If you’re looking for unique gift ideas, you’re in the right place. Chosen to help develop skills like fine and gross motor skills, balance, socialization, and more, these gifts are fun and functional. The variety of gifts mean you can find presents for children with physical disabilities and/or intellectual disabilities. Many of the toys help children with autism meet their sensory needs too.
We’ve organized these gifts by price so you can find the perfect holiday or birthday gift to meet your child’s needs.
Tips When Choosing Gifts for Children With Special Needs
If you’re looking for a gift and you aren’t the parent:
- Talk to the child’s mom or dad
- The child’s parents will know the most about his or her interests, likes/dislikes, and abilities
- Consider the child’s interests
- Do they enjoy animals? Maybe tickets to the zoo would be a hit. It might also be overwhelming, so maybe a book on animals would be better. That’s why step one is so important.
- Do they love Thomas the Train? Elmo? All things Disney? Cups, plates, toys, and clothing with favorite characters are all possible gifts.
- Consider the child’s abilities and special needs.
- Is the child blind? Consider a toy with music or different textures. In contrast, if the child is deaf, toys with lights and bright colors will be a bigger hit than toys with sound. Some autistic children have sensory-seeking or sensory-avoiding behavior, ask them or their parents if there is anything they really dislike (for example, clothes with tags).
- Think about the child’s developmental age, too. While many children who are chronologically nine can ride a bike, play video games, and read books, not all children with special needs can. Some may not have the physical abilities, some may have learning disabilities, some may just be behind their peers developmentally, and some can do all of these activities. It’s important to think about the specific child you are buying for, and not just pick any toy on the shelves.
If you’re looking for a gift and you are the parent:
- You know your child best. You know his or her interests and abilities. You know the things she loves or the things he hates. Choose what your child will enjoy, what works for their developmental age works. The gift should meet their skill level or be slightly challenging, but not so hard that it’s frustrating.
- Make a long list of ideas so you can share them with others who want to buy your child a gift but aren’t sure where to get started. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends will thank you. If you need some additional ideas, ask your child’s therapist or teacher.
- Add a few fun gifts that will encourage skills that your child needs to work on. For example, glitter therapy putty is fun to play with and also helps build hand strength and fine motor skills.
- Make sure you have batteries for your child’s toys, if needed.
- Assemble the toy beforehand so your child doesn’t need to wait.
- If your child struggles to unwrap gifts, put them in gift bags with a couple pieces of tissue paper instead.
- If it is too stressful or overwhelming for your child to open all of their gifts in one day, spread out the gift opening time (do some on Christmas Eve, throughout Christmas Day, and even the following days if needed or let your child open one gift on each night of Hanukkah)
35 Gifts for Children with Special Needs
Organized by price, so you can find the perfect present that fits your budget!
1. Toss & Catch
Most children learn how to throw before they learn how to catch. Putting together the gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and reaction speed for catching is hard.
The Toss & Catch makes it easier for younger children and children who lack certain motor skills to play catch. The large hook surface catches the loop tennis ball and holds it in place.
The fun game lets your child play with others and build skills at the same time (like putting their hand in the right place to catch the ball). It’s a great tool for your child to start work towards catching it in their hands or a mitt.
Looking for a fun sensory toy? Crystal Bead Balls are stretchable, squeezable balls filled with tiny colored beads. The latex-free balls can be squeezed for stress relief. It can also be tossed between hands or used to play catch.
The ball also makes a great fidget tool to use in the classroom or when working on homework. The balls offer visual and tactile sensory stimulation for children with autism or sensory processing disorders.
Putty is fun to play with! Stretching, squeezing, twisting, rolling, smashing, pulling, cutting, shaping, molding, and making the possible uses are endless. And while your child plays with therapy putty, like Sammons Preston Glitter Putty, they are also strengthening their hands and improving their fine motor skills. This makes it an excellent gift for children who are visually impaired or blind or any child who needs to work on their fine motor skills.
