It’s December and the holiday season is in full swing. We’ve already started our holiday shopping, dusted off our Elf on the Shelf, and we’re ready to write our letters to Santa. It’s also the time of year when friends and family start asking what they should get our son, Norrin, for Christmas. I am always happy to share holiday gift ideas. Having a kid with autism, I appreciate gifts that are developmentally appropriate for him and toys that serve a purpose.
Norrin will be 8 in January, however in many ways he functions at a 3- to 4-year old age level. The older Norrin gets, the more difficult gift giving becomes. Something that’s appropriate for his age group may be too challenging and things that may be appropriate for younger children may not be challenging enough.
I thought I’d share some of our favorite toys, gifts suggestions, and tips for those shopping for children with autism.
Is there a special needs child on your holiday list? 1 of 18
Click through and check out a few suggestions and tips!
You can’t go wrong with Disney Infinity 2 of 18
If you show up with anything Disney Infinity (the starter kit if they don't have it or new figures if they do) you are going to be the favorite for sure! I am big believer in the benefits video games have for kids with autism - especially a game like Disney Infinity. It teaches them socialization, and improves their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Available at Disney.com
TIP: It may seem obvious but… 3 of 18
if you're buying a video game for someone else, make sure you know what video game system they have. In the holiday hustle and bustle, you may forget to ask and pick up the right video game for the wrong game console.
Imaginative Play with Play-Doh 4 of 18
Play-doh is always on our holiday wish list. We use so much of it. When I think of all the things that have helped Norrin's overall development - Play-doh is definitely among them. Play-doh is not only fun for all kids but it's therapeutic. Play-doh's price range varies, making it an affordable gift as well as a great stocking stuffer.
Available at Hasbro.com
Fun and Functional 5 of 18
Fun and Function is one of my favorite websites to shop for therapeutic toys and items for Norrin. Over the years we've purchased quite a few items. The items on Fun and Function are affordable and high quality. Two of our favorite purchases have been the Scooter and the Weighted Vest. The scooter helped Norrin with his balance and motor skills and strengthening his core. And we used the vest during table time activities. For sensory seeking kids (like mine) I'd recommend the Space Explorers "suit" - it's great for sensory integration. Norrin finds it calming. For children sensitive to noise, the ear muffs are great! They can make family outings to the movies, amusements, or even using public transportation easier.
Tip: When it comes to Fun & Function… 6 of 18
There are many therapeutic items on Fun and Function that would make great gifts, however every child has different needs. If a child has no issues with their fine motor skills, an item that improves fine motor is of no use. Inquire about the needs of the child before making a purchase.
Guess Your Disney Favorite! 7 of 18
Norrin has been playing this game with his therapist and he loves it! What I love about it is that it really helps him think about questions and how to answer them. And since he's familiar with many of the Disney characters, these aren't abstract concepts for him to understand.
Available at Amazon
A Favorite Children’s Classic Book 8 of 18
As a girl, I loved Charlotte's Web, Where the Wild Things Are, Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Cat in the Hat. They are all books Norrin owns. Do you remember your favorite children's book? If so, chances are it can be someone else's favorite book. Add an extra personal touch by inscribing it.
Books (and other suggestions) available at Barnes & Nobles Children's Classics.
Tip: Is it the appropriate reading level? 9 of 18
I think books always make great gifts however it's important to purchase books that will meet the child's reading level. Just because a child is 8 years old, doesn't mean they read at their age level - it could be a few years higher or lower. It's important to challenge children, but not to the point of discouragement.
The Perfect Ice Breaker 10 of 18
Don't Break the Ice is fantastic for fine motor skills - holding the mallet and setting up the game - and great for turn taking/socialization. Norrin loves when all the ice cubes fall - he doesn't care that it means he lost the game, he's just having fun. I have to admit, I really like playing this game too.
Available at Hasbro.com
Keep it Old School 11 of 18
As a kid I remember not being thrilled with PJs and socks, but they were necessities. When Norrin was a baby, so many people gave us clothes as gifts. And somewhere between two and three years old, folks stopped buying him clothes. Not sure why because clothes, especially things like socks and pajamas, are great gifts (if you know what to get). Most of Norrin's pajamas, underwear and socks come from The Children's Place. I know that they're cute, comfy and affordable.
Available at The Children's Place
Tip: Ask Yourself, Will They Wear It? 12 of 18
Kids with autism often have sensitivities to clothing. When purchasing clothes or pajamas, it's best to go for items that are soft cotton and tagless. Avoid anything that may be difficult to put on or take off - like items with buttons and zippers. Pull on shirts and elastic waistband pants make it easy for kids to put on, and gives them a sense of independence.
Decorate Your Own 13 of 18
I am a huge fan of Melissa & Doug toys, and Norrin loves their arts and crafts kits. I am not a crafty kind of mom, so when I find a craft that's fun and easy (and let's be for real - not that messy) I am all for it! I love giving these as gifts because it's not only a gift, it's a keepsake.
Available at Melissa & Doug
Think Fun. Have Fun. 14 of 18
Norrin loves playing his Zingo games by Think Fun. We have Zingo and Zingo Sight Words but Zingo 1-2-3 and the Spanish-English edition are on our wish list for this year. Norrin first started playing a few years ago with his occupational therapist. And I know he plays at school too. He still needs help and prompting while playing the game, but I like that it's educational and teaches him about game play.
Available at ThinkFun
Hours of Magnetic Fun 15 of 18
my, I mean, Norrin's favorite toys! Magformers are these cool magnetic building "blocks." There is so much a child can create, the possibilities are endless. It can be used to identify shapes and colors, to build imagination and spark creativity.
Available at Magformers
Tip: Are Batteries Required? 16 of 18
Nothing on my list requires batteries, but if you buy a toy or a game be sure to check if it requires batteries. Usually batteries are not included. If you buy a gift that requires batteries, buy batteries that go with it. There is nothing more stressful than opening a gift and realizing you don't have the batteries to make it work.
Crayons are Cool and Creative 17 of 18
I think crayons and art supplies make great gifts! And Crayola has so many products for all age ranges. Coloring has improved Norrin's fine motor skills, handwriting, concentration, and imagination. Art helps build self-esteem and confidence. A box of crayons and a pack of construction paper make a great gift.
Available at Crayola.com
Tip: Play it Safe 18 of 18
I love gift cards. I know some people think they can be impersonal but if you give a gift card wrapped nicely with piece of candy or some other sweet treat, it can feel special and personal. They are the best option if you don't know what to get. However, gift cards to specific stores can be limiting and possibly inconvenient. My advice for gift cards is this: Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, American Express or iTunes. These gift cards give families the freedom to get what they need or want.
These are only suggestions. It doesn’t matter how much you spend or how big your present is. If it’s a gift from the heart, that’s the only thing that matters. And for families raising kids with special needs, the best gift you can give is your time.
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