Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

10 Fun Things to Do When Throwing an Accessible Birthday Party!

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. 
Reading the braille invitationAdding smiley stickers to invitationsAdding smiley sticker
Invitation packet ready to goInvitations ready to go

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.  
Birthday invitation letterBirthday book cover
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.  
Page from birthday bookPage from birthday bookPage from birthday book
Page from birthday bookPage from birthday bookReading book page

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.  
Cupcakes with braille

Decorations on door


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.  smileyLiam's special request this year was to have "candy on the presents" 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.  
Tactile wrapping paperAccessible birthday cards

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!  
Playing cup gamePlaying cup gameNames of guests

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!  
Treasure bags with "maps"Signing about treasure map


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
Ball drop:
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.
Sensory boxSearching in the sensory box

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!  
Singing "Happy Birthday!"

*Bonus: Liam got an "experience gift"!

Planting a strawberry gardenLiam'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!  
Accessible Birthday collage




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Posted on May 24, 2016
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for 10 Fun Things to Do When Throwing an Accessible Birthday Party!

Charlotte Cushman commented on June 20, 2017

Hi Sandy,

I would begin by thinking of what this woman enjoys, just as you would for the guest of honor at any party.  Does she like particular foods?  Music?  Games?  What would you do at the party if she were sighted?  Just as there is not just one type of party for older people who are sighted, there isn't one type of party for older people who are blind.  If you begin by thinking about what she enjoys, then you can make any adaptations that may be necessary.  If you will be serving food and having general conversation, then you may not need to plan anything specific to her visual impairment.

Another question is whether or not her vision loss is recent.  You mentioned that she doesn't read braille and I wonder if she has lost her vision as an older adult. If this is the case, then there would be other considerations.  Here are some general tips:

  • Keep the number of guests small, so that it will be calm and not overly confusing
  • Let her know who the other guests are and where they are (e.g. "It looks like your neighbor Betty has just come in.  Shall we go over and say hi?")  
  • If she has lost her vision recently, it will be helpful to her if you can provide some information about the comings and goings, which can be overwhelming at a party.  For example, "John is sitting over on the other side of the living room.  Would you like to go over and talk to him?"
  • Introduce her to everyone by name, even if they are people she knows.  No one wants to play the guessing game of wondering who someone is.  Be sure to say, "Oh you remember Jean.  It's so nice to have her join us!"
  • Provide information regularly about what's happening, e.g. "There are a lot of people sitting in the backyard. Shall we go and see who's there?"

Have fun!

Sandy commented on June 19, 2017

Wanting to give a surprise party for a older blind lady who doesn't read braille. None of the friends will be blind either. Anyone have any ideas?

Michelle Pelser commented on September 17, 2016

Love the Braille cupcakes. Fabulous ideas. Will make my blind 9 year old boy's birthday far more fun next year.

Liamsmom commented on May 26, 2016

Yes, Liam has a wonderful team--they are like family:)  We are thankful for them!!  

Liamsmom commented on May 26, 2016

I found them at Hobby Lobby...very inexpensive--Especially with my 40% off coupon:)  


Monica commented on May 26, 2016

Where did you find the wooden people figures?

Monica commented on May 26, 2016

Wonderful! As a TSVI, I'm inspired to make your ideas work in my classrooms! I'm delighted to see your TSVI participated too!

Wendi commented on May 26, 2016

What a beautiful and creative post! Such thoughtful ideas.

Lelan Miller commented on May 25, 2016

Can you invite me to his next birthday party please??? Lelan