The holiday season is fast approaching, and along with it comes the need to do some Christmas shopping! Finding the right gift for a disabled child can be challenging, especially when you are on the hunt for something truly special.
Even though all children are more alike than they are different and disabled children enjoy the same activities as any other child, gifts for those with special needs may take more thought and effort. If you want to make a world of difference to the disabled child on your gift list, consider any of the wonderful stocking stuffer ideas below.
Fine motor skills toys
Small gifts placed in the depths of a stocking are the perfect opportunity to encourage your child to work on his or her fine motor skills. This is good for any child, disabled or not.
1. Coloring: This may be a classic, but that is for good reason. Kids of all ages love to color and create. Pick up some new coloring books, plain paper, colored pencils, crayons, or markers for the gift of creativity.
Tip: Roll up the paper and coloring books so they fit inside a stocking easily and don't take up too much room.
- Crafting: This is a broad category that leaves plenty of room for you to find something your child will really love. Whether they love to paint, build, or tinker with making their own jewelry, the aisles of your local craft or dollar store will have tons of products you can slide into their sock. With everything from safety scissors and glue to paints and construction paper, the fantastic selection will make this year's shopping an easy task.
- Miscellaneous: Stickers and tape are wonderful for learning how to control fine muscle movements. Other fun choices include i play foam, bubbles, clay, Play-Doh, both musical and non-musical fidget spinners, and Wow Cups (cups that do not let any liquid inside spill out but look more grown-up than sippy cups).
Finding creative ways to turn attention away from situations with high levels of stress can be tricky. By encouraging your child to play with a distraction toy that focuses on exploring and escaping, you are giving them the ability to calm themselves quietly until the situation is resolved.
- Meteor Storm: This fabulous toy from Playopolis requires children to press and hold down a button to watch the display of lights that change continuously. To turn off the light show, they must release the button. It is available in two sizes: a mini-size with a breakaway cord for wearing around the neck, and the original large globe version.
- Puzzles: Although these help with fine motor skills as well, puzzles are great as distraction toys because the child needs to focus and concentrate on putting the pieces together correctly, allowing them to tune out the original stressor. With a large variety of themes and piece sizes, you are sure to find something that your child will love.
- Tubes: Whether you choose to purchase one already made, or construct your own, tubes are great for distracting kids. Some contain spinning glitter, rotating lights, cascading beads, or even music.
Visual skills toys
Depending on what grabs your child’s attention, visual toys can make excellent additions to the Christmas stocking.
- Build sets: There are huge sets available which certainly will not fit inside a sock, but many companies offer smaller travel sizes that fit perfectly. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials, build sets allow your child to create something special they can really be proud of.
- Light up toys: A wide variety of toys that light up when pushed, turned, or moved in a certain way line retail shelves. With everything from wands to cubes, they give plenty of visual stimulation and provide an opportunity to work on the names of colors.
- Hand puppets: Since you can make your own or buy them, finding the perfect hand puppet for your child's likes and dislikes shouldn't be difficult. Along with encouraging creative play, puppets focus a child’s attention on the visual aspect of playing.
Auditory skills toys
It is just as important to provide auditory stimulation for your child as it is to exercise the body and improve any other sense. Here are a few ideas that just might inspire your search for the best stocking stuffers:
- Microphones: Kids enjoy vocalizing in a variety of ways, and microphones allow them to shout it out to the world. Some play music to sing along to while others change the way their voice sounds, creating hours of playtime fun for your child.
2. Music: Music plays to several different emotions and can be used to reduce stress and relax. Not only will musical devices enable your child to vocalize words and sounds, but depending on the preference of your child, they can also be useful as learning tools for encouraging speech. Purchase a new CD if they have a favorite musician, or consider introducing them to the wonders of an MP3 player and iTunes.
- Cuddle toys: We all need comfort at some point, and children with special needs may feel the sensory urge more than most. Numerous squeezable friends play music either at the push of a button or when they are hugged. Pick up a small one your child can easily carry around with them.
Each child is at their own level when it comes to learning and what they can participate in, but these general ideas will put you on the right track.
- Card games: While even a plain package of cards will do for teaching numbers and sequences, there are tons of card-based games available, like Apples to Apples or Monopoly Go. You are sure to find the perfect deck to stimulate and engage your child.
- Memory games: These come in several different styles, including flash cards and board game versions, so you can work on everything from colors and shapes to letters and pictures. Your child will engage in passive learning while fine-tuning their concentration skills at the same time.
- Electronics: Hand-held versions of game systems and other products, like LeapFrog, are the perfect medium to work with your child on everything from reading and writing to math and science. There are thousands of programs and games available at varying difficulty levels, many featuring some of today's most popular characters.
Taking the time to consider the most appropriate gift for the circumstances and ability of your child will pay off big time on Christmas morning. Rather than simply grabbing the old standbys like socks, candy, and lip balm, the care you take to make certain your gifts are enjoyed will be worth every moment it took to find them.