Children with ASD have trouble interacting and communicating with others that they often withdraw into themselves. You want to support them in this aspect by stuffing them with playthings. But what kind of toys do kids with autism like?
Regardless of the many discomforts, autistic children have an ardent desire to play. Do they enjoy the same type of playthings as children without the spectrum do?
Autistic children want toys that make them feel good and secured. The moment they find interest in a toy and starts to get the sensations they like, the nice feeling helps decrease discomfort and fear that enables them to explore their minds freely. The result is they express themselves naturally.
They will start listening to you, play with you, or follow your directions; all of which are forms of communication. This approach enhances coordination, conveys conversations with other people (not just you), and overall improve their neural processing systems.
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What Kind Of Toys Do Kids With Autism Like
Look for toys that help stimulate their five senses to promote communication skills. These toys open the door for other skills that a child needs to learn. Below are among their top favorite toys.
Scented Clays & Kinetic Sand
A scented clay excites their sense of smell and touch. You can create small shapes of the clay and divide them into separate bowls.
Mix different colors and shapes that you can enhance with a variety of smells like vanilla, lemon essences, or any fragrance you know can make the child relax. Cedarwood essential oil has calming properties that help ADHD individuals enjoy restorative sleep.
If you have played with kinetic sand, you know that it’s special. It’s different from sand or play-doh that can be messy. Kids love this sand for its unique wet-sand-like property that feels wet and yet it never dries out. This feature makes it fun to compress and mold things.
Another magic the kinetic sand gives is the sand doesn’t stick to anything other than itself. So it’s totally no-messy bits of sands on their hands and clothes.
Autistic children are amazed by magical ensembles. While playing clay and sand enhances fine motor skills, it also encourages sensory exploration. To complete the fun, consider including play accessories, like small cups, and a bucket.
They like playing with puzzles, too. Jigsaw puzzles are one of the most challenging but fun toys that motivate the mind to complete a shape. Some puzzles use letters and numbers to encourage reading and spelling. All this can lead to developing a sight-reading vocabulary.
What is fun is how one needs to put the pieces together. So basically, they have to assemble the oddly shaped interlocking and mosaiced pieces.
Once they don’t finish a shape, then remembering where they left off activates their memory. All the sorting movements and attention develop fine motor skills that promote independence, persistence, confidence, and entertainment.
You know how kids enjoy sticking stickers on any surface like their desks, school supplies, bags, cellphone, laptops, walls, and everywhere. Even the refrigerator has no escape.
The difference with autistic children is that they enjoy the feel of sticky textures. Other than it helps them explore their sense of touch, stickers may help them to become creative and artistic. To you, stickers may just come as stuff for decorating, but to these children may be a life-enhancing toy.
Stickers have that sensory element that offers a weird soupy feel. Because stickers are fun, innovative, and don’t overwhelm the nervous system, autistic individuals will love to explore and investigate the glue-like sticky textures with their fingers without uncertainty. The good time can be bursting with energy.
Assistive technology has the power to engage children with autism. A tablet enables visual and alternative communication learning. Almost all gadgets provide play games and show fun educational content — a strategy that parents and teachers agree can reduce problem behaviors.
When kids play games online, there are those that require actions like jumping, running, and obtaining power-ups. These games may be very entertaining. In fact, learning games have been known as one of the most played games for children with disabilities.
Any child with autism will fall in love with a techy gadget. Look for those with pre-installed Apps like the iWawa, it’s a program containing a variety of kid-friendly content such as puzzle games, painting, stories, and a lot more. Here, kids are free to download educational content through Google Play or via YouTube.
This is getting popular among ADHD patients. The beauty of a balance board is how it can stimulate the brain on how to effectively stand and balance on the board on one or two legs and juggling. This improves concentration and reading skills because having conversations while on the board is more challenging.
Not only does this sensory toy improve attentiveness but it also strengthens their core muscles. Since it addresses cognitive skills through the practice of concentrating on the ability to balance, it increases a child’s capacity for sustained self-directed attention, and possibly providing a new life skill.
Weighted Stuffed Toys
If other children find some stuffed toys so alluring, so do children under the spectrum.
These toys may come in the shape of animals such as dogs, turtles, pigs, unicorns, and more – which autistic children call their playful friends. The only difference is that these toys are designed a little bit heavier so the weight can help soothe the child.
