Unmute Presents At Your Fingertips – Braille games for children and adults

In this episode of At Your Fingertips, we discuss the world of Braille games, emphasizing their role in enhancing Braille skills through fun gameplay. We share insights on specific games like Scrabble and Monopoly, highlighting their educational value.

Exploring resources from NFB Independence Marketplace, APH, and MaxiAids, we showcase Braille games like alphabet blocks and Sudoku boards. We touch on the challenge of finding quality sets and suggest vintage options.

Additionally, we mention the appeal of word games like Scrabble for visually impaired players and the creativity of Braille coloring books. We encourage listeners to embrace Braille in leisure activities and offer avenues for further exploration.

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Hi everyone. Welcome back to at your fingertips braille then and now. I have a really cool topic for you this month, and it’s braille games for children and adults. Braille is a great tool to keep reviewing, and one way to keep in the game, so to speak, is to review your braille and what better way to do it through play. Whether you’re an adult or a kid, I often tell my braille learners if they want to keep up with their braille and have a good connection with people, they might want to play cards or monopoly or scrabble or something that’s really appealing to them. So I think it would be great to explore all of the things that are out there. So I’ve chosen a curated list of things that I would enjoy, that I think others would like as well. So when I was growing up. So the braille then part is, when I was growing up, I really enjoyed playing some braille games, and my mom was really forward thinking. She didn’t know how to raise a blind child, so she thought, well, I’ll just raise her like anyone else. So games were a part of things. I remember playing a lot of board games when I was a kid. I know board games were kind of in fashion during the pandemic because everybody was stuck at home. So I don’t know if people play them as much, but I think it would be great to get back to doing so. So when I was little, she got me the first game I think I remember having was called the states game, and it might have been from the american printing house. I can imagine that they would have done something like this. It was so cool. It was a decent sized board and it had raised outlines of all the states with their two letter abbreviation. And so, for instance, you know, if you’re in a different country and you’re not familiar with our abbreviations, our zip codes and things, you know, the way we write our addresses, you know, or is for Oregon, CA is for California. And, you know, so you have all the, all the states with their abbreviations. And then there was a little peg hall in the middle of each state, and you lined up all your pegs on the southern border, and the other person would line up all their pegs on the northern border, and there was a little spinner. And I can’t remember what all the choices were, but you would spin it and it would tell you whether you could move your peg one or two spaces and so forth. And so your objective was to get all of your guys from one border to the other, and you couldn’t skip any states, and, you know, you had to go in, you know, the proper route. So it was pretty fun. And I learned all my states, and I learned where they were. Even more importantly, sometimes blind children are not exposed to maps. And I think it’s really super important to get that basic concept down. If they. If someone can’t see, I think it’s great to know your north, south, east and west and where things are. And also the relative size and shape of the states. For instance, our state of Texas is really big compared to our little tiny state of Rhode island. And so to get a comparison by feeling the outline, the shape and the size is really great. And so that was super fun. So when I took a trip across the United States by car, I was very familiar of the route we would probably be taking when my teacher drove me to music camp back east. So that was cool. So, anyway, I had loads of hours of playing the States game with my friends. Also, I had a scrabble game and monopoly game, and I’ll talk about those in a minute. And so definitely cards were in the mix as well. And we’ll talk about those. So there are a lot of places to get games. There are folks on Etsy who were making them. I haven’t checked those out. There are some common blindness stores that we access here in the US that you could probably order things from or similar versions from in your country if you don’t happen to live here. So I’ve got a list of things that I sort of curated that sounded great to me. I haven’t, of course, you know, felt seen, checked them out, all of them. But they sound really cool and their ideas to kind of get you thinking. You can also make your own games, too. I know me and my friends have our friends, you know, we have made card games, you know, when we’re on a vacation and we want to play cards and, oh, shoot, we forgot the braille card deck, we might braille our cards. The challenge with cards, though, is that you have to, for best use, braille the two characters on each of the diagonal corners so that no matter which way you pick up the card, you can read them. So, for instance, the common way of brailling cards is to not use number signs, but just use two characters. So if it was the two of clubs, it would look like a b and a c. If it’s the ace of clubs, it would be an a and a c. K is for King, J is for Joker, Q is for queen, and then the suit is the second character. And so it’s just great to be able to read those. And so put the braille in diagonal corners and, you know, but that takes a lot of extra work, because if you’re using a