25 Gift Ideas for Children with Special Needs
It’s the time of year for spreading holiday cheer, so we at Hopebridge set out to help Santa and his elves come up with some of the best gift ideas for kids with autism. It can be challenging to find the perfect present for children on the spectrum who may not be into this year’s trending toys or could be overwhelmed by the latest gadgets. If you need a little assistance imagining your kiddo’s wish list, we broke down some of our favorite gifts into five fun categories for toddlers and early learners with special needs.
Before we get to the goods, here are a few extra tips to keep in mind for shopping for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
- It does not require tons of money to make the holidays special.
Rather than flooding your child with gifts, consider choosing a few select items, 8 nights of super simple presents for Hanukkah, or buying one big Christmas gift alongside smaller stocking stuffers.
- You do not need to buy new in order for it to feel new to your child.
Check out Facebook Marketplace or your community’s mom groups to scan for items that will make your kid happy. Many parents sell or give away toys their children have grown out of in order to make room for new toys, so use it to your advantage. Activity cubes, balance bikes, Legos, push toys, doll houses, train sets and more pop up all the time and are often still in excellent shape.
- In addition to your child’s interests, keep developmental and sensory needs in mind.
It is ok if your child’s list does not look like others’ of his or her age. You may choose to gift toys intended for children younger than your own, but are more appropriate for your kid’s developmental needs. The important part is that he or she will enjoy it and remain safe using it, plus learning by playing is a bonus!
Download the Hopebridge Autism-Friendly Holiday Guide
Hopebridge created a special holiday guide packed full of easy-to-use resources for those looking to make this season more inclusive and accessible for the autism community.
Gift Ideas for Active Play and Enhancing Gross Motor Skills
- Wonder Space Deluxe Kids Round Ball Pit
Finally, a ball pit you won’t mind displaying in your living room! This smooth, soft and durable round ball pit comes in a variety of pastels and grayscales to create the nursery or playroom of your Instagram #decorcrushing dreams, all while keeping your kiddo happy rolling around in hundreds of equally beautiful crush-proof plastic balls.
- Intex Playhouse Jump-O-Lene Inflatable Bouncer
If you’re searching for that one special big ticket item to wow your kid, look no further. This indoor bounce house provides a great opportunity to get out those wiggles. At around $50, this is one of the less expensive play gyms on the market but still provides a ton of fun for one or two kids at a time.
- Little Tikes Easy Store 3-Ft. Trampoline
Another great energy-burner, your kiddo will have a blast jumping up and down on this mini trampoline. Its size and handle provide a safer activity than larger options, plus is easier to store inside the home.
- Play Tunnels
From crawling to hiding to bending into various shapes, your little one can create his or her own adventures and build gross motor skills with one (or a few) of these lightweight tunnels in the living room, play room or backyard.
- Little Tikes Cozy Coupe
Here’s a toy you probably remember from your own wish list! The classic red and yellow car got a facelift with this 30th anniversary version, but it’s still perfect for scooting around indoors or outdoors. Your kiddo can use it to explore his or her imagination while also working those little legs.
Toys for Building Fine Motor Skills
Green Toys Tool Kit
- Green Toys Pretend Play Tool Set
We love this brand, which not only provides tons of fun through its imagination-building options, but also offers environmentally friendly and easy-to-wash toys made from recycled plastic. The tool set is great for fun and learning at almost any age, from simply grasping the tools to actively screwing or hammering.
- Buckle Toy Airplane
At first glance it may look like another stuffed toy, but this airplane (whales, penguins, crabs and more also available) encourages a range of fine motor skills, cognitive skills, hand-eye coordination and problem-solving thanks to its child-friendly buckles and zipper.
- Manhattan Toy Playful Wooden Pony Toy
A twist on the traditional activity cube, this animal-shaped toy includes multiple play surfaces with bead runs, peg mazes and spinning dials in enjoyable colors. Your child won’t even realize he or she is learning while playing with this pony.
- Melissa & Doug Magnetic Towing Game
Here is another toy that will satisfy a range of ages and skills. What starts as a simple wooden puzzle can also help your kiddo learn numbers and colors, as well as develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination once he or she is ready to use the magnetic tow truck piece.
- Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set
With names like Gator Grabber Tweezers, Handy Scoopers, Twisty Droppers and Squeezy Tweezers, this set is bound to entertain. These safe little tools strengthen hand muscles needed for writing but are disguised in fun when using them to pick up small objects or engaging in water play.
