Published On: November 30, 2021
Updated On: November 17, 2022
Getting children gifts for the holidays can be massively rewarding – but also frustrating if you don’t know what to get. Deciding what to buy a child with autism will be based on their unique personalities, needs, and toys that will bring them joy and learning opportunities.
In this blog, we’ll go over the following:
- What gift should I get a child with autism?
- What are sensory toys?
- Where can I buy sensory toys?
- What are the best gifts for kids with autism?
- Other autism and holiday tips
We hope these help get a little bit of holiday nervousness out of the way while helping you choose some amazing toys for a child with autism.
What Gift Should I Get a Child with Autism?
Finding a gift for children with autism is no different than any other child – the goal is to get them something they are interested in and will derive enjoyment from. This means finding a gift that fits their level of ability or educational gifts to help them enjoy a topic they’re already familiar with.
We recommend making gift-giving fun and easy without putting too much pressure on the child to interact with a gift immediately. If you are buying a gift for someone else’s child with autism, make sure to ask about their specific interests and how they learn best, so you can come up with great holiday gift ideas.
What Are Sensory Toys?
A sensory toy is a play object or game designed to stimulate one or more of the senses. These are often more appealing to children with autism, as they can help provide sensory experiences that comfort them, calm them down, or appropriately stimulates their brain.
Children with autism can benefit by engaging their senses during playtime, and a sensory toy will provide positive feedback and association between the toy and the action itself. It’s especially valuable if the toy has sensory integration for secondary education opportunities such as sorting, counting, or reading.
Where Can I Buy Sensory Toys?
It is always most important to consider the specific child and their interests rather than simply purchasing a toy deemed ‘sensory appropriate’ or ‘for sensory needs.’ Depending on how needs-specific a sensory toy is, you can get a gift for kids with autism at the following spots:
- Local toy stores (we love supporting local Arizona businesses.)
- Websites that sell toys specifically for children with sensory needs
- Amazon and other online retailers have ‘Sensory Toy’ sections
- You can make your own sensory toys and activities
Sensory toys come in all shapes, sizes, and types. Make sure to ask your child’s ABA therapist about what they recommend – they likely have experience using sensory toys and determining which ones are good for children with autism.
What Are the Best Gifts for Kids with Autism?
While there is no such thing as a perfect gift for all children with autism, these are some excellent autism gift ideas that you should consider purchasing:
Sensory pods are great ways to give children on the autism spectrum a comfortable space to engage in hobbies, read, and appreciate a space that calms them down.
Many kids love music and books on tape, especially those with autism. Headphones can get them excited about accessing their favorite media with a cool new toy.
Legos or other Building Sets
Legos are the classic building block set, but there are a host of other great options. Regardless, getting a child with autism a toy that has world-building, direction following, and spatial recognition is an ideal combination.
Whether it’s a favorite topic or a new one, children with autism love to learn. Make sure to get ability-appropriate books.
Puzzles or Brain Teasers
Another fun way to challenge the mind is through problem-solving games like puzzles and brainteasers. These are great gifts for any child who loves to learn.
This versatile children’s toy encourages the growth of fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, sensory learning, and tactile exploration in one compact box.
Collectible card games or dynamic board games are some of the best gifts for teens with autism or children who have developed social skills. They’ll be able to organize, learn rules, and compete with friends and family members.
Tablets for watching movies, playing games, or educational activities can be a relatively affordable way to give some fun tech to a child with autism. There are great deals on refurbished or used ones if a new tablet is too expensive.
LED Light Projectors
LED displays that can project stars or other landscapes are amazing for children who like more passive versions of sensory stimulation.
Weighted blankets are among the most sought-after sensory comforting gifts for children with autism. They often become a go-to for relaxation and decompression time for children.
It is always important to balance function with fun while giving gifts to children. Children with autism will still be most helped by a gift they are strongly interested in – and there’s no harm in asking them what toys they like, too.
Fidget toys such as fidget spinners are great for helping children with autism concentrate in otherwise distracting environments. These toys tend to have soft or smooth surfaces resulting in a calming effect and reducing anxiety. There are also less distracting fidget toys like putty, which promote optimal focus for your child while still allowing them to fidget.
This “squeezable sand” is a great way for children with autism to practice motor skills as well as develop and communicate their imagination by forming their sand into whatever strikes their fancy. The silky texture of the sand also provides relaxing sensory experiences as well, providing a calming effect for anyone who gives it a go.
Other Autism and Holiday Tips
Holiday time can be stressful for anyone, especially for children with autism if they are uncomfortable or overwhelmed. We encourage you to do the following:
- Have a routine for travel or guests.
- Have an escape route or safe area where your child can relax if need be.
- Let any guests or relatives know the best ways to help accommodate your child.
- Remember that holidays are supposed to be fun and not stressful.
- Keep favorite foods, books, and toys available.
Making sure your child can be comfortable and generalize their positive learned behaviors to new settings will help immensely. Ask your ABA therapist or clinician if they have any recommendations for the best strategies to do this, as well.
Ally Pediatric Therapy Can Help This Holiday Season
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we love seeing children and their families celebrate holidays to the fullest. Part of achieving this is reducing the stress that might come with gift-giving or other holiday activities.
Our team of licensed therapists has decades of experience helping families achieve this, and we’d love to work with you and your child with autism. Please reach out to us if you’re looking for ABA therapy and other autism solutions you can trust this year. We’d love to help.