Finding Great Toys for Great Kids
Inspiration for Selecting Toys for Children with Special Needs
Children with special needs are often overlooked when adults buy toys. Children with cerebral palsy, children with Down syndrome and children with autism all share two very common traits--they are all kids and they all love to play.
Shoppers are sometimes hesitant that they’ll select a toy a child with a disability won’t be able to enjoy and opt to purchase videos or clothing instead. Do you remember back to your childhood and how much fun it was to open that pair of socks or pajamas wrapped up for the holidays?
While there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting toys for children with disabilities, the great news is … there are a ton of toys that will bring joy and satisfaction, and will be suitable for their specific needs. Regardless of your child’s interest, age or skill level, the right toy is out there. Hopefully the following information will serve as inspiration as you walk the aisles (virtual or real) of your local toy store.
For example: when shopping for gifts for children with autism ….
Focus on a child’s interests. Do they like spaceships, horses, sports or dinosaurs? Think about the books they enjoy or the movies they love to watch. Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes and think about what they might enjoy. Ask yourself what excites this child and brings her joy?
For example: when shopping for gifts for children with Down syndrome …
Focus on a child’s abilities. Often relatives tend to think about what struggles a child has rather than what they can do well. Family needs to look back at all the advances a child has made over the years and realize that today is just another base point from which to move forward. For example, if the kid likes to dance to music, there are a ton of toys that do everything from encouraging the child to play an instrument (improves small motor skills) to motivating them to rock and roll with the music (improves gross motor skills).
For example: when shopping for gifts for children with cerebral palsy …
Focus on skill level and then push it a little. The wonderful thing about toys and play is that they are a super motivator for kids to push beyond their limits. In fact, when a child is lost in the act of play, he or she departs from the world of reality into one where all things are possible. In that mental state, every day barriers tend to fade and the child believes they are that super hero, that rocket ship pilot and that race car driver. Look for toys that push up against some of the areas your child is struggling with and you and your child might both be amazed.
For example: when shopping for gifts for children with special needs …
Focus on instilling an interest. One of the greatest parts of childhood is that so many things are new. Going to the zoo for the first time is exciting and a real adventure. Maybe your child will decide that he or she love camels or elephants or bats. When returning home from any new activity, ask them what they loved and remember it the next time you need a toy idea. Another approach is to show the child what you love and enjoy. Maybe you like trains or dogs or have a love of art. Introduce the children in your life to the things you love and watch for those that spark their interest.
Before your purchase you can look for any special features the product you selected might have to make it more appropriate for a child with special needs. So don’t opt out of toy shopping for the child with special needs in your life. The look on their face when they open a new toy this holiday is their gift to you.
For ideas on specific toys, and plays products categorized by disabilities go to www.ableplay.org. AblePlay is a website that researches, rates and reviews current toys for children with special needs. AblePlay is part of the nonprofit National Lekotek Center, the leading authority on play for children with disabilities www.lekotek.org.