7 Toy Ideas For The Special Needs Child
When purchasing or making a toy for your child, it’s important to remember that no two children are exactly alike. They each grow and mature at their own pace. That’s pretty obvious to you if you are the parent of a child with Cerebral Palsy or Autism. So to simplify toy selection, let’s talk about why children need toys in the first place.
Healthy development requires growth in major life domain areas; mental, emotional, social, and physical. For parents, play is often a mini break, but for a child play is essential to how they learn. Certainly play helps to defuse excess energy, but play is so much more than that. Through play children learn about; how their body functions, about their world, the environment they live in, and the people around them.
- Through play children learn what their bodies can do. Through play children develop large and small motor skills. Play to a child in this regard is like an adult going to the gym. Their increases in stamina and strength come from their daily playing activities.
- Through play children learn about their environment and the world they live in. Children are born with a natural curiosity. Through play they make sense of their environment. Children learn basic concepts through play such as colors, counting, and how to solve problems. Thinking and reasoning occur in all elements of play.
- Through play children learn about the people around them. Children learn to relate to one another and how to follow rules when playing. While interacting with another child in play a child learns to give and receive attention appropriately. Through play a child learns about fairness, how to share, and how to pretend. Play offers an outlet for children to learn to express emotions. Whether they are happy or sad, angry, frustrated, stressed, or fearful, play offers a chance to express these emotions and learn appropriate ways to deal with them.
Essentials in Toy Selection
An important part of toy selection
is being aware of purpose, safety, and age-appropriateness. If you have ever purchased a toy for a child you didn’t know well, you may have depended on the manufacturers recommended age label. And for that distant cousin where you are making an educated guess on toy selection, that method works great. But as we mentioned earlier, all children are different. The manufacturers label on age appropriateness may help more in determining safety as it relates to age. Don’t worry if the toy is labeled for a younger child. Think instead “Is it a toy your child will enjoy?” Sometimes you may purchase a toy that your child can use for specific learning activities. If your child is learning colors, the best selection of primary colors will probably be in the toddler section.
7 Toy Ideas Sorted by Function
Now to look at a more in depth discussion of the types of toys you might be interested in for your special needs child. First of all, you are their parent and therefore the most knowledgeable about your child’s physical and/or mental limitations. If you are unsure, consult with your child’s teacher or occupational therapist. The goal is to have a mixture of toys that are at functional level and some that are just slightly ahead. You don’t want your child frustrated by a space age erector set that you need a genius mentality to play with.
Examples: pop-up toys, alphabet sound puzzle, building blocks, light up toys, squirting water toy
- Cause and Effect Toys-Toys that fall into this category are toys that allow the child to cause a reaction. An example would be “push a button and an animal makes a sound”. These toys are great for hand-eye coordination and sensory stimulation.
Examples: There are multiple puzzle types on the market. Pay attention to the number of pieces, start small, work up. Start with non-connecting puzzles where the pieces don’t sit together. Many will be three dimensional providing opportunity for pinching, grasping, picking up. Work up to jig saw puzzles, or puzzles where the pieces interconnect. Again start with a small number of parts and work up.
- Puzzles-Puzzles stimulate fine motor skills and help to improve cognitive development. As the child sorts the pieces they are working with shapes, matching colors, and learning to strategize how the pieces work together.
Examples: Alphabet sing-along, musical instruments, Simple Simon, Simon says
- Sound Toys- Toys that generate sound help in cognitive development and promote positive self-esteem by allowing positive choices. Distinguishing one sound from another, matching sounds to objects, encouraging language development, distinguishing sound patterns.
Examples-Harmonica, kazoo, chew sticks, sing along microphone, toys that require blowing for the parts to move, blow bubbles
- Oral Motor Stimulators-A great diversion for the child that chews, grinds, or bites. Help develop oral musculature, promote effective eating skills through practice of chewing and biting.
Examples-squishy balls, swings, hammock, Play Doh, fidgets, headphones, aromatherapy, music makers of any kind, water and sand tables, stuffed animals
- Sensory Stimulation Toys-Anything that makes use of or challenges the five senses; sight, touch, taste, smell, listening.
Examples-coloring books, cut and paste, tearing paper, finger paints, basic weaving, beads, yarn, decorate the room, decorate the wheelchair
- Arts and Crafts-promote hand coordination and self-esteem. Help learn to express emotions
Examples-Toy food, toy kitchens, shopping carts, help you cook lunch, menus,
- Food Related Toys-Helps with food aversions, Visual stimulation, shapes, colors, imagination, team work, responsibility with preparation and cleanup,
Our years of experience have left us with tons of ideas that we’d love to share. RSVP Homecare
provides respiratory therapy and durable medical equipment support in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.