As promised, this is our second post about toys for children with Autism and other special learning needs. All of the products mentioned in this article are carried by Learning Express toy stores. Our first post (click here to check it out) featured some toys that are fantastic for developing essential skills—fine motor, cause and effect, muscle control, etc. Now that we’re nearing the holidays, I thought it might be good to offer up a little gift guide with toys that special needs kids will really enjoy interacting with.
As the manager of the Learning Express toy store in Roseville, California, I’ve spent ten years helping families find the perfect toys for their kids. Although I’m not a qualified professional in child development, my fifteen-year-old daughter has Autism, and I understand the importance of making every play opportunity a learning opportunity. And what’s even more important? Giving our kids gifts that they will love and cherish. Here are a few suggestions:
The Plasma Car
This is one of my absolute favorites! My daughter has never been able to ride a two-wheel bike due to a low level of muscle tone and other challenges associated with Autism. A Plasma Car gives her the opportunity to ride around the cul-de-sac with all the other kids. It helps her work on her core muscle strength and her directional bearings, but, more importantly, she gets to experience that freedom and joy of movement.
This item is a fabulous holiday gift. It holds up to 220 pounds, and the added bonus? All the other kids love to ride on the Plasma Car too, which gives her another opportunity to work on sharing and taking turns.
Many games can be challenging and sometimes frustrating for children with special needs. I recently hosted a social/game night at our house for my daughter and all her friends on her special needs cheer team. No two kids on the team are alike and they range from age 11 to 23 but there was a game that absolutely everyone loved—Spot It! When we played it the first few times we played on teams.
Sometimes a game can seem daunting and you think to yourself, “Oh, my child won’t be able play that.” But working together as a team can make it much less challenging. Watching the kids work together the other week was something very special. The game itself is not the only gift in a case like this; the experience of coming together and building important social skills is a gift in itself. (Read our recent review of Spot It! on the blog.)
Stocking stuffers offer a unique opportunity to marry function with fun when you’re buying for a child with learning disabilities. Lots of kids with special needs have oral motor goals that they’re focusing on as they work to develop certain muscles of the mouth. Some of my favorites for at home, or even in the car, are plastic harmonicas, kazoos, recorders, or slide whistles. All of these small, collectible items are inexpensive and allow for some really fun music time that also increases oral motor strength. You can find many kinds of toys and gifts like this at your local Learning Express.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful! Happy Holidays!