Playing is an effective way for children to be taught and to learn while removing the ‘hard-work’ stigma that many children find with education. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn much better when they are taught through play. In addition, playing with sensory toys helps children to develop:
- their language skills
- sensory-motor skills
- social interactions through problem-solving skills
However, when looking for autism toys for a child with ASD, it is really important to think about not only the specific interests and preferences for the child but also what is appropriate for their age, ability, and where they are at in their development.
Physical activity-play toys are ideal for children who have a tonne of energy or for those who find it difficult to find constructive ways to harness their power.
Opposite to this, educational toys are really great for children with ASD and you would be surprised just how much ASD children love when they can see positive praise when solving problems or doing well with learning.
These educational toys help ASD children to support their individual goals in an academic nature, as well as to help support their therapeutic and curriculum goals.
In this guide, we look at some of the best autism toys for children with ASD, however, thanks to the similar traits (and linked diagnosis) with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which these autism toys can also benefit children with ADHD. You may also be interested in checking out our recap of the 7 Best Fidget Toys for ADHD in 2019.
Why use Sensory Toys for Autism and Special Needs?
When purchasing sensory toys for children with special needs, it is essential to take into consideration the child’s diagnoses or any sensory profile. Sensory toys engage children through their preferred sensory input in an enjoyable way that not only makes sense to the child but also provides educational or calming value.
Effects of Sensory Toys for Autism and Special Needs?
Children with ASD or special needs are susceptible to overstimulation through sensory input. Sensory toys are great for special needs children as they help to provide a distraction that may calm a child or the input they need to focus on a task.
Therefore sensory toys that introduce tastes, sounds, textures, sights, and smells help children to deal with the anxiety and stress from these difficult tasks.
For many children, sensory toys are the only way to help them through participating in activities or tasks – even simple things like writing their name are difficult and can be improved drastically with a sensory toy or fidget toy.
Tips for the best Autism toys for Special Needs Children
Autism toys are a fantastic resource for children of many special needs backgrounds. The complexity in diagnosis for autistic kids has led to autism toys being developed for all development levels and needs requirements.
When looking around to purchase the best autism toys for autistic kids or for special needs children, consider these crucial reference points for success:
- What are the specific interests of the child?
- What preferences does the child have?
- What is the ability level of the child?
- Where is the child in their development?
- Is the toy appropriate for the child’s age and their habits?
These questions above are simple, yet critical for consideration of the unique individual needs for special needs children.
What are the best Autism Toys for Children?
Vtech Tote and Go Laptop
These Vtech Tote and Go Laptops are awesome!
Plus, they are really helpful for autistic kids as they help to promote interaction and communication by encouraging a verbal reply.
Even for children who are non-verbal, these Vtech Tote and Go Laptops are great because they help teach letters, over 60 plus words, spelling, shapes, and even has progressive learning levels with friendly characters and over 20 learning activities.
What we love about this device is that it does not have a backlight, which means no nasty blue light for the eyes of young children.
We used this one and the previous version for our children, the cutest part about using the Vtech Tote and Go Laptop was that both of our boys loved being able to ‘copy daddy’ and do ‘big boy work’.
Our boys have always had a fascination with technology and computers so the Vtech Tote and Go Laptop quickly became their favourite toy growing up and leading into their early school years.
Melissa and Doug Make Your Puppet Kit
We were sceptical at first with giving our boys puppets, purely because we didn’t think they would actually like them or would just throw them to the side. Well, we were very wrong!
The Make your Puppets from Melissa and Doug are awesome, they are really good quality materials and there are endless possibilities of what children can come up with. We decided to go with their Make-Your-Own Monster Puppet Kit which comes with 30 different pieces, including interchangeable ears, eyes, mouths, and so much more.
Children not only love being able to create a ‘friend’ that is exactly how they wanted but it also encourages children to start identifying facial expressions; a very important skill for helping children with autism to understand social interactions better.
We were not surprised when we found out after we purchased what the NBC News had to say about these puppet kits:
“The Gold Standard in Early Childhood play”.NBC News
Adorox Liquid Bubble Drop
We will be honest here… When living life in a special needs household, sometimes the parents need to use the Adorox Liquid Bubble Drop to chill out and relax after a testing situation.
The Adorox Liquid Bubble Drop is a turbocharged version of the classic desk toys, but they also double up as a worth-its-weight in gold visual stimulant for children with ASD and ADHD.
