint, ribbons, bows, etc. to gifts to make the wrapping decorations accessible. Liam's special request this year was to have "candy on the presents"...so of course, I taped some candy onto his gifts as well! Liam's friends brought cards for Liam that included braille (thanks to Liam's intervener at school for giving the children braille labels ahead of time!!) and also tactile things to touch. I always save Liam's cards and put them in his braille book bins we have around the house so that he can reread them whenever he wants.
6. Punch a hole game (Braille inside cups to spell a sentence)
I saw this game on Pinterest and was inspired to make it for Liam's party. I modified it a little to fit the needs of our party. I took plastic cups and covered them with tissue paper; I then glued them to a wooden board. Inside of the cups was a piece of candy and a word (in braille and print both) glued onto magnetic pieces. The kids would take turns punching through the tissue paper, grab the candy and the braille word. They then would give the braille to Liam and he would then put the words on his magnetic board. The words included the names of everyone at the party. The children enjoyed seeing their names in braille and Liam loved reading all of the names as the kids gave them to him. He liked punching the cups too!
7. Scavenger Hunt
Liam's Grandma made a really fun scavenger hunt for the party! Every child received a "treasure map" that included pictures of items we have in our house. (Liam's map was tactile and included braille.) They had to go and find all of the objects and were able to get a treasure bag when they finished!
8. Relay race drop and or drop in the bucket
The possibilities are endless here!
Relay ideas: Children can help each other!
- Hold a ball by walking side by side-ball between the two friends on their side.
- Leap frog over each other
- Ping pong ball on spoon (or a balloon) and drop it into a bucket
Have a variety of buckets available and a "bunch" of ping pong balls. Kids can take turns throwing balls into the buckets -- or at our party we threw them all at the same time! :)
9. Find your object!
We used a large sensory box and filled it with paper shavings and we hid plastic straws in it! The kids had to shut their eyes and search around, at the same time, to try to find as many straws as they could! You could vary the game by having the kids find their own separate objects. You could use other materials besides paper shavings such as: beans, rice and sand. I really liked this game because it was a game they could ALL do together, independently, with very little help from the adults. It was fun to watch.
10. This one is deafblind specific...learn how to sing happy birthday in ASL!
When it was time for the birthday cupcakes--the children were able to sing and SIGN to Liam the happy birthday song!
*Bonus: Liam got an "experience gift"!
Liam's TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) brought an extra special gift to the party! He built Liam his own little strawberry garden in our back yard. Liam and his brother were able to help plant the strawberries and water them at the party!