It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and after Black Friday, it’s going to look a lot like holiday madness at your local mall! Parents everywhere are gearing up and looking for extra special holiday toys for their children. If those special toys also happen to be for a child with special needs, Santa’s special helper is here! Art therapist, Kelly DeSousa, has created a Very Special Holiday Shopping Guide for families with special needs kids.
Kelly has taken her talent for finding fun toys for children with special needs and turned it into a list of creativity-inspiring holiday goodies. From adaptive art supplies to sensory-friendly toys, Kelly’s list will help take the stress out of holiday shopping and turn it in to a holly jolly experience. These special toys are sorted by store to help you map out a productive shopping day. Let the playful holiday fun begin!
- Little Tikes I’m an Artist Station $59.99: There are a lot of artist stations and easels out there, but this one was my favorite. I just loved that it had a convertible splatter art station, plenty of storage space, and hooks to hang artwork. Winner!
- B. Parum Pum Pum Drum $19.99: We actually have this drum set at our house and my toddler approves. Many kids on the spectrum enjoy drumming (it can decrease anxiety), and this kit comes with a whole set of percussion instruments that have creative designs and pass the test when it comes to NOT sounding annoying when played with repeatedly.
- B. Dish Set $19.99: This gender-neutral dish set fosters pretend play, develops life skills and is great for social interaction.
- B. Bristle Block Stackadoos $17.89: I have these blocks in my art therapy sensory room and kids are always telling me they want some of their own at home! The bristles give sensory input and the shapes and colors are so fun- another great toy by B.!
- Kid Made Modern Gem Crayons $4.99: I have also tested this product in the art therapy room, and kids, teens, even adults, LOVE these crayons! The shape is playful and begs to be picked up. The best part is that kids with limited motor skills can use these crayons. They’re actually really cool looking adaptive art materials- kudos to Kid Made Modern!
- Kid Made Modern Watercolor Kit $9.99: These are by far my favorite watercolors for kids. Kid Made Modern always has great design, they’ve lasted forever for me, the quality is good, and the spectrum of colors included is impressive! Watercolors can make a great sensory-soothing art activity. Mix them up with the crayon gems and you have magic!
- Kid Made Modern Ukulele Stencil Kit $17.99: I haven’t tried this out, but what’s not to love? An actual ukulele that you get to personalize with stencils! The built-in-success element of this project is sure to be a self-confidence booster and the ukulele is a great beginner’s instrument. I can put you in touch with a music therapist or music teacher if you want to take the next steps with this gift.
- Play Doh 24-Pack $12.75: Not much needs to be said about this classic, except that it’s sometimes shied away from because it can be messy. If this is a concern, you’ll find the Easy Clean Craft Trays below are the perfect partner for Play Doh (so are a pack of googley eyes).
Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts:
- Sensory Water Beads ($2.19 on Amazon): Another art therapy sensory room favorite! This link actually takes you to one of my favorite blogs, Tinkerlab, where they show you exactly what fun you can have with these squishy beads. Please use caution if pica is an issue: these beads can be a choking hazard.
- Discovery Kids Magnetic Tile Set $24.99: Many kids on the spectrum have excellent visual-spatial skills, so the possibilities are endless with this magnetic tile set. This set can also help improve visual-spatial awareness where there are impairments and foster problem-solving skills.
- My First Crayola Washable Musical Rub-Art Station $11.99: I have yet to personally test this item; however, I trust Crayola- they consistently make great, innovative toys for special needs kids. What I like about this toy is that there’s a built-in musical reinforcer for performing the task and rub-art is a success-oriented task that can be performed with limited motor abilities.
- My First Crayola Color Me A Song $29.99: Once again, I’m going by the wow factor of this seemingly cool new product by a brand I trust. The faster you scribble, the faster the music plays… sounds exciting and motivating to me! If you have a child that is working on writing or drawing skills, this might give him or her the boost they need to make the task fun.
- Crayola Model Magic Resealable Bucket $14.99: Model Magic is the best air-dry clay for kids with tactile-defensiveness when it comes to clay. I’ll admit, I do not like the feel of clay- it dries out my hands and I don’t like my hands to feel “dirty”. This stuff is pleasantly clean and odor free. If you get it in white, you can paint your project any color you want when it dries.
- Alex Draw in the Tub $9.99: This one is another toddler-approved toy. We’ve used these in the bathtub at home and love them. Have fun working on fine motor and drawing development skills during sensory time in the tub? Yes, please!
- Crayola Outdoor Colored Bubbles $9.99: They’re bubbles… with color. Colored bubbles! Enough said!
- Crayola Dual-Sided Dry Erase Board Set $12.99: This dry erase board comes with special crayons. If you have a child who draws and draws and draws and mostly just throws away the pictures, you might save some paper with this nifty board. I like to make little visual schedules for kids with mine.
- Nickelodeon Glo Floam Multi-Pack $6.99: Floam is such a fun sensory toy. Don’t forget your Easy Clean Craft Tray for this one! It’s great when you can dim the lights and watch an art material glow to help increase focus.
- Imaginarium Spin Art $12.99: Spin art is unbelievably fun and easy. It’s a simple motor task with a big reward and can be done as a social activity. Watch out- this stuff can get addictive!
Around the Internet:
- Do-A-Dot Markers $15.09: I like to use these easy-to-hold markers (that are actually paints) for helping kids express feelings. You can really go to town making expressive marks with these! Kids who initially say they don’t enjoy painting or drawing find that they can be successful with these special markers.
- Easy Clean Craft Trays Set of 4 $14.99: I’ve mentioned these trays several times now. They’re a must have for making art at home if you want to contain the mess and help focus your child’s attention visually on the art materials. The bold colors make great visual cues!
- Sensory Play Table with Lid $99.95: What a dream! You can fill it with rice, water, sand, or whatever, and let the fun begin! A great tool for sensory integration and regulation, imagination skills, and social play. I want this!
- SensaHut Sensory Blackout Tent $119.00: This nice little tent gives your child a safe place to go and have sensory downtime. Not just a tool for imaginative play, this tent can also help regulate moods! Bring the Crayola Glow Station in for extra fun.
- Crayola Glow Station $39.99: An art therapy sensory room favorite. I have had my glow station for years and it might just be my favorite toy. It’s great for sensory de-escalation, social play, imagination skills, and drawing development. Kids in the art room look forward to using it during “glow time” and frequently ask their parents to buy them one. The glow wand is chunky and easy to grip.
- Moon Sand $17.95: Everyone loves this stuff, and it lasts forever! Moon sand feels so darn good to touch. It’s a great sensory soother. You can also create with it by using molds. There is really nothing else like it on the market and it’s hard to find in stores now for some reason.