Gift Ideas for Creativity
jackinthebox Superhero DIY Cape and Mask
- jackinthebox Superhero DIY Dress Up Art and Craft Kit
You already know your kid is a superhero, so let him or her dress like one while adding their own flair into the mix. This do-it-yourself kit includes a cape, mask and power cuffs, plus embellishments to spark creativity while practicing those crafting skills at the same time.
- Melissa & Doug Water Wow Coloring Book
From a parent perspective, this might be the best “coloring book” ever created because this no-mess activity book can be used over and over again. All your little one has to do is fill the “pen” with water, color to review the hidden pictures and let it dry before doing it all over again. Buy a couple and plan to leave one at home and one in the car for outings.
- Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads in a Box
With beads in tons of shapes, colors and numbers to choose from, this gift will encourage little hands to design their own creations on a string. The large beads and big holes make the act of lacing easier for young kids, which is a great stepping stone to traditional jewelry kits.
- WikkiStix Basic Shapes
A wonderful stocking stuffer, WikkiStix are educational and entertaining. Use them to teach kids shapes, letters and numbers, or let them bend the sticks around to mold something entirely new.
- Motion Sand Kit
It’s a beach in a box! This non-toxic motion sand is easy to sculpt and easy to clean up (a huge bonus for parents!). In addition to the seemingly magical sand, the kit comes with cute molds and tools to stimulate creativity and enhance manipulative ability.
Toys for Communication and Imaginative Play
Janod Green Market Grocery from Fat Brain Toys
- Janod Green Market Grocery
A play kitchen is great, but a mock grocery store can be even more educational and fun. This green market grocery stand not only teaches your little one about fruits and veggies, it includes a cash register, play money, scale, clock, chalkboard and bags. Introduce a few pieces at a time and use it to practice counting money, politely purchase items at a store and more.
- First 100 Words Books
These brightly colored books are engaging tools for young learners, verbal or not. There are a range of options to choose from, from the original, “First 100 Words,” to versions that focus on animals, numbers, colors, shapes, foods, phrases and more. There are also sticker books for the kids who are ready to participate a bit more in the reading.
- Mr. Potato Head
Another blast from your past, Mr. Potato Head is a classic toy that does not go out of style. It’s great for learning about body parts, building fine motor skills and engaging in imaginative play. If your kiddo is a fan of Toy Story, it’s all the more reason to go with this gift.
- Infantino Press and Stay Sensory Blocks
These uniquely shaped blocks are easy to push together or pull apart from any angle, making them ideal for stacking while eliminating frustration. These are intended for ages 6 months and older, but don’t let the number fool you…kids of all ages have fun with these for years. Still not convinced? These blocks won a 2017 Autism Live Top Toy Award.
- Nature World Animals
A bucket of animal toys may seem simple, but kids will go crazy over these little figurines. Choose from farm animals or safari animals to encourage imaginative play and foster vocabulary development.
Gift Ideas for Sensory Fun and Calming
Spectrum Surprise Box from Spectrum Sense for Moms
- Spectrum Surprise Box
Designed specifically for kids on the autism spectrum, this is the gift that keeps giving. Each curated monthly box comes with toys and tools to improve sensory integration, communication and regulation; an awareness item; visual aids; and a hand-crafted sensory play kit for use on the go or at home. The box is $37 for a single order or can be purchased in 3-month or 6-month subscriptions at a discounted cost.
- Weighted Plush Dragon Throw Pillow
You may already have a weighted blanket in your house, but this cute and cuddly stuffed animal doubles as a pillow while providing your kiddo the same pressured comfort. It makes a great accent for any bedroom or playroom and will be equally appealing under the tree.
- Flip Sequin Stuffed Animal
From dinosaurs to penguins to turtles to unicorns, there is surely a reversible sequined stuffed toy to suit your child. Keep in mind these are not the most snuggly of toys, so some children with sensory sensitivities may not enjoy them, but the act of flipping the sequins to expose a new color can be a surprising yet soothing experience for many.
- OUTREE Kids Pod Swing Seat
Create a calming nook for your child to swing or spin with this hanging hammock chair. It comes in a variety of colors to match almost any space and can be used indoors or outdoors.
- Star Light Rotating Projector
Use this as a beautiful night light or enjoy a wonderful show of stars with this projector. It offers single color options or can create a galaxy of lights in the room. This can be fun on its own or used as a soothing tool during challenging moments.
Did we miss any great gifting ideas for kids with autism? Share what presents your kiddo will be opening on Christmas or Hanukkah on our Hopebridge Facebook page.
To make this season extra special for your entire family, check out even more autism-friendly holiday tips for you and your child on our blog.