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Mendo Lake Family Life

Great Gifts for Kids with Special Needs

Finding a gift for a child with special needs like autism, cerebral palsy, speech or motor issues can be difficult. What is fun, safe, and going to help them grow?

With this challenge in mind, Toyworks owner Marilyn Goehring shared with us a list developed by an occupational therapist.

“This list was created with 3-5 year olds in mind; however, children are each unique in their developmental stages so you might find this helpful for a broader range of ideas,” said Marilyn.

Special Needs Toys:

  • Baby Buzzer by Small World Toys – For children who are teething or have oral motor needs. This toy has been a real gift for some of our serious mouthers.
  • Boggle Junior – For children learning to spell.
  • Books about letters, animals – Especially for beginner talkers. Dr Seuss and the publisher DK are time-honored favorites.
  • Do a Dot – Art develops creativity, cooperative play and sensory play.
  • Generation by Tomy – Building skills, visual discrimination.
  • Junior Stomp Rockets – Gross motor development.
  • Letter Stacking and Nesting by Eboo – Encourage acquisition of prepositions and opposites (in/out, tall/short, up/down, etc.) and prepares children for mathematical concepts.
  • Magnet Alphabet and Number Sets – Numbers and letters are generally a strength of children with autism. These can be used to teach the alphabet, sound, and sight words.
  • Marble Run by Quercetti or Hape – Fine motor skills, turn taking. Not for mouthers.
  • Mars Mud Space Putty – Good for tactile input and hand exercise.
  • Mini Sphere by Hoberman – I don’t know what this teaches, but it looks kind of fun!
  • Pop-up Toy by Galt – Build visual discrimination, matching and sorting skills.
  • Push n Go by Tomy – These toys are great for children who are learning reciprocity. They are relatively simple toys to use, just press and go, and they can be used to teach your turn/my turn, a pre-speech skill.
  • Press and Spin Toys – Same as above.
  • Spinning Tops by Bolz – Promote fine motor skills and visual concentration.
  • Twirly Whirly Rainstick from International Playthings – Visually and auditorially engaging.
  • Wagons by Radio Flyer or ETL – Vestibular input, language development (ready, set, go, etc.)

Generally, success is assured with toys and games that relate to numbers and letters, and toys that engage a number of senses at once—toys that make noise, move, or otherwise engage the child.