The visually stimulating glitter putty is available in pink or blue. If you’re looking for a new fun game, hide small plastic toys in the putty. Your child will enjoy working to uncover Batman, Thomas the Train, or whoever their favorite character is and will be working their hands at the same time. Putty is a fun tool that also offers the sensory input some children with autism crave.
Wild tosses and silly throws are part of the fun with this Foam Bowling Set. It’s perfect for children who don’t have the strength to throw a regular bowling ball, or lack the coordination to throw it properly down the lane, or don’t have the ability to cope with the sensory input at a bowling alley.
The lightweight set is easy to set up for play during rainy days or anytime your child wants to bowl. Between-the-legs or overhead throws are fine with this set as well. The foam ensures the ball won’t damage anything if the throw ends up hitting your wall instead of the pins. It’s also a great tool for modeling and practicing how to bowl before heading to an actual bowling alley.
Playing on a balance beam is a fun part of beginner gymnastics. It’s also a great way for children to improve their balance skills. This Foam Balance Beam is safe and affordable. The low-height makes it safe for beginners.
You can start by holding your child’s hand for support as they walk along the beam. As their balance improves, they can walk independently or even hop.
The beam can also be used to feed their imagination. It can be a highwire in a circus, a fallen log across a stream, or anything else they can think of for imaginative play that also improves their balance skills.
Bean Bags are great toys because they are so versatile. They are often easier to throw than a ball and don’t roll away, making them less frustrating for children with poor coordination.
Your child can toss the bean bag in the air to work on catching skills as it comes comes back down. Or throw bean bags into buckets, hula hoops, or the hole on a cornhole board to work on aim. Or balance the bean bag on their head as they walk on a balance beam or a strip of tape (add obstacles to increased the challenge). Or pass it around in a circle for a game of ‘Hot Potato’.
Or hide the bean bags and have your child find them (you can give clues like ‘it’s near something green’, or use the classic ‘hot and cold’ prompts). Or have your child balance the bean bag on different body parts and time how long they can keep it there.
Or sing along to “Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?”, while passing the bean bag. When the rhyme ends, the person holding the bean bag picks a number. You then pass the bean bag that number of times and the person left holding the bean bag is out. There are so many possible games when playing with bean bags that it’s easy to adapt the games to fit your child’s special needs.
All children like to be creative, but not all children have the fine motor skills for drawing or painting independently. These Adaptive Art Tools can be used left or right handed, making them a great choice for all children, including those who haven’t decided on a dominant hand.
The Universal Art Tool Holder has a cuff that goes over your child’s hand and a palmar pocket that holds the tool in place for painting or drawing. The T-Bar Brush Holder can be used for paint brushes or crayons. The large handle is easier to grasp and hold than skinny crayons.
Less of a toy, but a bit more practical, TheraBand Resistance Bands are great tools for strengthening muscles. This set includes three bands with resistance levels from 3 lbs. to 4.6 lbs.
Perfect for physical therapy, the bands can be used for bicep curls, lateral raises, hip extension and abduction chest presses, and squats, and other upper and lower extremity exercises. Plus, they are easy to store when not in use.
Scooters have always been a favorite toy in gym class. They are also used in physical and occupational therapy. Fun for kids, the boards help build gross motor skills and core strength. Kids can scoot while lying on their belly or sitting cross-legged on the board. They can be used for at-home therapy, if recommended by your therapist.
Scooter boards can also be used for sensory input. They give vestibular input to children who seek sensory input. The boards can also be used to work on sensory integration skills in children who are sensitive to movement.
Looking for ways to get started? Your child can get started by doing timed races on the scooter board. They can also lay on the board and scoot from one location to pick up a puzzle piece to another location to put it together as part of the puzzle. The puzzle activity works fine and gross motor skills at the same time.
