Toys are essential teaching tools for children of all ages and ability levels. Keeping in mind that all children’s needs are different, so are the toys available to you. While some are designed with sensory issues in mind, others may be created to use as a fine motor development tool or a behavioral therapy aid. Excellent resources are available to help him explore and expand on skills learned during his ABA and behavioral therapy sessions. Our dedicated team at the Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center has compiled a list of helpful, educational resources so you can navigate through the available options.
ABA and Behavioral Therapy and the Role of Toys
Toys have always been much more than just a playtime prop. They help children learn, explore, share, and create. Toys offer a way for children of all ages to interact socially with each other, to bond with their parents or caregivers, as well as learn a variety of life skills. In ABA and behavioral therapy, toys are used by the therapists to help children communicate, cope, learn through pretend play, or practice and work on additional skills and concerns, including:
- Fine motor skills
- Gross motor skills
- Social skills
- Sensory issues
- Communication skills
- Sequencing skills
- Cause and effect
During your child’s time in ABA therapy, you’ll come to notice toys in use throughout different sessions. Therapists utilize toys during speech and behavioral therapy, for example, to help build a connection with your child. Through the use of toys as tools, his therapists are better able to teach cooperative skills, develop communication skills, and strengthen or reteach necessary behavior changes as part of his plan.
Why Invest in Toys?
Finding the appropriate toys for your child can take a bit of time, effort, and research. Let us help you cut down on the hours it can take to find toy options that are right for your child’s needs. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for your family.
Toys have always been a source of fun as well as exploration for children. Young children, in particular, learn best through play beginning at an early age. Many schools and daycare programs have adopted play-based educational practices — and with good reason. Children are given a chance to learn through their play. It allows them to absorb, create, and experiment through collaborative play as well as individual exploration. Many of their ABA goals can be met through these play-based practices.
When we consider the individual needs of children with disabilities, it is helpful to view toys as therapeutic tools. This view can help guide you through your selections. Early intervention practices in your child’s ABA, behavioral therapy, and other sessions are an essential part of the learning process. Providing toys at home that are designed with his abilities and goals in mind offers a beneficial extension of his therapy.
Best Toys for Building Sensory Skills
For many children with autism, working through sensory concerns can make toy selection more difficult.
The Fidget Toys Bundle Sensory Set is always a top recommendation. It offers the perfect opportunity to keep your child’s hands occupied through grasping or manipulating. These toys are carefully designed to create a sense of calm and relaxation for your child’s sensory concerns. This bundle includes items and sensory opportunities that are fantastic for practicing various ABA techniques at home. Families have found this particular sensory toy set is especially helpful for their children with:
A sensory table is always an excellent choice for any child. The Autism Community Store offers an array of items for your child’s individual needs, including the Sand ‘n Splash Activity Table. This table allows your child to explore through multiple options of your choosing, including water, sand, and rice. With two areas available for separate filling, children are encouraged to create and experiment while you work with them through their speech, social, and behavioral therapy lessons. It is the perfect toy to touch upon a variety of your child’s ABA goals.
What Toys are for Perfecting Fine Motor Abilities?
Puzzles are an excellent resource. They help strengthen your child’s fine motor abilities, hand-eye coordination, and a multitude of other skills you can incorporate with his ABA plans. One such puzzle is the Fishing Magnetic Puzzle. Designed with beautiful, bold colors to catch your child’s attention, the magnetic fishing pole and puzzle pieces encourage your child to work on several ABA skills. Your child will be engaged while working on fine motor skills, his communication skills, and expand his knowledge of underwater creatures!
What toys assist with Building Skills?
You’ll find many therapy centers, daycares, and schools have some version of the Basic Skills Board. It offers a wide range of tasks that help children practice fine motor skills and life skills in a fun way. It is a beneficial toy for all children; it is one that genuinely engages and teaches vital tasks that kids with special needs can greatly benefit from. This brightly decorated board helps your child learn to lace, buckle, button, connect, and snap. Combined with strategies worked on during ABA therapy, you’ll be able to strengthen your child’s fine motor skills while he is unknowingly working on his self-dressing skills through play.
Why we love Melissa and Doug: Taking Back Childhood
When searching for toys that are designed to meet the needs of your child, be sure to stop by Melissa and Doug. Their mission to “take back childhood” stems from the belief that children learn through play, curiosity, and exploration. The educational toys they offer can help your child with several skills from strengthening cognitive, social, and emotional skills to the ability to focus. Find the right toys to help promote the behavioral therapy lessons he’s currently learning and expanding on. Or browse through their insightful tips and shared stories. Conveniently sorted by target developmental skills, their website is an excellent source of educational toys and resources for families and children with special needs.