For the autistic child, a weighted stuffed toy can become a best friend, a superhero, or a pal to begin new adventures together. This kind of imagination is essential to help him or her to learn the sense of the world. A weighted stuffed toy can help cope with uncomfortable feelings. It makes them feel secured and loved.
The physical resemblance of friendly pets in these toys represents companionship, comfort, and friendship which help remove doubts and fears. Their cuddling feature offers a sense of self-soothe that can enhance their growth in a better way. Here, autistic children learn and develop self-reliance without the help of their mom or dad.
Bubble Tube Lamps
This toy has a quiet motor that pushes air through the water to create calming bubbles that slowly float up in the tube.
If it comes with LED colors, then the child can alternate colors of the light for a more exciting showcase. The colors and slow-moving bubbles help build visual capacity as they encourage children to interact with them.
Because bubble tube lamps are designed to slow the world for a time, it is not noisy as well, but instead, induce calmness and relaxation to the child. It helps them fall asleep at night, too. Typically, these toys stand slim at about four feet so you can place them on the floor beside a table or in the center of the room.
One reason why crying babies are relieved in therapy swings is that it makes the child feel swaddled and secured. In the same way that this particular therapy swing will also improve an autistic child’s body system by organizing sensory information.
Lack of sleep caused by disruptive nights is magnified in people on the autistic spectrum and can end up triggering irritable mood swings and behavior. Cocoon swings help autistic children fall asleep inside the cocoon while playing seesaw and swinging.
The swinging motion, plus the snuggly feel of a cocoon swing offer a calming effect on children with this state of mind. Other than coordination and balance, the swaying movement improves motor skills, strengthens the muscles, alleviates stress, and prevents episodes from occurring. Playing inside cocoon swings offer endless stimulation. Any ADHD child will get a fun therapeutic experience.
If a swinging cocoon will relax autistic kids, cozying up in this canoe also feels like being hugged and cuddled. It’s another therapeutic compression that helps melt tension away.
This peapod is inflatable. Rocking the boat and acting like they are facing waves in the ocean is an adventure game that activates their motor planning skills, balancing reactions, and analytical input.
This is perfect if the child loves tight spaces or longs to be squeezed any time of the day. It could be used for relaxing, sleeping, or for studying, listening to stories, watching TV, or just calm down before bed. Did you know that this toy makes a good alternative to a classroom rug? try it!
You’ll probably tell me that compression sheets are blanket and not a toy. Well, these sheets may be light and loose, but they are designed as a sensory sheet that wraps a child snugly around the body for sustained, soothing pressure.
The extra weight these sheets can give supplies the feeling of being held tight, hugged, wrapped, or swaddled. Just like babies, ADHD kids love being wrapped because it gives them an enclosed feeling. This can be an effective alternative for children who need extra help sleeping.
Set your compression sheets by wrapping them around two-thirds of the mattress. Kids will enjoy fitting themselves into the sheets then play snuggle and hide or snug as a bug in a rug. The sheets may not work like a weighted blanket but the “snuggle feel” is comforting through deep touch pressure which regulates the child’s nervous system.
Every child passes the stage where they desire to help with everything they see around the house or classroom. While ADHD kids may not do things thoroughly, it is fun for them to get involved with managing a household or assisting teachers in certain tasks.
Cleaning sets typically come with a hand and standing broom, dustpan, duster, pail, and a mop. The advantage they get with this type of toy is cultivating initiative and cooperative behaviors. This allows the child to understand the importance of cleanliness and tidying their surroundings.
Playful cleaning allows special time alone which shows them that they’re one of the big kids and that they can do things on their own. In the long run, activities like this offer enjoyment as well as self-confidence. So if your autistic child or student shows interest in helping you clean up the house or classroom; let them.
As a parent or teacher, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to play an essential part in an autistic child’s journey. The toys I have above are suggested by parents and teachers of autistic children. I thought this list can also help you find the best toys that autistic children like.
One way to know which toys these children like to play with is to ask them. Contrary to the belief that they cannot express what they want, it doesn’t hurt to communicate with them. This way, you learn about what they like and dislike. Providing them the kind of toys they prefer also helps them develop a caring and sharing attitude. Regardless of their condition, this will pave a good way for a joyful childhood.
I’ve also put together a complete list of the best gifts for children with autism. Surely the toy suggestions make another wonderful gift for autistic children.
Do you have a gift in mind? You may want to share them in the comments. That would be great!