Toy-Buying Tips for Special Needs Children
Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally recognized medical institution dedicated to improving the lives of children and adolescents with developmental disabilities, is collaborating with Parents’ Choice Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected authorities on children’s media and toys, to establish the premiere national resource for uniform testing, certification and labeling of toys for children of all ability levels.
To that end, Kennedy Krieger and Parents’ Choice have developed general guidelines to follow when shopping for toys for children with special needs.
- Choose toys based on a child’s interest. An engaging toy is a motivating toy. Whenever possible, ask the child what he/she likes. If the child can’t express his preference, ask the caregiver.
- Choose toys that help build skills. Finger paints, blocks and Play Dough™ can help build fine motor skills; board games and reading aloud can help build cognitive and social skills; balls, bikes and games for the Wii help build coordination and gross motor skills.
- Choose toys that balance the child’s developmental age with his/her chronological age. For example, give a 13 year old whose developmental skills are those of an infant, a rain stick rather than a rattle. If you don’t know the child’s developmental level, don’t be afraid to ask the caregiver.
- Choose toys that awaken the child’s abilities to reach his/her potential. Toys that encourage a child to improve her skills will be successful and fun. Toys that frustrate the child’s abilities will not. Too many pieces or too many directions may be overwhelming and diminish the desire to play and learn.
- Avoid toys that put the child in a “win or lose” situation. Choose toys that help build the child’s confidence. Work on accomplishment first, playful competition later.
And above all, choose toys and games that adhere to US toy industry safety standards. With this information in mind, the holiday shopping season will be a bit easier for family and friends in search of toys for children with special needs. Visit parentschoice.org for holiday gift ideas for children of all abilities.