Perkins, you’ve got to roll it out each time and back in. But we’ve been known to do that. But first, before I get off on a tangent, I think I’ll start with my list. So, the NFB independence marketplace has lots of different games, especially for teaching braille to kids. NFB is very pro braille, and so you have things like braille Alphabet blocks, braille math blocks. There’s even a braille cell fidget that has pegs that move up and down. They stay in the game, they can’t come out, but you can move the pegs up and down in the little fidget to create different braille characters. There’s even a version of this that I have that’s a keychain that has three movable parts. Basically, the top of the braille cell that has four sides, the middle of the braille cell that has four sides and a couple dots, you know, on each side, and then the bottom of the braille cell that has four sides with two dots on each side. So no matter which way you twist it, you get, you have a cube, and you have the six dots of the braille cell, and you can create your braille character or contraction, say th wh wh sh sh that kind of thing. So the NFB marketplace also has a wooden braille learning practice kit, and it has two braille cells with removable pegs. They also have a braille print Alphabet card with tactile illustrations, which is really, really cool. It has a raised letter in print, and then there is a picture of a raised, you know, illustration that begins with that letter that’s being introduced. So, you know, maybe I’m making it up. Maybe B would have a banana, you know, so something like that. And that’s really cool. And there is a raised shapes counting cards set which includes print and braille activity kit. We have a braille word board and it has the opportunity to put little brief messages or you can play hangman or anagrams on it. The tiles have print and braille with a locator notch at the top. That’s really important because anybody who knows even a little basic braille knows that we have a lot of reversals, I and e, HJ, FD, that sort of thing. And so it’s a problem if there’s no locator notch or locator dot to tell you which way is up. And that game has 98 tiles and it’s only $15, for instance. They also have a print braille, magnetic numbers and capital letters. This is really great because I remember when I was eight, my mom got me a set of magnetic print letters and a magnetic board because it was really helpful for me to know the shape of print letters. When you think about it, some AdA accessible signs have braille and raised letters in print. So if you don’t know your letters, some you know, people blind from birth don’t know their raised letters. I found some of my students don’t happen to know them. It’s really handy to be able to have a set that you can feel. And so there is just one set of this activity that includes the magnetic board, and one just has the letters in case you already have a magnetic board. Those are some of the offerings from the NFB independence marketplace, APH american printing house for the blind here in the states has a really wonderful selection of games and activities for teaching braille because they’re all about education. So even though this is not officially braille, they do have tactile dice, which is great. It’s nice to have dice where the bumps go out instead of in. It’s easier for some people to feel, especially if they have neuropathy or numbness in their fingers. I haven’t checked this next offering out from them, but it sounds really fun. There’s paint by number, and so you have such things as backyard creatures, desert creatures, tropical rainforest, and under the sea. So apparently there is a paint by number set, and obviously the numbers would be raised or brailled. You’d probably also color that, I would imagine there’s a book called guidelines and games for teaching official braille reading, and this can be had in print or digital download. So I am unsure whether that includes a braille file, but I’m guessing that either way it would include valuable information. If you were a teacher or you wanted to help your young student or young friend with their brow learning. Or if you just want to do something fun as an adult, all of these are great. I think even adults love playing games and having fun, and it’s fun to return to your childhood sometimes. The next store over here is maxillades, and here are some of the things that they have. I do have one little caveat about this first offering. It’s called bananagrams, and it’s a big pouch with a bunch of letters. And there, I believe there is a board that comes with it. But the problem with these letters is there is absolutely no tactile indicator of which is the top and which is the bottom or left and, you know, side to side. So the, the tiles are completely square and they have high quality braille. You just don’t know if it’s an iron, e, f, d, h, j, whatever. And the letter is not closer or farther away from the edge. There is just absolutely no way to tell. So I do not encourage anyone to buy this particular version of bananagrams. What I will say is that you can get plenty of other scrabble tiles and sets of tiles for other games, and then just use the rules for playing bananagrams. Bananagrams is a game where you draw a certain number of letters, say everybody draws, I’m going to make it up 15 letters. And then you have to make your own little crossword and use up as many letters as you can. And if you can’t use your letters, you have to draw some. And so the idea is for the first person that uses up all their letters and doesn’t have to draw wins the game. And so it’s very fun. There are also, at the maxi aids, there are also braille rook cards. There’s a braille matching letter game, braille uno cards. We’ll talk about cards some more. They also have braille skippo cards, go