gifts for children with special needs

As a mom of a special needs daughter I have been through many holiday and birthdays where friends and family ask, “What do we get Hadley?” It is a bit harder and takes some thought behind finding toys that are appropriate for special needs children since there is such a wide range of disabilities. However it is doable and I’ll be giving my recommendations as a mom of a child who has cerebral palsy with developmental disabilities.

For years Hadley has worked with Physical Therapists and Conductors on Gross Motor, Occupational Therapists on Fine Motor, Speech Therapists on speech and language, Special educators on cognitive growth and therapy. So I have seen a LOT of toys come in and out of our home as well as therapists offices. The one thing that I will tell you is don’t worry about what “age” the toy says it is appropriate for because all children develop at different rates. You should rather be wondering what play value will they be getting from the toy. We have toys in our home that Hadley loves that are for very young children but have such great music elements on them which she loves, we keep them!

1.    Vtech light up alphabet apple:

Learn everything from letters to telling time with the Alphabet Apple! This learning apple features a clock with movable arms to encourage basic time telling skills, fun, letter-specific animal graphics on each of the 26 letter buttons, and a Music Mode with 26 melodies to explore. The Alphabet Apple also includes an interactive learning board with easy carrying handle, as well as fun light-up buttons to provide helpful hints and unique reward sequences.

2.    Melissa & Doug Shape Sequence Board:

The shape sequence board will help your child recognize color, shape and size, and begin sorting objects into groups. These skills are the “building blocks” of beginning math skills. What better way to explore these important concepts than with boldly colored wooden blocks and frame!

3.    LeapPad Explorer:

With everyone around our home getting new iPhone Hadley has gotten numerous old phones which she loves to “play” with. I noticed that LeapFrog introduced its LeapPad Explorer, which is designed to look and work like an iPad or other tablet device and offers kids an age-appropriate and educational tablet experience.

The LeapPad Explorer features a built-in camera/video recorder, a built-in microphone, and a library of more than 100 learning game cartridges, books, apps, and videos. Just like our tablets, Hadley would be able to touch the LeapPad’s five-inch screen with her finger or tap it with the stylus.

I like this because games auto adjust so kids can learn at their pace. Each LeapPad book app is actually three books in one, offering each story at three different reading levels. LeapPad remembers a child’s progress from game to game and book to book to keep the content challenging and engaging. Content includes everything from phonics skills, mathematics, and spelling to geography, world languages, music, creativity, science, and life skills. Kids can also practice their writing skills with step-by-step guidance and a child-sized stylus.

With the reading apps, kids can touch the words to hear them sounded out and open a visual dictionary. With the microphone, kids can record their own narration. These apps feature animation and motion-based activities with popular characters, such as Lightning McQueen and Cinderella.

And to boot you can easily and instantly share your children’s masterpieces with family and friends via email or Facebook. I’m thinking how much Hadley would love this!

4.    Art-Time with Crayola:

Crayola has some great products that Hadley loves to create with! Crayola Twistables®  Crayons and Colored Pencils:

Twist-to-advance crayons and colored pencils are easy to grip and less likely to break, particularly if squeezed in immature, tight-fist grasps. No sharpening or label peeling is necessary. These unique crayons and pencils stay the same length as they are used, which gives physically challenged users more motor control and surface area to grasp. Vary the drawing pressure on a Twistables crayon or colored pencil by pressing firmly or lightly to create a deeper or lighter color. Or here is another idea, tape two or three Twistables crayons or colored pencils together to create a multiple-point drawing tool to make stripes, plaids, or multiple lines.

Another cool product to discover is Crayola’s Erasables. Now it’s easy to make changes and corrections when drawing and writing in color. Each Crayola crayon and colored pencil is tipped with its own eraser. With erasables, all ages of people with special needs can get the results they want and enjoy the control that erasing mistakes provides.

And last Hadley loves Anti-Roll® and triangular crayons. These products are designed to stay in place. Triangular crayons guide fingers toward a writing grip. Both types of crayons are perfect for assuring that drawing materials remain close at hand

5.    Play-doh:

Another fun craft idea that Hadley has spent many hours with is play-doh. We have made everything from balls to pies and I love that not only is it good for fine motor but also for the imagination.


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