Every year during the holidays, I am asked for gift suggestions for Michael. I understand it can be difficult for friends and family to figure out what to get him. I always work with my home therapist to pick out a good selection of functional toys or gifts that Michael would love to receive. This year, I thought I would share my list with you in the hope that it’s helpful for other autism families or anyone looking for the perfect gift for an autistic child. Honestly, most of these products would work great for neurotypical children as well. All the products I have listed, I’ve tried to provide a variety by age, skill level or based on functional needs. Some of these products I have spoken about in the past, but they are all worth sharing again. Some of the products, even though they are advertised for toddlers, my son is still using today.
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Sensory integration products – These products consist of fidgets, knobby balls, stretchy strings. These are products designed to reduce anxiety, stress, and regulate behaviors and emotions.
Pop Tubes – Another sensory fidget toy that Michael loves. Like the stretchy strings, these tubes come in different bright colors and provide additional help with his coordination.
Activity Ball – Michael received this as a gift last year for Christmas and he is quite fond of it. If he could bounce on this all day, he would. I ended up getting another one for Alex; he enjoys it too!
Trampoline – We purchased a trampoline almost immediately when Michael’s Early Intervention OT told us how much he could benefit from the constant input of jumping. She was so right; he loves that trampoline. I can’t even tell you how many we have gone through, but this is the one thing we will never be without. We even take it with us on vacations. The one we have folds up for easy travel and storing. Our home ABA therapist also uses it as a way for him to self-regulate during a break.
SANHO Premium Sensory Sock Body Sock – This is on our Christmas list for this year. I can’t wait to see how Michael likes it. I think it’s really going to help him to improve his ability to calm down on his own. These come in a variety of sizes based on the child’s height. According to SANHO, they recommend the sock being the height of the individual.
Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube Classic Wooden Kids Toy – The Original – This classic sorter is perfect for little hands just learning to recognize their shapes (as well as colors) and it helps with problem solving skills.
Fat Brain Toys FA183-1 Suction Kupz Baby Toys & Gifts for Ages 1 to 2, Multicolor – These colorful cups with a suction bottom are great to use for sorting and color recognition. You can also use these with different liquids or textures for sensory play. Michael didn’t really care for them at first but, as we continued to use them in different ways, they proved to be helpful.
Melissa & Doug Pets Jumbo Knob Wooden Puzzle – I must admit I’m a real fan of Melissa & Doug toys. They have a huge variety of great toys and their puzzles are fantastic. We used the puzzles with the knobs at the beginning of Michael’s ABA therapy. He had no interest in doing it. As we continued to use them, he slowly learned how to hold the knobs of each puzzle piece and place them where they belong. He has now moved on to more detailed puzzles, both physically and on his tablet. I am sure his skills developed from starting with this type of puzzle.
LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set, Yellow – This product was originally introduced to us by Michael’s speech therapist. The pieces are magnetic so that you can place them on your refrigerator and each come with magnetic tiles featuring letters of the alphabet. The Fridge phonics help promote letter recognition, letter names and sounds.
hand2mind Plastic Scooter Board with Safety Handles for Physical Education Class or Home Use, Purple – Michael’s Occupational Therapist introduced this to Michael when he was about three years old. We still have it today and both of my boys will use it. This is great to help with balance and coordination.
Liberty Imports Camouflage Military Pop-Up Play Tent – Collapsible Indoor/Outdoor Army Playhouse for Kid – Over the years, we have had a few different types of pop-up play tents. Again, both of my boys enjoy getting in there, snuggling on a pillow and playing with their tablets. For Michael, I think it provides a safe space for him to go to.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet 2-Pack, 8″ HD Display, 32 GB, Kid-Proof Case – Blue/Pink – Michael and Alex have been using these tablets for several years. Although, Alex has upgraded to a larger tablet, Michael has two of the 8” Fire tablets. Like most little boys and girls, these tablets keep them occupied for hours. In Michael’s case, we use them for everything. This is the one thing we do not go anywhere without. We keep both fully charged and they are helpful when we take long road trips, running errands, or just keeping them occupied on a rainy day.
ZZZ Weighted Blankets Premium Kids Weighted Blanket – Child Kid Weights and Sizes (5-6.5 LB (36″ x 56″) – Another product on our Christmas list this year for Michael. We have been going back and forth on getting one for Michael for a few years. He doesn’t use any sheets, blankets or comforter on his bed while sleeping. However, he has about 7 or 8 pillows, which he will place over him when he gets into bed. Because of this, we decided to see if a weighted blanket would be a way for him to get the same cozy feeling from placing the pillows on top of him. The idea of the weighted blankets is it provides a sense of calming pressure, relieving anxiety to help you sleep better. And since we are talking about Michael and sleep, we are willing to try anything. I’ll let you know how it works out.
Woby Push and Go Friction Powered Car Toys Set Tractor Bulldozer Mixer Truck and Dumper for Baby Toddlers – Michael has become really interested in cars, trucks, anything with sounds of a motor and lights. Another one on our list this year. We are planning to work on more leisure-type activities and are hopeful that this will hold his interest.
Toy Choi’s Kids Toy Tool Construction Set, 27 Pieces Toddler Boys Pretend Play Tool Kit in Sturdy Case – Another new toy on Santa’s list this year. With Michael’s recent interest in my husband’s tools, specifically anything with a motor, again, we hope this will promote more pretend play.
So, there you have it, my 2019 Christmas gift ideas for special needs children. I hope there are a few items that you may think will work for your child or someone you know. As an autism mom, I understand how you feel when family or friends ask you what to get your child and you’re not even sure yourself. If you have any gift ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.