5 Tips for Selecting Toys for Children with Autism
So many of you have asked me to write a blog post on toys for children who have Autism. Since I work with children with special needs and choose toys and activities for them constantly, I certainly do have some specific recommendations and go-to ideas that I love to suggest. However, creating a universal list of toys for all children with special needs is something I feel doesn’t necessarily provide the full picture, given that every child’s needs can vary and differ so greatly. Every child with special needs is so incredibly unique in their strengths and difficulties, even when the diagnosis is the same. Some children with autism are non-verbal, while others struggle with understanding social cues.
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Some children have a minimal attention span, while others can focus on visual activities for an extended period of time. These are important factors I personally keep in mind when I’m selecting toys for the children I know. So, while I could provide a list of toys that I feel generally supports the needs of all children with special needs, I’d like to instead arm all of you with the information you need to make thoughtful toy purchases for the specific individual children in your life. Here’s a list of 5 things to look out for on your next shopping trip for kids with Autism, so you can make just the right choice when a one-size-fits-all toy just won’t do.
1) Choose Sensory Toys
Sensory toys are fun for all children and are especially important for kids with Autism. Keep an eye out for toys that engage one or more of their senses. Regardless of where your child is on the spectrum, there are benefits to adding a sensory challenge or sensory engagement into their day. Examples include providing a swing for movement, using textured beanbags to throw at a target, or touch-and-feel puzzles to complete. Sensory factors will help motivate them, draw their attention to play, and expose them to new sensations with which you’d like to get them more accustomed.
2) Consider Cause and Effect Toys
Look for toys that have a cause and effect element. These include toys that make sound when a button is pushed or light up when touched. Aside from the important lesson that their actions have a resulting effect, these are toys that, generally speaking, can help to get and hold your child’s attention.
3) More Visual/Less Auditory Toys
Select toys that are more visual, like puzzles, and avoid toys that require a lot of verbal instructions, like complex board games. While a child with Autism can enjoy those sorts of games, processing many verbal instructions can be challenging. This could cause them to lose interest quickly, making the toy a poor fit when it comes to keeping them engaged. Games with lots of verbal instructions should be introduced slowly, in order to ensure comprehension as you go along.
4) Try Toys That Don’t Keep Them Waiting
Toys that respond quickly or progress quickly are great at holding their attention. If you’d like to have your child participate in a game with others, choose simple reciprocal games that require turn taking so they can practice interacting, only without a lot of waiting involved between turns. A great option for this category would be Jumping Jack
5) Be Thoughtful About Pretend Play Toys
Pretend play toys, such as costumes or play sets can be very engaging and help children develop their imagination. When choosing pretend play toys, remember to help children initiate play by providing cues or ideas as to how they can use them. This is an important step, given that initiating and understanding abstract concepts can be difficult for children on the spectrum. For example, you can help them play with a play cooking set by saying things like, “What are you cooking today?” or “Let’s make dinner together.”
For those interested in personalized toy recommendations for a specific child in your life, find more information in the link below on the services I provide. A short questionnaire will be required in order to ensure I have all of the information I need to make the best selections for you. https://www.toy-ideas.com/personalized-ideas