We have a lot of these… probably too many… but we don’t care, they work really well and are one of the best tools we use to avoid a heightened child who is beginning to push themselves towards a meltdown. We have a few different versions of the Adorox Liquid Bubble Drop which we keep:
- one at school for the classroom
- one in the bedroom
- one in the kitchen cupboard
- two in the car seat pockets – we grabbed this awesome three-pack and saved a heap!
Even when there is no imminent meltdown, our boys just love to sit and stare at the bubbles – especially during long car trips.
The reason these autism toys work so well for autistic kids is that because kids with ASD tend to focus on moving dots or lights to stay focused, meaning this helps children to calm down and put their energy into one point – focusing on the bubbles.
Even better, the Adorox Liquid Bubble Drops are made of heat-resistant plastic which means you can keep them just about anywhere. We were very worried to put it in the car initially in case it melted in the heat but this is no problem at all!
12 Sided Fidget Cube
Children just love them, and they are a really great sensory toy for children who like to pick their skin.
These fidget toys come in handy when you need that added input to keep children entertained – think sitting in the waiting room at the doctors or walking around somewhere overwhelming like the supermarket.
The 12 Sided Fidget Cube is fantastic at helping to reduce stress, anxiety and to improve a child’s ability to relax.
The fidget cubes you can get here are the fancier and sturdier version made of high quality and non-toxic polycarbonate, which is safer for kids. These fidgets also have:
- sliding blocks
- smiley minions
- silicone balls
- joystick that moves 360 degrees
- gears and gaming buttons
A great gift idea for children who love gaming – check out these mini gaming controllers fidget toys!
Special needs children who seek oral input can be stressful. Our boy is always seeking oral input, which until getting these awesome chewable necklaces consisted of sucking the sleeves and collars of his shirts – and always right before we had to leave the house!
These Chubuddy Chewable Fish Pendants are very popular in the special needs scene and are made of high-quality materials that are free from latex, phthalates, PVC, lead, and other toxic materials.
If you know a child with sensory input processing issues which lead to licking, chewing, or biting items which probably shouldn’t be in their mouth – then these Chubuddy Pendants are just what you need!
We love these cute little fishies, which also have a chew factor of 1.5 which is between light and medium chew strength meaning there is no significant risk of damaging the chompers.
See and Spell Learning Toy
The See and Spell Learning Toy focuses on not just the visual representation of the words, but also on the language part.
These learning language puzzles double up as an educational toy which can be used to give children with special needs some added practice on their simple sight words – plus everything fits back into the snug little box easily.
The See and Spell Learning Toy includes a puzzle board with over 50 pieces of English letters teaching children the spelling of different words and helps develop literacy skills with visual representations. Children can benefit from this puzzle to help improve their:
- fine motor skills
- language skills
Raising a child with special needs can make simple daily routines or tasks very challenging. Bath time is a common challenge for many families and one we persevered through.
The Rolls Royce of bath-time toys is the Quack Stack. It helps to develop a child’s motor skills, spatial skills, and visual skills. It also introduces the great concept of cause and effect, all while making the bath time fun and enjoyable.
If you have never seen the Quack Stack in action then head over to YouTube and check it out, they are seriously awesome. You can even use the Quack Stack to pour water into the bath and when the water is poured through the beak, the water propels and spins things.
The Quack Stack has suction cup feet, propeller wings and lets children enjoy buildable puzzling fun while getting clean as a whistle!
When we first introduced the Quack Stack to our boys we got them to hold the beak under the tap and then face the tail towards them – when they turn the water on it shoots down the ducks back and blasts them into the face! fun for all!
Active Play Monkey Balance Board
Balance boards are such an effective tool when it comes to not only improve a child’s physical coordination or motor skills but also to reduce restlessness and improve concentration.
Balance and rocker boards can be very expensive, however, if your child is still young then you can save a tonne with the Active Monkey Balance Board from Alex Active. This board was designed with safety for little people in mind and is ideal for children with special needs between the ages of three and seven.
From a glance, the Moluk Bilibo looks strange, and deceptively like an army helmet. However, it is more than just a shell-shaped toy. The Moluk Bilibo comes in ten different colours and is a creative imagination dream, made from non-toxic polyethylene material it is lightweight, sturdy, and can be used for just about anything.
The Moluk Bilibo encourages open-ended creativity and can be used in many ways. Some of the uses we have found for it are:
- Holding and carrying toys
- Digging in the sand or collecting shells at the beach
- Sitting in or rocking
- Stacking on top of each other for easy storage
- Sliding down slopes
- Water play
You can also get the Moluk Bilibo Mini which is perfect for babies and is a soft silicone instead which is great for using in the bath.