Buying holiday or birthday toys for children can be challenging, but even more so if the recipient has autism. You want to make sure to buy them something they can enjoy, not just some toy that will go unused, gathering dust for years to come.
It’s important to understand that like everyone, all children with autism are different. They all have different needs and different hobbies. That being said, I’ve worked around many autistic children and I’ve noticed that they often do share the same interests.
How to buy Toys for Autistic Children: Make it safe
The first step in buying a toy for autistic children is to make sure that they’re safe. I’ve noticed that quite often, children with autism will chew on their toys. This may be because oral sensitivities are common with this disability, but no matter the reason, you want to make sure your toy is safe. You may want to avoid buying any toy that is small and easily swallowed, for example, marbles. You’ll also want to avoid any toys that are sharp and could hurt the child, though this is with any children, not just those who are autistic.
Autistic children can become frustrated easily. When this happens, they have a hard time expressing their feelings, and it can result in tantrums, or worse, them hurting themselves. To make sure this doesn’t happen, don’t be afraid to get toys that are under the autistic child age range. I’ve know of many autistic teenagers who love playing with toys made for kindergarten age children. They’re easy to play with, easy to understand, fun, safe, colorful… why shouldn’t they like those toys?
Not all autistic children will need or want toys under their age group, but this is something to keep in mind when looking to buy toys. Being willing to buy, or at least look at toys in any age group will give you far more to pick from. This will then increase your chances of finding something they love. As long as the autistic child loves their toy, that’s all that matters.
How to buy Toys for Autistic Children: Common Interests
As I mentioned earlier, while every autistic child is different, it’s not uncommon for them to share common interests. The two biggest common interests I’ve seen among autistic children are fascinations with textures and music.
Autistic children have sensory issues. They often have trouble tuning things out the way we can. For example, when they enter a store, their sense may sudden be bombarded with all the lights, the colors, the sounds, the temperatures, dozens of people, how all these people are moving… you get the idea. That’s enough to overwhelm anyone. This can be hard to live with, so instead, embrace it. Try looking for toys that will allow autistic children to focus their senses.
I’ve noticed that many autistic children seem to be fascinated by toys with unique textures. It helps them focus their senses on that object, which seems to calm and relax most children. Because of this, toys with unique textures can be a great gift idea. They’re also very easy to find.
If you’re looking for a rough toy, try buying a spiky ball. They’re soft enough to not be dangerous for young children, but rough enough to make them interesting. They can also be found in any toy section of a store. You could pair it with a smooth glitter ball to make the toys even more fascinating.
Music is another common interest for many autistic children. They seem to love both listening and making music. If you don’t mind the noise, try buying a cheap drum set, tambourine, rain-stick, recorder, shaker, or any other musical instrument you can find. All of these toys can be easily found, especially around the holiday. If you think your child would be more interested in listening to music, consider getting a cheap mp3 player, or radio for them to listen to.
How to buy Toys for Autistic Children: Personalize it
Asperger syndrome is a disorder in the autism spectrum. Many children who have Asperger have very specific interests or hobbies. This can also be true with children who are autistic. When shopping for toys, ask yourself what the child likes to do in his or her spare time. Some autistic children love art while others love animals or pets. If you can figure out what their interests are, you’ll have a much easier time getting them toys that they’ll enjoy.
Some autistic children may have odd interests and fascinations, such as cereal boxes, shoes, or magnets. That’s okay too. You may not want to run out to the store and purchase every brand of cereal you find, but you can use this to your advantage whiling buying toys.
Try thinking about why it is they like that specific object. If they like stacking those cereal boxes, maybe they’d enjoy some large cardboard blocks to play with. If they enjoy playing with the laces on shoes, how about buying a jump rope? Maybe not to play with as a toy, but the texture of a jump rope and a shoe lace are awfully similar. If they love magnets, perhaps they’re fascinated by the invisible force that propels them. Any type of parachute toys would probably interest them as well. You’re only limited by your creativity.
Autistic children aren’t as different as they may seem. At the end of the day, we all have odd interests and hobbies. Children who are autistic just tend to embrace them more than others. They may seem a little odd or quirky, but who isn’t? Embrace their interests and personalities and you’ll be sure to buy great toys this holiday season.