For many, this Thanksgiving week kicks off the holiday shopping season. As you prepare your shopping list, it can be particularly challenging to select developmentally-appropriate toys and games for children with special needs. Not to worry – the folks at the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible for children with disabilities, are here to help!
Use these 10 criteria and guiding questions to help you navigate the toy aisles!
1. MULTI-SENSORY APPEAL
Does the toy respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?
2. METHOD OF ACTIVATION
Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required to activate?
3. PLACES THE TOY WILL BE USED
Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home? Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?
4. OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUCCESS
Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child’s individual style, ability and pace?
5. CURRENT POPULARITY
Is it a toy that will help the child with special needs feel like “any other kid?” Does it tie in with other activities, like books and art sets, that promote other forms of play?
Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness and making choices? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?
Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed and level of difficulty?
8. CHILD’S INDIVIDUAL ABILITIES
Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child’s interests and age?
9. SAFETY AND DURABILITY
Does the toy fit with the child’s size and strength? Does it have moisture resistance? Are the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Can it be washed and cleaned?
10. POTENTIAL FOR INTERACTION
Will the child be an active participant during use? Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?