17 “Mom Approved” Gifts for Kids with Special Needs
Two key factors to look for in selecting gifts
I look for two key things when buying gifts for my son who has Cerebral Palsy. My main focus is finding something that he will successfully be able to use. The secondary focus is to choose a game or activity that promotes inclusion and social interaction with his sister and his peers.
My son is non-verbal and I believe that improving his hand function is fundamental to his being able to use augmentative communication. If a fun game or toy gives the opportunity to improve his hand function, I think that is a winning combination. He was given this puzzle many years after it would have been considered “age appropriate” but it was a really good hand function exercise and he saw opening the locks as a good challenge.This is a Melissa and Doug puzzle. This range of toys is excellent for any child, but they have many toys that are great for children with special needs and they are very sturdy.
2. SHAKE AND GO CARS
Many of the cars that move have small buttons, which can be difficult for children with disabilities. These shake and go cars don’t require good, fine motor skills. As their name suggests, they just need to be shaken and they go. These cars have been available in all sorts of characters over the years including Cars and Toy Story.
3. PULL STRING WOODY FIGURE
Our family is a big fan of Toy Story, so we were thrilled to find some of the characters come with a pull-string that activates speech. Our son had great satisfaction in pulling the string and making Woody talk. This is also available in a Jessie version.
4. REMOTE CONTROL
Buzz Lightyear with remote control is a favorite with our son. Although his hand function is not accurate enough to manage all the buttons, he can make Buzz move and he thinks he is pretty cool. For a child with good hand control, a remote control car or boat would make a great gift.
5. PLASMA BALL
This Plasma ball is activated by touch or sound. We find it is a fun activity that even the adults cannot resist. The bonus is that it is also provides an opportunity to work on hand function.
6. WATER GUN
Water guns can be very difficult if a child cannot manage a trigger action. I was thrilled to find this particular Nerf has a pump action that my son can use. He became so good at it that I had to remove it from bath time because no-one was safe from his aim. This is a fun interactive game that can be played with others.
7. BOWLING SET
If you asked me for one gift that my son has received that has been my favorite I think I would have to say it is this large foam bowling set. We play this in our house, on picnics and take it to friend’s houses to encourage interaction. Bowling is a game that appeals to all ages and brings people to our son. When our son was younger and couldn’t manage to throw the ball, we used a home-made ramp to launch the ball from his wheelchair to the bowling pins.
9. CD PLAYER AND AUDIO BOOKS
These can be a fantastic gift especially in this era of kids being so visually stimulated. It is good for them to just use listening skills. My daughter is a big fan of audio books and her favorite is Junie B. Jones (all about a tell it like it is, mischievous girl) Amazon has a good range of audio books at reasonable prices. A CD player (though old fashioned these days) can be a great gift for younger children. Our son was able to use environmental controls on his voice output device to operate his CD player.
10. NOUGHTS AND CROSSES/TIC TAC TOE
We found this giant game is much easier for our son. It makes access easy and being a big table set it encourages interaction with adults and other kids.
11. GIANT CONNECT FOUR
A large version of a game can make access possible and this is a fun game that is perfect wheelchair height. Both our children enjoy playing it.
12. WATER TROUGH
This water trough was one of our best purchases. Not only is water play always fun, but, the trough brought kids to our son. It kept them in one place so he had a better chance of playing with others. We’ve also put sand and colored rice in it for a bit of variety. We have also put this in our wagon and taken it to other people’s houses when we have visited. We find it works well to take entertainment that will be a novelty for other children but will also ensure our son has something to do in an unfamiliar environment.
13. SWING SEAT
The sensation of swinging is wonderful but finding something for our son was difficult. He couldn’t sit on a regular swing. However, we found this swing seat was inexpensive and allowed him to swing himself with his feet. There is also room for two people to sit beside him, making it social. Sitting in the shade sharing a book is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
14. LEAP FROG INTERACTIVE WORLD GLOBE
This is my daughter’s game but for children with good hand function this would make a great gift. It has so many different settings. You can use the attached pointer to touch a country or city and learn facts about that area.
We love this game because it can be played by any age group bringing people together and it is reasonably priced. We also adapted it when BJ was younger by using a halved plumber’s plastic pipe as a ramp for the bowling from his wheelchair.
16. AN ANNUALPASS OR EXPERIENCE
Annual passes, or experiences, can make a wonderful gift for a person with a disability and their family. Many attractions offer companions free admission so buying the person with a disability an annual pass can make a good present. Some suggestions are Zoo
passes, museum passes, movie tickets or tickets to a show. Our son particularly enjoyed a Trike motorbike ride and this was something he could do with his sister and father.
17. LARGE DICE
Sometimes you can buy a regular game and make some adaptations. Educational toy shops have giant dice which we have found our son can throw well. It gives him a job during the game and he gladly rolls the dice for anyone willing to give him that job.
Do you have any mom approved gifts to add