fish flash cards, and then they have a game that might sound fun to our UK listeners. It’s heigh ho, cheerio counting game braille. And you have to collect, apparently all of the fruit in the game. And it involves addition and subtraction. And there’s a spinner, a board, braille markings on the board, but it does require some adult assembly. Always nice to have that little caveat assembly required. Another game that they offer is a sound puzzle with braille pieces, and it’s musical instrument matching game. So you have to match the shape of the instrument. And when you do that, you also are going to hear the instrument being played, which is really cool. This particular idea is also available from maxillades with farm animals, pets, vehicles, and zoo animals. So that sounds pretty fun. Another game is their super big boggle game. Now, I love playing boggle. If you’re not familiar what with what that is, it’s like a box, a big box top in the bottom of the box and the two pieces come apart is a grid. Usually, I think it would be maybe four by four, or maybe there are bigger ones as well. But what you do is there are dice shaped letters. Shaped letters. And what you do is you shake up the game with all the letters inside of it. And then you open it up and you’ve got to turn the letters so they fit down into the little squares. And so you have a grid. Then the bottom, you know, of this little box is the grid. And the letters are, of course, on the squares. And you have to make as many words as you can out of that. It’s basically, you don’t skip a square. You can turn corners, you can go across, you can go down. But the idea is to make as many words as you can, and you write them all down with a certain time limit. And then if you have the same word as someone else, you have to erase it. And so I remember playing this with my blind friends, and I would use the Perkins, and one of us would read the letters on the grid, and the other one would read them on the braille writer. So we would write, you know, say, four rows of four letters, and then we could feel them and write our letters down on the Perkins so that, you know, obviously sighted people can look at the board and all play, but blind people have to feel the board. So that’s how kind of how we got around that when we were playing with more than one blind person. It’s just super fun to see how many words you can figure out that are not the same as the person that you’re playing along with. So super big boggle is that idea. There’s also a tactile crossford puzzle game that has a wooden board and 99 plastic tiles. The board measures 9.25 by 11.5 inches. And I thought, just to say that I’m smart, I would calculate that for you who use metric. So it’s 23 by 28.75 cm. Just wanted to score a few points with the rest of the world who uses the metric system. So I haven’t checked this out, but it’s for creating your own crossword puzzles or for doing crossword puzzles that are already, you know, created that you want to fill in. So those are some of the games from maxi Aids. Just to comment on the theme of word games, Scrabble is my very favorite all time awesome game that I love to play. I love, love, love word games. Some of you might know that I post on Mastodon when I have a really nice score on the crossword mini from the Apple news puzzle offerings. But I love Scrabble, and when I was a kid, I played lots of it. The braille version, I think, came out in the seventies. We probably got it from Aph, I’m guessing, because a lot of these companies probably weren’t in existence, you know, almost 50 years ago. Oh, boy. So the games back then had nice, deep squares that the tiles would fit into. The squares had the markings like dw for double word, tw for triple word, DL for double letter, tl for triple letter. And the tiles also had a somewhat raised or etched print letter, but they had the braille letter at the top and the score for that letter. So, for instance, the w would be on the top of the letter, and the little four would be underneath that no number sign. And the squares were nice and deep. And that was the biggest selling point of this board. And, of course, it was bigger than a normal, you know, scrabble board because we had to account for all the edges of all the squares. And it’s really, you know, a great option. Well, fast forward, probably, I’m going to say maybe 30 years. They decided, oh, we’ll make a new and improved one. We’ll put it, like, on a turntable and just make a new one. And unfortunately, the squares are not as deep, and they don’t. The letters don’t stay in the squares as well. And so every opportunity I get, and I’ve kind of had to curtail it a little bit because I don’t want to buy them all up. So then you guys wouldn’t have any to buy. But if you check on eBay and you find a vintage scrabble board, if people know what they have, they might charge you 50, $75 something for it like that, which is probably how much it cost. Even 50 years ago was kind of expensive. But sometimes people don’t know what they have, and they might charge you a little less. And so I have bought up a few of these boards in case my board goes south, because eventually those squares, uh, the edges, the little. The little edges around the squares, sometimes they’re, um, made of a plastic type material, and eventually they kind of break down a little bit. And so I think I’ve replaced my board at least once in the 50 years that I’ve had my scrabble board. And so if you do find it on eBay, snap it up. It’s the best option. If it says it’s from the sixties or seventies, then. And if it says vintage, you’ve got a winner there. And so I love having the scrabble board. I actually play every Wednesday night when I’m able. I go to a pub here in my hometown, and I play Scrabble with a scrabble meetup group. And we kind of have