Or have your child sit on the board and scoot around collecting stuffed animals placed throughout the room to deliver them to another location (like a box decorated to be the animals’ home). The boards are a great choice for children with sensory processing disorder, ADHD, autism, or physical disabilities.
The large wooden beads in this lacing set are easy to grasp, making them a great toy for children who struggle with fine motor skills. Your child can start by picking up the beads and sorting them by color or shape. As their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination improve, the beads can be strung on the two extra long laces.
Play together by having your child complete a strand and then recreating the pattern yourself. Then your child can work to recreate a pattern you make. You can start small saying “one red” and you slide it on the string and waiting for your child to copy you before moving on “one blue”.
Add additional colors to increase the challenge, then move onto specific shapes, “one orange square”. Eventually, create a pattern first and then hand it to your child and let them figure out how to copy it on their own (with prompting as needed).
11. Foam Ring Toss
If your child needs to improve their hand-eye coordination or depth perception, consider this toy. The foam ring toss includes a base and four colored rings to toss onto it.
Your child can start standing right next to the base. Over time as their skill improves, they can step farther and farther away. For a real challenge, your child can throw with their opposite hand or while standing on one leg.
12. Gel-Dot Pad
This soft gel pad provides visual and tactile sensory input. Your child can develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by moving the beads within the pad.
The gel pad can be used for sensory play, as a calming, quiet activity, or as a fidget tool. It can be placed on the table or used for entertainment during car rides. The soothing toy can also be used to trace shapes and letters. It’s a great choice for children with autism, sensory integration disorder, or intellectual disabilities.
Pattern Blocks help children improve their spacial skills, and yes, as the name suggests, also helps them with pattern making. This toy includes ten pattern cards and over 100 blocks for hours of play time. The brightly colored blocks can also be used for color and shape recognition.
Your child can even create their own patterns. All you need is blank paper and a pencil. Your child can trace the shapes to create random new patterns or work on creating a specific image, building their fine motor skills and their imagination at the same time.
If your child is younger or just beginning to learn their colors and shapes, or doesn’t currently have the fine motor skills for the pattern blocks, this set might be a better choice. The Shape Sorting Cube is designed for children two years old and up.
Ten chunky, colorful wooden blocks are easy for little hands to grasp. Then your child can place the blocks into the corresponding cut-outs in the cube. This is a great toy for working on colors, shape recognition, and dexterity during play.
Designed for developing fine motor and grasping skills, the brightly colored pegs and board captivate children. The large pegs are easier to hold when picking them up and placing them in the flexible board. The pegs can also be stacked to create towers.
For an added challenge, ask your child to place or stack the pegs in a certain color pattern. Or use plastic tweezers to place the pegs and really work their fine motor skills.
16. See Saw
This see saw toy is great for working on improving balance and sensory motor skills. Start by holding your child’s hands as they rock side to side until their balance skills have improved as independent use is possible.
The pivot is covered in rubber and beneath each underside of the see saw there are rubber domes to help protect your floors from damage. It’s a great toy for older children thanks to a 220 pound weight capacity.
17. Vibrating Snake
Some children with special needs find vibration soothing and calming. This long vibrating snake can be easily moved behind their back. It is also flexible enough to wrap around an arm or leg and be held in place using the hook and loop strap. The snake adjusts between two speeds of vibration to meet your child’s sensory needs.
This inflated disc is a great tool to use for sensory input while sitting. The wobble disc offers vestibular input and allows for seated fidgeting, which help some children focus better while doing schoolwork, eating dinner, or watching TV.
If your child needs additional input, the Senseez Pediatric Vibrating Pillow could give them the sensory input they crave. The vibration helps some children soothe and regulate their body.
19. 3D Feel and Find
This set includes twenty wooden shapes and twenty matching textured tiles. Lay out the tiles and place the matching shapes in the bag. Then, your child can feel for the corresponding shape without looking. Start with just a few shapes at a time and work up to the full set.
