What are the best toys for children with autism? It’s important to remember that children with autism aren’t all the same. All children are unique and special. Each child is different and comes with their own individual needs, desires, abilities, and interests.
Basically, it’s incredibly important to think about the individual child you are choosing the toy for and determine based on their particular likes and wants which toy would be best. However, there are a few safe bets that tend to appeal to most children with autism.
Toys for Autistic Kids
These toys are often calming, provide opportunities for sensory play, and can help support the child’s individual therapy goals. Keep reading to learn how to find the best toy for your child with autism and get some great tips for toys that appeal to lots of kids.
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What calms an autistic child?
Considering Your Child’s Individual Needs
Kids have different favorites, but some popular toys and tools are sensory balls, weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, trampolines, and putty.
Choosing Toys for Kids with Autism
Some children need outlets for extra physical energy. These kids often enjoy trampolines, exercise balls, and bouncy houses. Other kids might prefer quieter and calmer activities like puzzles and art sets.
Sensory needs are another important aspect to consider. Some children with autism are sensory seekers, meaning they crave sensory input from a variety of sources throughout the day.
These kids often enjoy fidget toys, play-doh, and weighted blankets. However, it’s important to note that many children with autism are uncomfortable with certain textures and sensory experiences. For example, they may prefer to wear only cotton clothing, avoid toys that feel “too soft,” and detest sticky or rough things.
Toys for Physical Activity
Encouraging children to be physically active helps kids build strong and healthy bodies. It’s also a valuable way to reduce childhood anxiety and help prevent health problems related to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity later in life.
For children with autism, being physically active is also an excellent way to build important motor skills, expel excess energy, and quell anxious behaviors.
Although participating in physical activity is incredibly beneficial, finding toys that encourage kids to be active without over-stimulating children with autism can be a challenge.
Check out these entertaining toys:
- Indoor Trampoline: There’s nothing wrong with an outdoor trampoline, but indoor trampolines take up less space and they’re available for use in inclement weather too. If your child with autism is into vestibular motion (behaviors that stimulate the vestibular system such as bouncing and spinning), a trampoline is the perfect toy! It’s also a wonderful tool for meeting therapy goals related to balance and a variety of gross motor skills. Look for an indoor trampoline that can be folded up for an easy travel toy that will enjoy tons of use.
- The Ball Pit: You can find these brightly colored sensory immersion tools in most therapeutic offices and play areas. Ball pits are a fun and engaging way to provide all kinds of sensory feedback. The bright colors provide visual stimulation. The sensation of immersion appeals to children with autism of all ages. The balls can make kids feel as if they are floating or being massaged. They support visual, auditory, and sensory therapy goals too. Best of all, you can create your own budget-friendly ball pit using a baby pool and bags of plastic balls. For added tactile input, consider including textured sensory balls in your DIY ball pit.
Toys your child with autism will enjoy that also support his individual therapy goals are a big win! If you’re looking for more specific suggestions, feel free to send me an email, comment below, and it’s always a great idea to talk with your child’s therapist about toys and activities that can help your child meet and surpass his goals.
Educational Toys for Autism
Children with autism often have special interests. Choosing toys related to your child’s individual interests is always an easy way to ensure your child will enjoy the toy you have chosen. Oftentimes, you can use these interests as a jumping-off point for practicing lots of different educational skills.
LEGO bricks are one of the most popular toys for children, both with autism and without. These colorful blocks help children build fine motor skills, practice visual perception, develop cognitive skills, and learn to use their imagination. Plus, LEGOs are perfect for teaching math skills and STEM principles.
Did you know there are LEGO clubs for kids? While they aren’t the same as play therapy groups, these clubs are another way kids with autism can learn and practice important social skills with their peer group and potentially form friendships with other children who share similar interests.
It’s important to remember that children with autism need toys that are developmentally appropriate for their level. Sometimes, these toys may not be age-appropriate, but they are valuable for building the skills your child needs.
For example, children with autism often do not meet developmental milestones at the same time as their neurotypical peers. Therefore, when teaching your child certain academic skills like reading, you might need to go back to the basics.
Alphabet Toys and Hands on Learning Activities
Alphabet toys can be a fun and engaging way to practice early reading skills with your child. These days many toys designed for learning the ABCs can be noisy and visually over-stimulating. You’ll want to avoid learning toys like that for your child with autism. Instead, focus on alphabet toys like these:
- Alpha-bots from Lakeshore Learning: These fun robots transform into alphabet letters with just a few twists and turns. If your kids like Transformers, robots, or LEGOs these are the perfect tool to use when practicing letters and letter sounds.
- Montessori Alphabet Tracing Board: This tracing board is the ideal way to practice letter writing motions and build fine motor skills without overstimulating your child.
- Montessori Sandpaper Letters: These classic Montessori cards are perfect for sensory seekers who need a little help memorizing the letters of the alphabet or the sounds they make. Children can even practice handwriting skills by tracing these tactile letter shapes with their fingers.
I once heard it said, “If you have met one child with autism, you have met one child with autism.” Remember, all children are different.
Not all children with autism enjoy the same things, have the same challenges, or share the same interests.
Choosing toys for kids with autism can be challenging. However, focusing on the individual first is critical to helping your child learn and play.
I sincerely hope the ideas in this article helped you to choose a great toy your child will love. If you still need suggestions, talk with your child’s therapist or check out our other ideas for even more toys perfect for children with autism.