While working as a pediatric occupational therapist, I would always get the same question around this time of year: “What should I get my kid for Christmas?” The parents wanted suggestions for fun toys that would help their child make progress toward their goals. There are so many toys out there that shopping can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you are trying to figure out which toys would be beneficial! I’ve searched for other gift guides, but typically find they are too general. My goal is to help families find quality gifts that can serve a purpose in their child’s development. (These are only suggestions. Please follow the advice of your occupational therapist to help determine what is appropriate for your child. Also, you know your child- please choose gifts that will be used safely- i.e., no small pieces for a child who puts toys in their mouth.) I have separated these guides by needs, not diagnosis or age, because each kid is so different that age and diagnosis only tells us a little bit.
I partnered with Tools 4 Teaching, a local store in Evansville, to come up with a series of gift guides that target specific needs. This project really spoke to the owner, Julie, because she has asked the same question to occupational therapists regarding her children! As a mom of children with special needs and a former educator, she has a passion for helping families find what they need to help their children overcome learning obstacles and have fun. Julie has offered to give 20% off in-store purchases to anyone who mentions this blog or shows the coupon at the bottom of the post!
I put out a gift suggestion guide for the sensory seeking child. . . but what about the sensory avoiding child? The child who covers her ears in a crowd, refuses certain clothing, or needs sunglasses on a cloudy day behaves this way because she is overstimulated and is trying to alter her environment. These suggestions are in addition to whatever toys or books the child likes and wants.
This is a tricky one. I am so pleased with Target’s Cat and Jack line because they have no tags and are very soft. They even have a line of clothes for children with special needs available online.
I would suggest finding out what clothing the child likes to wear and purchasing that. If he or she has trouble with seams in socks, get some seamless ones as a stocking stuffer to make morning dressing a little easier!
2.) Gift Cards
What kind of items does he or she like? A gift card to a store that has a brick and mortar location as well as an online store could be a good idea. The child could go to the store when it is less busy to choose a toy, or could choose one online with the help of a parent. Sometimes, local stores will make accommodations for children with special needs by opening early, turning off music, or suggesting times that are less busy for a visit.
Is this child a picky eater? How about a gift card to his or her favorite place to get chicken nuggets?
3.) Weighted Items
5.) Calming lights
Color changing fiber optic lights can be soothing.
6.) Resistive items
For this category, I’m referring to any toy, chewable item, or manipulative dough. Items that provide some sort of resistance can provide a calming effect to the user.
Chewlery provides deep input to the jaw, which can help a child through an overstimulating situation.
Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty gives a child something to do with their hands that provides resistance and deep pressure.
Tangle Toys are a simple toy that a child can keep in a backpack or pocket to pull out when their hands need something to do.
Hopefully this list can help you find the perfect toy for the sensory avoiding child you know and love!
401 S Green River Rd, Evansville, IN 47715
Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, so many of the links used in this post are my affiliate links. The price is no different for you, but I would earn a small commission on your purchase. If you find the items I have listed at a local toy store, by all means, support your local store!