This set can also be used as twenty mini puzzles. The textured tiles and thick shapes make this a good first puzzle for children with vision impairment and blind children. They can put together the mini puzzles for the ten geometric shapes and ten object shapes.
Many children enjoy playing in ball pits, and it doesn’t need to cost a lot to replicate the fun at home. Add the 3” pool balls, to an inflatable kiddie pool for an easy DIY ball pit. They are an excellent addition to a multi-sensory environment as they engage the child’s visual, tactile, and proprioceptive (body awareness) senses. Get more ideas for creating a Snoezelen multi-sensory room on a budget!
One fun game to play with your child and engage their senses is ‘find the stuffed animal’. Hide a stuffed toy among the balls and encourage your child to reach around and search for it.
Parachutes are another favorite in gym classes, summer camps, and scouting groups because they can be used for a variety of games and adapted to meet the children’s ages and special needs. Shaking the parachute to make slow and fast waves or placing bean bags or balls on the parachute to pop around like popcorn are games that can be played by children in and out of wheelchairs.
If your child likes a more competitive game, divide the players into two groups and add bean bags of two colors onto the parachute. The children can shake and move the parachute attempting to bounce the other team’s bean bags onto the ground and keep theirs in place. For a variety of games, including active crawling around games and wheelchair accessible ideas, check out this article, 7 Parachute Games for All Ages.
Riverstones can be used to build balance, gross motor, and jumping skills. The colorful triangle-shaped stones mimic those found in a river and are each a different size and height. Your child can step and eventually jump from stone to stone without touching the floor.
Rearrange the pattern to make it more or less difficult for your child. These stones would also be a great addition for a game of “The Floor is Lava” where you must move around the room without touching the “lava” floor. Rubber studs on the bottom keep the stones in place during use.
These weighted critters are designed for children with ADHD or SID (sensory integration disorder). The critters can be placed on the child’s lap or around their shoulders to offer proprioceptive input and pressure to help the child stay still and focused.
You can choose between a caterpillar, butterfly, dinosaur or whale. Each colorful critter weighs either 2 or 2.5 pounds. These critters are made from steel shot encased in stain-resistant, flame-retardant material.
If your child prefers weight on their full body, a calming weighted blanket might be a better gift. The proprioceptive weight helps many children with autism, ADHD, SID, sensory processing disorder, and other special needs stay calm as they reduce stress, increase focus, and help your child stay grounded. Choose between a small or large blanket and then pick a weight set (sets of four weights, either ½, 1, or 2 lbs.).
If your child will be using the weighted aid during activities, like homework, a weighted vest might be a better option because it leaves their hands free.
25. Snug Hug
Some children find pressure more soothing than weight. The Snug Hug Sensory Solution combines a pressure wrap with a soft fleece blanket. You can also purchase each piece individually.
These are often a good option for children who love the sensation of being hugged or squished. The pressure may help reduce the child’s response to stimulus that is causing frustration or anxiety. The Snug Hug’s proprioceptive input means that it might be a good choice for children with autism or ADHD.
26. Chair Cube
Give your child the gift of a chair that’s just their size. The Chair Cube can be used with a 6” or 9” seat height. The cubes can also be used as tables or stacked for gross motor fun. Perfect for little ones who need their feet to reach the ground, the chairs can be used for dining, activities, or make believe play.
You can also purchase a blue EduTray that fits to the front of the Chair Cube. The tray provides an eating surface and play surface closer to your child. Plus, the folding legs make it easy to store when not in use.
Limited mobility or coordination can make it difficult for your child to play with their favorite toys independently. A large button switch, like the Jelly Bean Twist, let your child control battery-operated toys or toys that plug in. It activates no matter where the switch is touched.
Your child can choose the button color they like best, thanks to the removable switch tops (red, green, yellow, and blue). Battery-operated toys require a Battery Adaptor/Interrupter while electrical devices require a Powerlink 4 for use.