There are many skill-building activities and toys to choose from, and their layout makes it simple to find resources that match your child’s abilities and needs. The Scissor Skills Activity Book helps you work with your child to practice cognitive and fine motor skills, as well as school readiness tasks. The activity book provides pre-printed pages of fun and engaging cutting tasks. Your child will safely learn to hold, manipulate, and cut through images, projects, and mazes with plastic safety scissors.
More Than Just Toys
At Autism-Products.com, you’ll find a world of resources you are sure to return to for many of your child’s wants and needs. With the motto “Supplying pieces to solve the puzzle,” they truly do just that. From toys to clothing and equipment, they offer solutions for many families with children on the autism spectrum.
The benefits of a Sensory Pea Pod
Although it is technically a piece of furniture, the Sensory Pea Pod can be your child’s sensory haven, reading corner, imaginary play prop, and so much more. It’s an easily inflatable pea pod that works as a pressure cocoon; perfect for children with autism. The pod can apply pressure to sensitive areas of your child’s body to create the ideal amount of pressure to soothe and relax him. It’s genius pod shape also allows you or your child to provide a gentle, rocking motion. This and similar items are helpful tools you may often see used in behavioral therapy centers. And now you can have one in your home as well!
Parents Speak Up
We don’t want you to just take our team’s word on the best toys out there for your child. Many parents around the web have also shared insightful tips and reviews on toys and resources that have worked wonders for their child’s needs.
Soothing Swing for the Home
There are a variety of swings used in behavioral therapy centers and schools to help calm children with autism while offering posture support and more. Little Tikes offers an in-home version that many parents rave about. The 2–in–1 Snug ‘n Secure Swing is designed to support vestibular function, aid in posture control, and help your little one’s spacial awareness and visual development. It offers a fun and calming rocking in the comfort of your home.
Learn and Play Without the Excess
Parents shared their love of the Simple First Words: Let’s Talk toy for their children with autism. One of the most highly pointed out features of this toy is the fact that its sounds are limited; making it a less distracting learning toy for their child. It’s fantastic to use while helping define his fine motor, social, and emotional skills, and hand-eye coordination. It encourages your child to look through pictures while matching them with the images on the sound button bar. He’ll press to hear the word spoken to him, without the additional distracting noises or music to interfere. Parents often mention the hours of education and engagement this activity book provides.
A Gaming System with Benefits
We realize there are many debates out there over gaming systems for any child. It is certainly worth hearing the reviews of parents of children with autism who have used it with great success. When you break it down into benefits relating to skills your child is likely working on during ABA and behavioral therapy, it’s not so hard to see why many families rank Xbox 360 Gaming System with Kinect high on their recommended list.
Some of the benefits parents shared include:
- Your child can develop a sense of his movement and self-awareness with his avatar
- Sensors track and mimic their full and precise body movements, giving them the control of each activity
- Promotes attention span, visual tracking, cognitive processing, reasoning and reaction skills
- Supports gross motor moments, including:
- Arm and leg movements
- Swaying/weight shifting
Whether you’re in favor of children using gaming systems or not, the Xbox with Kinect does seem to offer many pros that parents have found to outweigh the cons in their households.
Rounding out the list of highly recommended toys by parents of children with special needs is the smart tablet. While there is an abundance to choose from, we’re sharing thoughts based on smart tablets for your child in general.
So why would so many parents recommend smart tablets as a top go-to toy for their child with special needs? If you’re living in an area where your school system has already implemented to use of tablets in the classroom, it may be easier to understand. Smart tablets can serve a wonderful, educational purpose when used as intended.
Many parents shared that with proper monitoring, tablets provide an educational experience. Choosing apps that are appropriate for his individual needs and abilities can provide engagement, promote attention span, and encourage self-paced learning and critical thinking. Touch screen pads offer the practice of fine motor skills when asked to tap or drag items. Games, including matching, tracing, and sequencing, also help further skills your child is working on during his ABA and behavioral therapy sessions.
Smart tablets can offer a way to help your child communicate. Through various apps, your child can communicate through drawing, writing, or text to talk. Tippy Talk is an innovative tool that provides a fun and interactive way for your non-verbal child to communicate by selecting images to express emotions or activities. Through his various selections, sentences are created and used to send text messages, such as “mom, I’m feeling sleepy.” The leaps and bounds technology has made provides incredible tools for families to take advantage of!
As with any toy or activity, you can use it as part of your child’s positive reinforcement when implementing his ABA and behavioral therapy plan. We encourage families to enjoy this time of play with their children. Not only will it strengthen your bond, but his ability to form new behaviors and skills you are all working so hard to achieve. Looking for an ABA Center for your child or have additional questions we might answer for you? Contact us today!