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How do I... share toys and activities with my child?

Photo: Parents give advice on how to share toys and activities with your child

Playtime is important for children to learn and have fun. But sometimes it can be challenging to make sure your deaf child gets the most out of sharing toys and activities with you. Below, parents give us their tips and ideas for playing with their child.

Grace likes yoga as it doesn't rely much on hearing...

Grace enjoys yoga

Maria is mum to Grace (10) who is moderately deaf and wears hearing aids.

Grace recently showed a keen interest in yoga so I took her to a class for parents and children. She loved it because it was quiet and relaxing and didn’t rely much on sound.

She was able to easily follow the body movements of the instructor. Grace is very flexible and loved the fact that she was better than most of the adults there! It has really helped to build her confidence in her own abilities.

We have a laugh together at yoga as some of the positions are a bit tricky for me. Grace helps me and frequently corrects my posture and position. She knows all of the technical names for the moves. She takes great pride in her knowledge and this also increases her confidence. I often hear her talking about yoga to her friends.

Whichever activity we choose to do together, I always listen intently to what Grace is saying and relay back to her what I’ve heard. I feel it’s extremely important for her voice, wishes and feelings to be heard as she often feels excluded by other children.

Grace also plays the piano which helps her to relax. She enjoys feeling the sounds rather than relying too heavily on hearing. She loves it because she can take her hearing aids out and still participate without it affecting her ability to play.

Everyone can enjoy playing with musical instruments as they can feel the vibration...

Marina likes reading.


Katerina is mum to Marina (5) who is severely deaf and wears hearing aids.

Marina has enjoyed reading books together a lot lately. She wants to sign the story, pretending she’s a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter! She learns BSL at school and loves communicating with me in this way; she says it’s our secret language from her dad who can’t sign!

She also loves playing board games and making food with playdough. A good educational game I’ve found is ‘Match and Spell’ as the little ones play and learn letters and phonics too. It’s helped Marina a lot with her reading as she was struggling with it before.

For parents with younger children, it’s nice to play with musical instruments too, pretending to be in a music band. Everyone can enjoy playing with musical instruments as they can feel the vibration.

We try to be clever with teaching vocabulary while playing...

Joe learns new vocabulary while playing.


Emma is mum to Joe (3) who  is profoundly deaf and has a  cochlear implant.

We use the same toys and games we’ve had for Joe’s older brothers but try to be clearer with teaching vocabulary while playing. Lots of our games have also come  from our Teacher of the Deaf but are still fun to play ourselves or with  Joe’s brothers. We use playdough, naming the cutters, colours and shapes. We do the same when painting and colouring.

Recently we’ve used worksheets from Twinkl (a website producing educational  materials) and playdough to make faces to talk about emotions. We also use toy foods and tea sets with teddies to have picnics, increasing  the number of food items we have (e.g. a cake and a banana) and linking two ideas together for Joe  (e.g. ‘give cow a carrot’) to help develop listening skills.

We play with musical instruments, trying to identify which instrument was played, and we hide various toys around the room and then try to find them, to practise words such as ‘under’, ‘behind’ and ‘in’.

We’ve used outdoor games like obstacle courses before too. Even playing in the park helps to practise verbs like ‘run’, ‘hop’, ‘jump’, ‘climb’ etc. We find using the radio aid useful when we’re outside.

Books are one of the biggest adaptations as it’s hard to sign with Joe on my lap. Our local deaf centre and a National Deaf Children’s Society event have given us tips, for example not trying to read all the words of a story, and that’s helped. We concentrate on describing the pictures and sometimes sit on the floor together so we can both see the book and sign.

Martial arts has had a significant impact on Billy-Joe's confidence...

Martial arts has helped Billy-Joe's confidence.


Martene is mum to Billy-Joe (6) who is moderately deaf and wears hearing aids.

Billy-Joe has struggled with the concept of sharing since he was very little. When he started in nursery, he was very insular in his play and always looked at the ground. It’s been a long journey to grow his confidence so he’s able to interact more with other children and he still struggles at times.

One thing I did was to sign him up to a martial arts class. This has had a significant impact on his confidence, ability and focus as it teaches respect, concentration, taking instructions and being able to toe the line. He totally admires and looks up to the teacher.

To begin with Billy-Joe really struggled with following the instructions. I wasn’t sure whether he couldn’t hear them or whether he just didn’t understand so I started to join in with the class, asking him to follow me. We’re both now full members of the Leadership Programme.

I feel so proud of his achievements but I do have to continually encourage him in his school work and martial arts.