Top 5 Must-have Toys for Kids with Special Needs this Christmas

By Jeffrey Marler on December 9, 2014 in Blog with No Comments

Just in time for Christmas!

Sometimes buying toys to put under the Christmas tree can be a lot like trying to get your kids to eat vegetables—you want them to have what’s good for them, but the response can be, well, lackluster.

christmas gift special needs kids

You want to have learning toys for them that will develop their minds, language skills, imagination and social abilities. But…you also want them to be FUN!

I’ve put together a list for you here of toys that will let you put a “check” beside both of those boxes.

May I offer one word of advice?

If you get too focused on the developmental side of these toys, you could become “the language police.” That’s no fun at all! Relax. Put on your “Play” hat, and let your child’s imagination do the leading.

 (And in case you’re wondering, ASPIRE isn’t affiliated with any of these products. All links and pictures are provided for your convenience.)

  1. 1. Tell Tale Fairy Tale Cards (ages 2-6) christmas gift special needs cognitive

The appealing artwork and simple design make this a great toy to teach young children storytelling skills. But they just think it’s fun!

As I’ve explained in a previous blog, when young children are able to understand story sequence, they perform better in their middle and high school years. At ASPIRE we tell the children, “Use the cards to make the most fun story you can think of.”

Do you struggle to make up bedtime stories? These cards make it fun and easy to sit on the edge of the bed and invent a short story for your child that will make him smile.

As he plays together with you, or siblings and friends, your child will begin to understand how a story is constructed—with characters, events (plot), the conclusion, and the moral to the story.

  1. 2. Rory’s Story Cubes (ages 7-14)

Much like the Fairy Tale Cards, this toy is a favorite of mine for building Christmas Gift special need boy story tellingstorytelling skills and creativity—but for older children and teens. It’s just as fun, but it’s a bit more complex, as it has nine six-sided dice with different pictures printed on each side.

It’s simple to play—just roll the dice, arrange the pictures into whatever order you want, and then include each item in a story you create.

To help lessen the anxiety factor, I would encourage teaming up, depending on how many kids are playing.

I love that Rory’s Story Cubes are portable, so you can carry them with you for long car trips, doctors’ waiting rooms, and restaurants (while waiting for your meals to arrive). Your kids will love it when you play along, but be prepared for much silliness!

  1. 3. Super Spiral Play Tower [18 mos.-3 yrs]

Little ones gleefully watch the balls and penguin slide down the curlicue slide and bump, bump, bump down the steps. The cute froggy whistles on his way down the center tower.

I call this a “cause and effect” toy. When your child pushes the button, the frog comes out, for example. But as you play with your toddler, she’ll also be learning and grasping important language concepts. She’ll be building perception, memory, reasoning and judgment skills. And she’ll be learning the prepositions “on/off,” “in/out,” “up/down,” and how we use them.

A helpful hint about that cute froggy—your child can “blow out” or “suck in” air through the frog’s whistle to make the whistling sound. This helps train her to control her respiratory systems. That’ll come in handy when it’s time to explain to her how to blow her nose into a tissue.


  1. 4. Gearation (2-6 yrs)

Gearation is another “cause and effect” toy that can introduce more advanced concepts like “clockwise/counterclockwise.” (There’s also a refrigerator magnet version—how fun is that?)

You can see from the video that there are many colorful “gears.” Each one performs a different fun, silly action, like googling eyes, bell ringing, and color changing.

This video is a great example of “procedural learning.” The boy in the video learned how each part worked, built a working gear system from those parts, and then enthusiastically taught us how he made it work. But isn’t it obvious he’s just having fun?

  1. 5. Squigz (3-8 yrs)Christmas gift special needs child learn think relate

This award-winning building set uses colorful, squishy silicone pieces that don’t just stick together—they suck together. And their suction-y goodness sticks to any non-porous surface, so you’ll find these stuck all over your home—on windows, mirrors, and bathtubs. And they go “Pop!” when your child pulls them apart. The Squigz Benders set has suctions at the end of bendy tubes, allowing for even more creative 3-D design.

When I look for toys for young children, I’m looking for something that stimulates multiple senses, and Squigz fits the bill. Encourage your child to create that silly space creature or goofy mask. He won’t know he’s building fine motor skills and gaining valuable cognitive information!

Now it’s your turn.

We’d love to hear about your family’s experience with these toys, or any other toy you’ve found. Share your thoughts with our readers in the Comments section!

Jeffrey Marler

About Jeffrey Marler

Jeffrey Marler has written 44 posts in this blog.

Speech Pathologist, Communicator, Listener, Researcher, Therapist, | Southlake, Texas Dr. Marler is an internationally recognized clinical researcher. At ASPIRE – Innovative Language Interventions, PLLC, you receive care and treatment from a professional with 28 years of experience with learning disabilities and 15+ years as a speech-language pathologist. Dr. Marler has a PhD in Speech and Hearing Science with an emphasis in auditory-based learning disabilities. Connect on Google+

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