So what makes a toy a special needs toy? They can after all just look like regular toys. I’ve pondered this question myself; now having been in the business of developing and providing the special needs industry with the latest and greatest for the past 20 years. It’s not that the standard toy industry has not caught on to the lucrative dollars available in the special needs market and “upgraded” their own offerings. That is true. But companies who have put their dollars, heart and soul into special needs children from the start have an entire different orientation. They do not start with a toy and then make it “special.” They start with your children and then make toys to fit their needs. And that makes all the difference. Below are my top ten favorites this year available by Fun and Function and well, you just don’t want to pass these up. These top ten winners are ideal for your children on the spectrum with autism, sensor processing challenges, speech and motor delays. And well, I just can’t say enough about them.
Air-Lite Seal Swing: This is not just an ordinary swing. It’s a durable, lightweight, inflatable, indoor swing that is designed to make your kids feel like they are, well, jumping the waves. Designed much like a bolster, it acts like a bolster swing, but with all the sensory and pretend appeal your kids will love. In addition, your kids will have the time on their lives while working on balance, motor planning, coordination and strengthening. Suspends from any single or double suspension point. Weights only 4.4lbs, but holds up to 150lbs. Ages 5+. 2-year guarantee!
Heavy Herbert: Herbert is everyone’s friend and best of all he’s heavy! That makes him a fantastic companion for children who are sensory seekers and love the additional weight, sensory avoiders and love the calming affect or sensory under responders and need a bit of a wake-up call. Herbert is well, just perfect for anyone’s sensory diet. He is not only a great friend, who listens attentively to your child, but all 5lbs create quite a load and some heavy work for your little ones. 18”L Weighs 5 lbs. Age 3+
Weighted Monkey Lap Pad: There’s nothing quite new about a lap pad except that this one looks and feels like a monkey! Weighing in at 5lbs he’s perfect for your wiggly ones and can be used while doing schoolwork, homework or just sitting on their bums! His tail and fur provide a great place for sensory exploration while his size and weight provide just the right input for sitting still. 3 lb., 13”x8” Ages 3-5
Social E-Motion Game: Not all of us grow up knowing how to express ourselves effectively. The Social (e) Motion game teaches kids just that. How are you feeling? How to express it? Players take turns and act, draw or describe the emotion shown on photographic Face Cards (taken from family albums). The “actor” earns a chip if the other players are able to interpret the emotion, such as happy or sad, angry or annoyed, proud or worried, bored or excited. Each card has an optional hint like “I did it all by myself!” or “No one wants to be my friend.” Wildcards double the fun and chips with unexpected moves (suggested by families too) — such as “Tell everyone the weirdest food combination you would eat” or “Say something nice about each player.” Includes a colorful game board, 35 photographic Face Cards, 8 Wildcards, 4 pawns, 44 color chips, dice, paper and pencils. Age 5+.
Spaghetti Fidget: Clip it on, manipulate it, braid it, twirl it, bite on it, and chew it! Irresistible to the senses, the Spaghetti Chewy Fidget gives kids a colorful and lightweight finger tool that travels easily. Made of rainbow-colored tubing knotted together, the Spaghetti Chewy Fidget is a chewy, a fidget and a manipulative all in one. Clips on to a shirt, backpack, pants or any soft surface. Keep handy in your car, desk, or carry bag. Wash with antibacterial soap. 9”L. Tubes are hollow. Contains latex. Made in the US. This product is not returnable. Age 4+.
Bite Bands: Chewing provides a filter for an over or under stimulated sensory system, yet to most parents dismay, many kids chew on their clothing. Bite Bands to the rescue! Bite Bands are super absorbent necklaces, designed for children who need to chew or bite. While they chew to get calm and to focus, they also exercise their oral motor and facial muscles to prepare them for good eating habits. Each 12″ Bite Band is made from terry cloth and absorbent enough to let them chew for quite a while. With a set of 6 you can use several throughout the day. Just hand or machine wash and they’re ready to go again! Please use under adult supervision only. For kids who like to nibble or chew moderately. Ages 5 and up.
Give a Flip: Eye-hand coordination to the rescue! Give A Flip is the movement game your kids will love! A perfect tool for children to work independently on eye-hand coordination, visual tracking, motor planning — and persistence. Place a beanbag or ball on one end, stomp your feet on the other end, and catch the flying object. Keep playing and see how many times you can catch the flying object! A perfect before, during or after school activity that engages the body and the brain in unison. Made of solid wood and holds up to 150 lbs. Measures 6”W X 24”L. Includes 1 wooden stomp board and 2 nylon beanbags. Age 3+.
Space Explorers: They need to move and explore! Step into a Space Explorer and kids not only learn about their own bodies but they get the heavy work and sensory exploration that they need. This neat multisensory tool is wonderful at getting kids to develop spatial and body awareness, motor planning and coordination. Provides calming deep pressure and is perfect for those who seek tactile and deep pressure input as well as those who have tactile defensiveness. Perfect for children with autism, sensory integration challenges or need to move!
Four-way stretch Lycra with a Velcro closure. Machine Washable. Available in 4 sizes and two styles: solid and animal print.
See-Through Lacing Cards: Small motor coordination, motor planning, eye-hand coordination, number sequencing and patience are all at their finest with these See-Through Lacing Cards. Now you can see each hole, front and back, with acrylic See-Through Lacing Cards shaped like a basketball and a snail. The visual cues ease frustration and are perfect for kids with visual, perceptual and proprioceptive challenges. Improves dexterity and provides a warm-up activity in preparation for writing. Durable set with well-drilled holes features a green snail with the alphabet (8.5″ x 6.5″) and an orange basketball with numbers 1-20 (9″ diameter). Includes a pair of cotton laces. Ages 3+
Discovery Putty: This is no ordinary putty. It’s putty with a purpose! Discovery Putty combines all the great benefits of putty (fine motor training, de-stressing, hand warm ups) and working with small pieces (fine motor, color recognition, story telling, speech and language development) together into one amazing tool. With Discovery Putty you get to hide, pick and pull with 2 great themes: Grab the Goodies and Animal Rescue. Each putty kit comes with 4oz of medium resistance putty and 15 hidden pieces that relate to its theme. Manipulate the putty, find the pieces, say their name and color, pull them out and hide them back again! A perfect tool for children needing fine motor work, hand strengthening and desensitization, motor planning, speech development and more! Kid approved! Therapist and parent tested, too! Ages 4+.