Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids with Special Needs

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I have wanted to do this for the last few years, but life happens. Christmas shopping for kiddos with special needs can be tough and can be an adjustment.  Over the years I have come to realize that some the best gifts for Alli have revolved around therapy.  Because we all know that even when we're not in therapy, we're still in therapy.  

But therapy can be fun.  And so can Christmas gifts!  So I have scoured the internet, interviewed current and previous therapists, fellow parents (because we can be considered experts also), and collected some ideas for the kiddo(s) in your life who have special needs.

All toys collected focus on an array of needs: fine motor, gross motor, visual, auditory, communication, tactile, and more.  I've even thrown in some stocking stuffer ideas to help out Santa.  ;-)  

We're still crazy about ball poppers around here and this one encourages more things than our regular popper, which I really liked.  It can also be adjusted based on gross motor needs.  This game works on hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and object performance.  It also comes in Blue (I'm a girl mom and naturally went for the pink one).  Shop around for this one, I've seen it priced from $28.89 to $45.  The least expensive I found was at Wal-Mart.

I particularly love this toy because of its weight.  One caregiver on Fat Brain Toys commented that,"This toy is perfect for kids with coordination disorders or apraxia. Would be perfect for young children with hand tremors as the added weight would help to ground them."  It's also a great toy for those kiddos still working on stacking and nesting.  

*stocking stuffer alert* 

Pop Toobs have been a staple in our arsenal for several years.  They are highly recommended by therapists for sensory needs, but also for fine motor (this toy is perfect for kids needing to work on pulling and putting together).  


No-stick playfoam is perfect for sculpting and using those hands.  Huge props because this stuff DOES NOT dry out (we've literally left it out for days and days) AND it doesn't stick to hands!!  Playfoam provides tactile and sensory stimulation for those craving sensory input or those needing to combat sensory sensitivity.  It helps in developing fine motor skills too!  It comes in tons of colors and packs, but my favorite right now is the glow in the dark.

*stocking stuffer alert*
We seriously love this thing and I believe Santa will be leaving even the big sisters one in their stockings.  There are a ton of different animals, but I'm partial to the sock monkey.  I love these little guys for the cause and effect, the fine motor work to put the ball in the mouth, and having to use both hands to squeeze the belly.  Warning:  These guys can shoot!   


Marble Run is OT and Alli approved!  If there is anything that Alli hates, it's working on anything fine motor.  If there is any toy that she hates, it's one without sound, lights, bells, and whistles.  But Marble Run is different.  She could sit for 10 minutes (that's huge y'all), pick up the marble (fine motor) and place in the red dish, and watch it spin around.  And around and down.  For more advanced kiddos, putting all the pieces together is great for fine motor, hand eye coordination, creativity, and more.  We just focus on a few pieces for now and it's a favorite!


Ikea Spinning Chair

Ok, so I know this is not a toy, but this is on our list for this year and I think it's too good not to share.  This chair is perfect for those who crave sensory input from spinning.  I also like the canopy so when Alli needs a place to retreat from the noise and sensory overload, she can just pull the canopy down.   

*Please note: Spinning can be a very important and powerful technique in a sensory diet, but it must be controlled.  Please ask your child's therapist about proper techniques for YOUR child.   


Roll and Bounce Ball Tower

Ball towers are always fun, but this one takes it up a notch by adding bouncing.  This tower encourages fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, communication, and cause and effect.  This is another one of the rare toys Alli could sit and play with forever.


Spin Again

Spin Again is yet another tool that encourages stacking and hand-eye coordination.  Our therapist's particular like of this toy was the ability to flip the base to make it stable or unstable, making it easier or harder depending on the need. 


Alex Gigantic Step and Play Piano

I LOVE this because it's a toy our whole family can enjoy together!!  For Alli, music is the one thing that gets and keeps her engaged so I know this will be a hit!  ALEX Toys Gigantic Step & Play Piano gets you moving (and maybe shaking your bootie or doing the sprinkler) alone or with friends or family.  The piano features 8 instrument sounds and 4 different play modes including a demo mode. 


Alli's favorite therapy is Music Therapy and one of her favorite instruments is the Rainmaker/Shaker.  It's so soothing sensory wise for her to hear the rain and watch the tiny balls fall side to side.  The rainmaker also encourages motor control.  


Platform Swing from Heartsong

The swing has been such a magnificent tool with Alli's vestibular needs.  This large platform swing is large enough for multiple children to play and swing outside together.  


Teeter Popper

You can lay on it, you can twirl, it pops, and so much more!  The Teeter Popper helps to  improve core strength, stability, leg strength, balance, coordination and gross-motor skills. How it's used is up to the kids.



The Bilibo comes in MANY colors and the ideas for use are endless. What I like about Bilibo is that it encourages open ended play.  The kids also love to sit in it and drag each other around so there's that.  ;-)


Monkey Balance Board

The Monkey Balance Board is designed to encourage physical activity by improving balance, coordination, and leg strength. And it's fun too!  

Plasma Car

We're personally not quite ready for this one, but kids and therapists alike LOVE the plasma car.  My neurotypical kiddos have had theirs for years and they are virtually indestructible.  Just a walk through our therapy center, you will see a kiddo cruising on one just about every time.  The child uses the steering wheel to navigate or their feet can be used as well. They come in lots of fun colors. 


Radioflyer's Inchworm

We love this ride-on toy!  While it's still a struggle for Alli, it is the best one we have found for her.  The clicking sound and bounce and go motion are both pleasing and stimulating.  I know the reviews aren't the best, but I'm pleased with this and believe we'll eventually get there.  #justkeepinitreal #notgettingpaidforthisadvertisement



I love these because they can be used just about anywhere; the car, the kitchen table, the bathtub.  Squigz are sensory stimulating and encourage fine motor skills, communication, and experimentation.  They are also super colorful and are great to use when working on color recognition.



Toys R Us also puts out a toy guide and has for over 20 years.  If you don't get ideas here or need more, this is an incredible place to look.  They make it super easy where you can shop by skill or need: auditory, fine motor, visual, gross motor, tactile, social, etc.  Really cool and helpful! 

Also, Fat Brain Toys has a Special Needs Resource Center!  Just click on any of the challenges in their resource center to view relevant products and comments from their customers.

Do you have any favorites?!  We would love to hear from you!


1 comment

  1. Kids who are in school can supplement their learning with fun and educational toys. Giving them the opportunity to have fun while practicing the things they are learning in school will increase their retention of those things. And when your child finds an educational toy she really likes, she will be more likely to play with it, reinforcing the things she has learned.


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