Reach and Match is an Innovative Game Empowering Kids of All Abilities

A game with four coloured mats and Braille tiles

It’s not every day you will find a game where children who are blind or visually-impaired can play together with their sighted friends in such a way that they experience the excitement of being on equal terms.

The educational learning kit that is empowering children of all ages is called Reach & Match.

Designed by Mandy Lau as a postgraduate research project at Monash University, Australia, it took over 18 months to perfect its unique play mat and tactile shapes, and the same time again to trial its effectiveness.

Mandy’s study was based on research in childhood education, focusing on children with special needs. Mandy became so fascinated with the Braille system as an effective learning tool for the blind and visually-impaired that she conceived the idea out of passion for the possible.

She wanted to create a game that, in turn, could spark a sense of excitement for children to play together without any barriers due to physical or cognitive disabilities.

First Impressions

I had the pleasure of meeting the Designer and Founder of Reach & Match and actually sat in the middle of the play mat, crying with real tears of joy while holding a tactile shape embossed with both Braille and print letters.

The sense of inclusion was immense. Feeling like a child, with legs crossed and eager to begin playing the game, Mandy handed me the bag of 26 differently shaped letters with raised dots which I tipped straight onto the colorful mat with childlike anticipation.

“The best thing about this game is that all kids can enjoy being on an equal playing field,” she explained. “Young kids don’t always know how to respect each other’s abilities but this game bridges a gap and allows all  kids to join in and experience fun.”

What I discovered was how easy it was to participate instantly in the game of Reach & Match, squealing like a young girl with each new tactile challenge.

How Reach & Match Works

This inclusive education tool empowers children with disabilities by using a collection of 26 brightly contrasting colored shapes, each with a unique sound and both Braille and printed letter.

Setting up is quick with 4 large corners clicking into place like a jigsaw puzzle to form the base of the comfortable foam play mat. These floor mats can be arranged into different configurations with a round cushion positioned in the centre of the mat, giving the child a point of tactile reference.

Sitting on the colored mats of red, blue, green and yellow, children are given a selection of varying shapes called ‘tiles’. There are 26 tiles in total to represent the English alphabet.

Each hand-sized tile has its own color, a raised Braille letter with a short tactile line to depict the correct way up, as well as the corresponding printed letter for the sighted game-player.

Once children recognize their tile by its unique shape, color, feel and sound, the real fun of exploration, interaction and social inclusion begins!

Through a variety of 30 specifically designed games, children take turns to ‘Reach’ for the correct wavy lines and grooves etched into the 4 colored mats to locate (either by feel or by sight) the exact place to “Match” their shapes to fit neatly into foam pockets on the mats.

What Children Learn:

  •  interaction with their peers to foster respect for other children with different abilities
  • developing social skills by experiencing team work and the benefits of collaboration
  • gaining an appreciation of Braille and the print alphabet to enhance language interaction and literacy, as well as numeracy
  • distinctive ways for tailoring individual or group play to meet specific learning needs  
  • training in better memory, dexterity, direction and introducing spacial awareness
  • and how to share fun in tactile exploration & tracking strategies

An Award-Winning Educational Tool

It is not surprising to learn that, with the innovative combination of Braille & print literacy along with its unique sensory elements and interactive features, Reach & Match has won several international design awards. 

In my personal view, it is absolutely unique in design and in its sensory concept. It is also a beautiful way to spend time helping the younger generation gain life skills through their most natural way of learning – their sense of play.

Reach & Match® Learning Kit

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