The discussion about “toys” for an autistic child is a much debated one. For some it is all about the benefit that the toy will have for the child. So in other words it has to be an educational toy or a sensory toy or a toy that will help with motor development or motor planning. For others it is all about the autistic child’s special interest. Which basically means: “if it is not another car, pony or dinosaur then it is not suitable”.
Toys for children with autism do not need to be fancy or special “learning toys” – they simple need to be interesting and developmentally suitable. Most parents (even those with Neuro-typically developing children) are stressing about the long up-coming December holidays and it is a topic of discussion on many social media groups: “What to do with my child over the December holidays”.
So here is our list of top 10 items to invest in to keep your autistic child busy over the holidays.
- Pool Noodles – the fun a child can have with a pool noodle is endless. Sure they can use it in the pool as a floatation device but honestly there is so much more they can do with it
- They can use it as a bat – even indoors if you add a balloon to the mix;
- Cut them into smaller pieces and use them as building blocks;
- Great art and craft activity – all you need to do is search the internet for ideas;
- You can use them outside to build obstacle courses
- Get creative and make a light saber out of the pool noodle
- Craft supplies – make sure you include everything from googly eyes to beads and buttons, coloured paper and wool. Make sure you have a set of children scissors as well as craft glue and paint.
- Construction toys which are not necessarily age-graded because toy manufactures age-grade their toys so parents can understand what is or is not age-appropriate. Just be very aware of the safety hazard (small items that can be swallowed).
- Choose “no-wrong-way-to-play” toy items – choose toys that can be played with in many different ways as children with autism do not always conform with the “rules of the game” (avoid board-games or games that have a winner and/or loser)
- Balls both big and small – some for kicking and catching, some to roll over and some to sort or use during sensory or water play activities (a variety of balls are always great). It will also be nice to get some flashing balls for night time garden and/or indoor games.
- Bubbles – invest in a bubble machine if you can! That is from one mother to the next because blowing bubble for the children during the holidays is only cute for a short amount of time. A bubble machine will keep your autistic child happy and stimulated for hours.
- Sandpit – a couple of shells or a cheap blow-up pool filled with sand is a win for every household over the holiday.
- Push bike scooter or bicycle– if your home allows for a push bike scooter or bicycle then please invest in one for your child for the holidays
- Trampoline – it does not matter if the trampoline is a huge big one in a large garden or a small one man exercise trampoline that can be kept indoors.
- Colouring pages or books – with this one I am going to suggest colouring books that are of the child’s “high-interest characters” and the reason for this is because we know that the majority of autistic children do not like pen/paper based activities.
Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, ABA, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum. Read more about this Johannesburg Autism School here.