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Many 'special needs' toys are can be very expensive. Very similar items can be bought for a fraction of the price. Toys for children with special needs should not focus on a child's disability at the expense of the child. With some modifications, these children often can play with the same toys as other children around the same age, depending on developmental ability. Toys for children with special needs should be safe, durable, versatile, challenging, and engaging.

Children with special needs can gain many benefits from outdoor play toys and activities. Climbing frames, slides, tunnels, trampolines, garden games and sit-on toys can all help with co-ordination and balancing skills as well as helping to strengthen weak muscles.

Indoor toys and games like clay, sand & dough, cutting, gluing, painting and threading activities, hammer pegs or sound puzzles, which makes a noise when the shape goes into the correct hole, or a transparent rainmaker which lets the child watch the noisy beads move down the tubes will help to develop fine motor skills and can help with observation skills and the senses. Multi-sensory toys will hold the child’s attention for longer. The use of memory games from cards to board games can help practise and build up short term memory functions. The games can be played with fewer cards if for a younger or less able child. Stimulating games and toys will encourage children to choose.

By following a few helpful suggestions, you can find the perfect gift for your little one.

Sights and Sounds

Children with developmental disabilities will have sensory issues. Choose gifts that will stimulate their senses. Bells, whistles, and colourful lights are highly exciting to little ones. Toys that stimulate the imagination are also highly beneficial. Music Instruments will encourage expression, development and interaction for all especially for the under 5’s. This will help to develop the audio, visual and tactile skills.

Versatility and Ease of Manipulation

Find toys that are easy to grasp. Can the child hold and manipulate it with ease? Is it versatile enough to meet the needs of any equipment the infant may have? Can it be positioned to attach to adaptive equipment such as a stand?

Textures, Flavours, and Scents

Squishy or Hedgehog balls, Water Mats, Activity Boards or Centres and rattles for example come in a variety of shapes and different textures. Look for toys that encourage exploration, interaction, touching, feeling, smelling, and even tasting. It's important for the child to be able to interact with the toy. They should be designed to provide a variety of experiences and comparisons between warm/cold, rough/smooth, round/angled, absorbent/reflective random & regular patterns as well as static and moving elements.

Play it Safe

Look for toys that don't have sharp edges or multiple pieces. Make certain that it is appropriately sized so the infant cannot swallow or choke on it. Is the toy washable?

For children with physical limitations look for the following features:

Solid construction that supports the body
Large buttons, levers, or handles that are easy to hold
Easy operation and manoeuvrability

For children with hearing impairments should have:

Amplified and/or adjustable volume
Varying sounds and vibrations
Lights and bold, contrasting colours to visually stimulate and maintain attention
Interesting textures that invite exploration
Scented parts

For children with visual impairments include:

Large or raised parts
Realistic and familiar sounds and objects
Easy-to-activate components
Different shapes and textures
Bright or bold colours
Distinct scents