a lot of those different kinds of groups here. And this is people that have a common interest that meet up, and we have, you know, something to drink and a burger or, you know, tater Tots is what this pub is famous for, those little potato things that are deep fried. And so we eat our meal and play Scrabble, and they are insanely good. I don’t even know why they have me back, because if I get, you know, in the high 200s, I’m super happy. But these people routinely, like, 300, 400 points. They’re amazing. And so we just have a lot of fun. So the vintage Scrabble is the best. You can get these games from, you know, the best ones from eBay, but if you want to check out the other ones and you have a light touch and you’re not going to knock the letters out of the squares, you might try looking at the versions from the braille superstore, maxi aids. Etsy even has one, and Etsy sometimes sells just the tiles. Only, amazingly enough, there are even french and spanish braille Scrabble games on Etsy. I thought that was really cool. There’s also a card game called Scrabble Slam from Maxi Age, which I haven’t checked out that from Maxi age, but that would be really cool. And so that is kind of the rundown on the Scrabble, the Scrabble games. So word games are awesome. Another game that I really enjoyed playing, and I think that the NFE marketplace has this, but it’s a braille sudoku board. There is one particular board, and I can’t remember where I bought it, but it has pegs, and it has the, the numbers on, imprinted, you know, very nicely on the wooden pieces. And then there’s a marking that distinguishes one set of numbers from the other, because you set up your puzzle with the numbers that are already there, that are given to you, and that’s a certain set of numbers, and then the other set of numbers are the ones that you add. So you can tell what was originally there in this sudoku, because Sudoku is, you know, a grid, and you have to get numbers one through nine in the grids of nine or whatever grid system they’re using. And so that one was a little odd to use because the pegs and the holes, the numbers, the wooden numbers were so tight that it was hard to move them and hard to replace them. And I found it a little difficult to work with. But I believe that the NFB marketplace has a magnetic version of the sudoku. So the board is completely magnetic, the foam tiles are magnetic, and they have a little, I believe, a little line on some of them and a dot on the others. And so you can tell which set you’re working with in terms of which are the numbers that are supposed to be there and which are the numbers that you’re adding. And so that’s a really nice set if you can find a magnetic version that has pieces, you know, that have the raised numbers on them. And I think they also have the braille. Yes, the braille as well. And then if they’re magnetic, then you’re not going to have to worry about trying to squeeze these numbers in that have pegs and they’re really close together. So Sudoku is super fun. I believe that national braille press also has a braille Sudoku puzzle book. And so in case you’re on the hunt for those, I know for a while there was an accessible Sudoku game for iOS, and I’m thinking that if you did want to play that on an actual board, you could just copy the information down or set the game up from the information that you get in the iOS puzzle. Here’s a cool thing. It’s not really a game, but it’s really super fun. There are braille coloring books. I remember one Christmas in exactly 2008. I remember because it snowed a lot and we were all inside playing games. My best friend got me a braille coloring book or two because she knew that I loved coloring. When I was little, even though I didn’t know what I was coloring, I just felt normal, just scribbling with the crayon on the page. My mom was great. As I mentioned, she got me coloring books even though it didn’t matter what I was doing with it. I felt like a normal kid. So these are braille coloring books with the shape of the animal. And this is really funny. So I was reading the pages, and I’m so used to reading contracted braille that I said, what is. Then I spelled out c o w, and my family just looked at me like, are you nuts? I was used to reading contractions. Yes, that was a cow. Cow, spouse, cow. So I actually had to learn as an adult kind of what color some of the animals were. You know, what color is a camel or a giraffe or, you know, how should I color a cow? And it was super fun. So even as an adult, and there are adult, you know, coloring books that have pictures you can just relax and doodle. But braille coloring books are really fun to color. You know, with a sighted kid, even would find it really cool to trace the braille outline. And the, you know, blind parent or friend can color with the kiddo. And so they don’t, you know, they’re not maybe technically a game, but they’re an awesome way to interact with braille or raised information. So I have been talking a mile a minute here, and I’m hoping that you found something interesting, something to check out, something to research or create or buy, because I’m a huge fan of integrating braille into every nook and cranny of life. And if that means having fun with games, that’s a really cool way to learn. So if you want more information, I have a little document that I’m hoping that I can post that has links to a lot of these games. You can make your own, but why reinvent the wheel if some companies have them? But it’s super fun to do your research. I look forward to hearing any comments that you have. If you have any suggestions, anything you want to add to what I’ve had here as my favorite kinds of games. So this wraps up another edition of the at your fingertips braille, then and now, and we’ll look forward to having you back next month.