28. Spyro Gel Pad
This toy improves dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. The Spyro Gel Pad has swirls that can be traced and small dots that can be moved through the swirls. The pad is cushioned to prevent injury from uncontrolled motor movement.
The gel pad can also be used to prevent boredom and work on increasing attention span. It provides both tactile and visual sensory input for your child.
29. Mini Trampoline
If your child has a lot of energy and needs vestibular input, a Mini Trampoline could be the perfect gift. Your eager jumper can enjoy heavy work and use up some energy with this ‘nap maker’. The mini trampoline is a great outlet for energy on rainy nights, before bed, or anytime your little one would like to do some jumping.
The height adjustable handle gives your child a spot to hold onto as they work to strengthen their gross motor skills, strengthen their muscles, and improve their coordination. It has a weight capacity of 75 pounds.
Older larger children may enjoy some of our other trampoline options. This economical trampoline has a 250 pound weight limit, but lacks a handle. This makes it a great choice for children who don’t need the extra support. A pricier option, the Mono Trampoline, has a handle and a padded cushion around the jump area with a high rear edge to offer the utmost in safety. This trampoline has a 130 pound weight capacity.
30. Spin Disc
This Spin Disc is sure to be a favorite toy for children who crave movement or are sensory seeking. Your child can sit, kneel, or lie down on the large disc (26”W x 24”L) for spinning fun. The disc offers 360° rotary movement and can be used indoors or outdoors. Work on balance, coordination, or gross motor skills using this disc with your child.
This toy would make a great gift for a child with SPD (sensory processing disorder) or autism who crave movement. Just a little upper body movement/leaning will rotate the disc giving your child the vestibular input that they need. It’s a great toy that can be shared with siblings or friends, with a weight capacity of 125 pounds.
Adaptive swings allow children who need extra support and body positioning enjoy swinging. This high back swing can be attached to an indoor or outdoor swing frame (not included) allowing it to be used inside on rainy days or added to an existing swing set. Snap buckles hold the child in place for safety during use.
When purchasing, you can choose to buy a headrest or leg extension for the seat for extra support. Available in two sizes (children and teens), you can choose a seat with or without a pommel to fit your child’s needs. It can be used for swing therapy for children with sensory integration issues or sensory processing disorders, and those that need vestibular input.
This non-weighted deep pressure vest helps calm children with autism, ADD, SID and ADHD. The vest applies constant pressure to the trunk helping children cope with anxiety, prevent sensory overload, decrease restlessness, and improve concentration and focus. It can be worn at school, while doing homework, in stressful situations, or in crowded, over-stimulating environments.
33. Snap Bloc Set
Snap Blocs are a fun toy for stacking and building. They snap together to build a sturdy structure. Playing with blocks helps your child improve their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and imagination. They can be used independently or to encourage positive social interaction and cooperation with other children.
34. Crash Pad
If you have a child who likes jumping on the bed or crashing onto couches, protect your child and your furniture with this Crash Pad. Packed with foam and covered in rip-stop nylon, the pad is designed to withstand jumping, bouncing, tumbling, and crashing while reducing your child’s risk of injury. It’s the perfect tool for trying new walking, motor planning and balance activities by offering a safe place to land.
The comfy pad can also be used as a large bean bag for cuddling up to read, rest, sit, relax, or cuddle. Choose between two different sizes, both of which can be wiped clean and disinfected.
35. Pop-Up Tunnel
Tunnels make working on crawling skills more fun! It builds gross motor skills and strengthens core muscles. A tunnel can also be used as a quiet hideaway for children who are sensory-sensitive. Multiple tunnels can be combined to create a longer tunnel. The collapsible tunnel is easy to store or take for on-the-go use.Wrapping Your Gift & Opening Presents Tips
Learn more about how to help your child cope with holiday stress in this article.
Play Ball. (2019). What to expect. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2pvgC9w
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