Parents and family members frequently spend many exhausting hours scouring stores for the perfect toy – a daunting task for anyone! But when shopping for a child with special needs, finding appropriate toys can be especially challenging. Is the toy beneficial to development? Is the toy age appropriate? Is the toy safe? All are very important considerations.
Here are some suggestions to make choosing the perfect gift a little easier!
1. Choose toys that will NOT increase frustration.
While blocks are developmentally appropriate for many children, children with special needs may have difficulty manipulating them and stacking them without the blocks falling. Instead, consider large LEGOs that are easier to stack (and stay stacked!)
2. Choose toys that improve turn-taking.
Simple toys, such as balls, can provide good interaction and turn-taking. For older children, easy games teach good turn-taking skills, and can encourage problem-solving skills, predictions, matching, and counting skills.
Some children with special needs put toys in their mouths beyond the age that this is developmentally appropriate. If this is the case for your child, avoid toys that provide choking hazards.
4. Choose toys that are of interest.
If your child has a fascination with dinosaurs or trains, choose toys that can use this fascination to your advantage! You can target increased language concepts, fine motor, and gross motor play skills by using things that are interesting and motivating to your child.
5. Choose toys that can promote task completion.
Toys such as puzzles are perfect for this! Puzzles can range in complexity according to a child’s level of ability. They also increase problem solving skills, as well as attention to task and task completion, which can increase self-confidence.
6. Choose toys that will enhance sensory exploration.
Toys such as Play-Doh are great for sensory play! The cool, squishy texture of Play-Doh promotes hand strength, imaginative play and improved fine motor skills. Children can literally make anything with it!
While choosing the perfect toys for children with special needs can be intimidating, always remember that the best toy any child can have is the interaction and company of another person, be it another child or an adult. Interactive turn-taking and play can never be over-rated.