Toys for the Differently-Abled
By Danielle Sweeney
All children love to play with toys, and those with special needs are certainly no exception. Toy manufacturers and marketers have realized that kids with disabilities play as much as their typical peers and are focusing attention on this “new” segment of the children’s market.
As a result, more and more adapted or adaptable toys have become available in the mainstream marketplace, and their cost has gone down considerably. Today, children who use wheelchairs or hearing aids can have dolls that look just like them for about the same price as, say, an American Girls collectible doll. Mainstream toy stores, like Toys “R” Us, have even developed special needs shopping guides to help consumers make wise choices. Buying a gift for a youngster with special needs is easier than ever. You just need to know where to look and for what kinds of toys.
Buying a Holiday Gift for That Special Someone
Before you set out to buy a gift for a child with a disability, you should ask the child’s mom or dad for suggestions. You may not necessarily need to buy a “special needs” toy at all. So many kids, disabled and non-disabled alike, love simple toys like bubbles, blocks, puzzles, and cutouts, and mom or dad may have some ideas for you based on the toys the child has or already enjoys. Here are some other factors to keep in mind from the Lekotek Center, a national organization that specializes in adapted toys and play:
Does the toy respond with lights, sounds, or movement? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? A texture?
Method of Activation:
Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force needed to activate?
Does it have an adjustable height, sound volume, speed, level of difficulty?
Opportunities for Success:
Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to a child’s individual style, ability, and pace?
Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child’s interest?
Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness, and choice-making? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?
Potential for Interaction:
Will the child be an active participant? Will the toy encourage engagement with others?
Safety and Durability:
Consider the child’s size and strength in relation to the toy’s durability. Some children like to throw items. Can the toy withstand any mishaps? Are there sharp sides? All children need toys that can be easily sanitized more, especially during flu season and for COVID-19 avoidance.
Where will the toy be used?:
Will it be easy to store? To use on a wheelchair tray?
Is it a toy most any child would like? Does it tie in with popular books, T.V. programs, movies, etc.?
Toy Resources Compiled by GFM Editors
fatbraintoys.com (special needs resource center)