Not all special toys require additional costs!
When you think of “special needs for toys and games”, you can imagine expensive gadgets and specially designed equipment. And you can definitely find such expensive products supplied by boutique specialized companies. In fact, parents do not need to purchase items labeled “Special Needs”. Plain old Walmart, Toys R Us, and even some homemade toys and games are just as effective and just as fun.
What makes special needs Toys and games special?
The only thing that makes the most special toys “special” is the label and the fact that toys are bought for a child with some type of developmental difference. But the best toys and games for kids with special needs share some common characteristics:
- They are safe and fun for children with sensory and / or physical or motor challenges. Soap bubbles and fidget toys can be good choices, and a poor choice is a loud computer game that requires complex interactions.
- They require a relatively low level of focused attention, the use of language, and physical coordination such as a slide or a swing. A Monopoly board game would not be a good choice.
- They are flexible enough to be used or played in a variety of ways, with or without multiple partners. Blocks or Legos are great examples of such a toy while a badminton set is not.
What are the special needs Therapy toys and games?
- There are two elements that can make toys and games therapeutic for children with sensory, social, linguistic, cognitive or attention challenges. They are very simple:
- To be therapeutic, the game or toy should be satisfied with another person who is willing and able to use the experience to help build skills.
- To support sensory challenges and provide rewards, the game or toy should be physically engaging and fun (or enjoyable and calming) to the player.
In short, if you are playing with and genuinely committed to your baby and your baby is actively enjoying the game or the toy you are using, you are providing a therapeutic experience.
Before you buy
Before you buy or do anything for your special needs, remember that your goal is to involve your child in something he or she will like. This could mean that the toy or game is “too young” or “too easy” for someone in your child’s chronological age.
Children with special needs, by definition, develop at a different pace than their typical peers. This means your 10-year-old with autism can still enjoy Thomas the Tank Engine toys and have a very difficult time with the “age-appropriate” video game. As a parent, you may need to swallow your pride and give your child a toy or experience he is ready for – even if the age on the box seems too young.
When you look at toys, always keep in mind that “therapy” toys are usually more expensive versions of regular toys. “Therapeutic Putty” is exactly the same as Silly Putty. The special fidget toys are almost identical to the children’s toys sold at your local Walmart store.
However, be careful when buying toys that may choke your baby, or counterfeits that may be toxic.