The 5 best types of toys for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Toys Autism

The holidays are here, and that means it's time to start buying and wrapping presents for those who are near and dear to our hearts. If you have a loved one in your life with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) you may find yourself struggling with ideas for the perfect gift. The good news is that there are plenty of ideas for that special someone in your life with ASD. If this person has a special interest, hobby, or collection, gift giving can be fairly simple. Anything along the lines of a specific, special interest is likely to please. For those of you who aren't sure what to buy for a child with ASD, there are a variety of toys that are compatible for kids with an autism spectrum disorder. 

For children with ASD, toys that teach motor skills, social skills, problem-solving techniques, and language skills are ideal. In fact, when working with children who have ASD, ABA therapists and speech therapists alike will use toys as learning tools. There are a variety of different types of toys that most appeal to children with ASD, and each category offers a different benefit and opportunity for learning and personal growth. The main categories of toys that are most beneficial to children with autism spectrum disorder include:

  • Sensory Toys

  • Fine Motor Skills Toys

  • Cause and Effect Toys

  • Puzzles

  • Manipulatives

Sensory Toys

Sensory toys are wonderful teaching tools for children with ASD whether tactile or visual, they're able to capture the attention of children. ABA therapists use sensory toys as rewards or reinforcers to help shape behavior. These types of toys include:

  • Toys with visual effects such as lava lamps, light shows, etc.

  • Toys that are varied in texture, such as sensory kits

  • Toys that are fuzzy or soft, and provide comfort

  • Toys that rattle, shake, vibrate, make different sounds and colors, etc.

Fine Motor Skills Toys

When a child has ASD, there may be some developmental delays, and fine motor skills are no exception. Toys that help children develop fine motor skills are essential for their growth at early ages. These types of toys include:

  • Stacking, sorting, and building toys

  • Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect

  • Toys that require fine motor skills such as 

    • painting

    • threading

    • tying

    • placing objects into small spaces

    • drawing

    • pointing

    • catching

    • sculpting

    • creating

    • following instructions

Cause and Effect Toys

Toys that are cause and effect in nature help children with ASD to develop visual motor skills. They also help assist with hand-eye coordination, learning and exploring the five senses, following rules, and learning repetition sequences. Such toys include:

  • Sound Puzzles

  • Shape Sorting Toys

  • Water Games

  • Light Spinners

  • Wind Up Toys

  • Jacob's Ladder

  • Mechanical Sets

  • Ooze Tubes

  • Voice Changing Toys

  • Water Timers

Puzzles

Puzzles are highly appealing to children with autism. They offer opportunities to help children develop problem solving skills, and provide visual stimulation. Oftentimes children with autism think in pictures rather than words, so puzzles offer them a creative outlet for grounding. There are a variety of types of puzzles for all different age groups and stages of development, so be sure the puzzle you choose is developmentally appropriate for your loved one. 

Manipulatives

Manipulative toys are wonderful tools for teaching children with ASD. These include toys that encourage mathematical skills, counting, sorting, and learning patterns. They are oftentimes tactile and sensory. Many ABA interventionists will use these types of toys to each specific skills. Some examples of manipulatives include:

  • Learning Card Games

  • Sorting Games and Toys

  • Stacking Toys

  • Categorizing Games and Toys

We hope you've gained some valuable gift ideas for your loved one with ASD this year. If you're interested in learning more about ABA Therapy, and some of the additional Parent-Child bond strengthening courses we offer at Big Sky Therapeutic Services, we encourage you to reach out to us to learn more! 

Jayna Nickert