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10 great toys for kids with special needs

These choices both entertain and help kids with special needs.

By Erin Pooley
10 great toys for kids with special needs

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Giant piano stepper

Tickling the ivories on this giant musical stepper is the perfect form of music therapy for many differently-abled kids. It helps with gross motor skills, encourages interaction, teaches cause and effect and attention to auditory input. Each time your mini-Mozart presses a key, a note from one of eight different musical instruments rings out. Kids can record their own songs or listen to childhood classics like “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Wheelchair users can also get in on the fun by rolling over the keys for audio sensory feedback.


Where to Buy?

Flaghouse.ca $51

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Sensory table

Sensory tables have been a go-to attraction in kindergarten classrooms for generations — and there’s a reason for that. The chance to learn through their senses actually helps kids’ brains organize and grow. This is particularly true for children with sensory processing disorder or autism who need extra tactile input to feel calm and regulated. Fill up the bin with sand, water, shaving cream, pasta or even rice crisp cereal and let the kids do the rest! Or up the “fun quotient” by hiding buried treasure at the bottom of the container to encourage little hands and fingers to move. Also provides fabulous opportunities for practising social skills and turn taking.


Where to Buy?

Louisekool.com $130

10 great toys for kids with special needs

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Jump Smart trampoline

No more monkeys jumping on the bed! For sensory-seeking children with autism or sensory processing disorder, bouncing or spinning can have a regulating effect. This built-for-one trampoline is a great way for kids to shake their sillies out in a safe, constructive and fun way. It comes with a handle for extra balance and plays catchy tunes kids can bounce along to. It’s an especially great option during the cold and dreary winter months when it can be a challenge to get active kids outside. Also great for building core strength.


Where to Buy?

Mastermindtoys.com $70

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Play tunnel

Some kids with autism or sensory processing disorder can be easily overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights or too much movement. This lightweight tunnel provides a quiet, soothing place for over-stimulated kids to regroup. Parents can add weighted blankets or squeeze toys for extra calming. Or throw in some flashlights and a sleep toy and kids can practice their imaginary play skills by having a camp out. This tunnel also provides a great opportunity for children with cerebral palsy to practice their crawling skills. Just have Mom or Dad entice their little one with a favourite toy at the opposite end of the tunnel.


Where to Buy?

Ikea.ca $15

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Elefun Game

Children with cognitive, visual or motor impairments need lots of practice with hand-eye coordination. This whimsical, attention-grabbing toy allows kids at various developmental stages — including those in wheelchairs — to swat at, or catch, the brightly coloured butterflies as they fall from the elephant’s trunk. Kids get to work on visual tracking, midline control and fine motor skills while having a ton of non-competitive fun at the same time. As hand-eye coordination improves, nets can be added to catch the butterflies on their way down.


Where to Buy?

Toysrus.ca $25

10 great toys for kids with special needs

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Stretchy Mouse & Cheese fidget toy

For children with autism, sensory processing disorder or ADHD, sitting still for long periods of time can often be a challenge. This adorable mouse and cheese fidget toy is a fun way to keep kids focused during circle time at school. Squishing the teeny critter in and out of a maze of Swiss cheese holes provides a calming activity that also improves hand and finger strength.


Where to Buy?

Pfot.com US$5

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Air hardening clay

Board games or crafts with lots of steps can be a challenge for kids with ADHD. That’s why this open-ended, self-directed craft kit is a great fit for children who need a little extra help attending to task. Little fingers will have hours of fun shaping this quick-dry clay into all sorts of imaginative creations. Junior’s work-of-art dries overnight and can be painted the next day. Presenting Mom or Dad with his masterpiece provides a big confidence-boost as well as a soothing sensory experience.


Where to Buy?

Scholarschoice.ca $8

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Miracle Pounder

Ready, set, pound! Cause-and-effect toys — ones where an action produces a response — are especially helpful for enticing preverbal or language-delayed kids to make attempts at communication. Children can spend hours practising hand-eye coordination and motor skills while hammering a ball into the hole — and watching another one pop out! Made from non-toxic, organic materials, this fun toy also gives eco-conscious parents peace of mind.


Where to Buy?

Scholarschoice.ca $37

10 great toys for kids with special needs

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Cat in the Hat game

For many kids with special needs, performing numerous actions in a row can be tricky. This appealing board game for school-aged children — based on the beloved Dr. Seuss classic — helps them do just that. Can you jump up and down...while holding the fish...under your chin? Can you limbo under the trick-a-ma-stick…while balancing the boat...on your stomach? A fun and non-competitive way for kids to work on following multi-step directions. This confidence-boosting game can be played independently or in a group, helping to foster social skills and turn taking at the same time.


Where to Buy?

Chapters.indigo.ca $30

10 great toys for kids with special needs

Old McGears Farm

Ee-i-ee-i-oh! Pretend play is a great way to build communication skills among language-delayed children. Kids will delight in building this colourful toy farm with eye-catching, easy-to-grasp spinning gears. A pig pen, cornstalks, animals and miniature farmers help encourage lots of back-and-forth interaction, fine motor control and let kids’ imaginations run hog wild!


Where to Buy?

Learningtoys.ca $50

10 great toys for kids with special needs

More parenting ideas...

10 great toys for kids with special needs
This article was originally published on Oct 18, 2011

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