Gillian Rippin, a teacher from RNIB College Loughborough, shares ideas for making alternative Christmas trees this festive season.
Alternative Christmas trees are an exciting way to involve both children with vision impairment (VI) and adults alike in a festive activity, which will result in a great talking point. Each year at RNIB College Loughborough, we have a Christmas tree festival which brings together people from all areas of the College to create innovative, unique trees and to promote team working and communication skills.
Past examples include wrapping lengths of kitchen roll tube or PVC pipe in kitchen foil and gluing them to a board in a rough tree shape. Each hole was then filled with a decoration, either bought or homemade. This is great for a group project. The humble branch has made many an appearance too. Whether it is in positioned in a decorative bucket and held in place by rocks, or several tied to together to create a basic triangle tree shape – both can be decorated with an array of tactile decorations.
Want something simpler for younger children? Try attaching a large triangle of felt to the wall – you can even buy them ready made at Hobbycraft now. This provides a perfect backdrop for budding decorators. Stick the hook part of some Velcro to decorations and they then become repositionable. This also teaches positional concepts for children with VI as well as motivating them, and giving them a sense of ownership.
As with all the decorations for your alternative DIY trees, having a wide range of textures is useful to give sensory feedback. Anything with a raised surface is good start, for example flat shapes can be decorated with countless things like acrylic gems, buttons or mini pom-poms depending on the child’s preference. A lot of these items can be picked up cheaply from local craft stores and pound shops.
Shiny gift bows and items with reflective surfaces are also a good option for partially sighted students who can see colour. Don’t forget smells and sounds – cinnamon sticks tied with twine, dried orange slices and tinkling bells will add to the festive experience.
Most importantly it’s a lot of fun – let your imagination run wild!
RNIB College Loughborough offers specialist education, care and work experience for young people and adults aged 16 plus from across the UK who have vision impairment and other disabilities.