Autism Resource blog:

10 Gift Ideas for Toddlers and Teens With Autism

Nov 4, 2020
Jordan Brown and Sasha Yazdgerdi
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As any parent knows, the holidays can be a stressful time. That’s because most children eagerly await the holiday season with big-time energy and even bigger expectations.  One of those big expectations is the anticipation of receiving a new toy (or two). 

And for you, the gift-giver, finding the perfect gift for a special person in your life who has autism is an especially important task that needs to be checked off the holiday to-do list. And that task comes with additional challenges.

You may know the types of interests that this special child with autism has, but you may not know which gifts would best meet their sensory needs. 

Here’s some exciting news for you: You don’t need to fear the holiday cheer!
We came up with 10 gift ideas for children with autism--from toddlers to teens (and maybe even adults!)--that will capture your child’s interest while also soothing their senses.

And guess what? Each toy on this list costs less than $100!

Without further ado, here are the best sensory gift ideas for kids with autism in 2020.

Kururin - The Amazing Desktop Fidget Toy

You’re probably already familiar with fidget toys, but you likely haven’t heard of Kururin, a Japanese toy that improves hand-eye coordination. 

At its most basic, it’s a wooden block. But it’s what you can do with this wooden block that makes all the difference. Watch this video to see what we mean.

Calming, Sensory Ocean Waves Projector

For children with autism, bedtime can be a challenge. 

Whether it’s calming down enough to go to sleep, or having trouble sleeping through the night, this next toy can help with both. 

The calming light projects an image of soothing, blue waves on your child’s ceiling. And for a double-win, it also has the option to play relaxing music. 

Sensory Pea Pod

Who doesn’t want to relax in an inflatable pea pod? Designed for kids of all sizes, this will become your child’s new favorite hangout spot.

Read a book, play a game, or take a nap. This pea pod provides a comfortable place for children with increased sensitivity.

Sink in and feel the soothing comfort that only comes from being encased in a pea pod.

Crankity Brainteaser Toy

This one is great for children who are a little older, in the 6 to 8-year-old range. 

Does your child love building things? How about solving problems? This brainteaser allows them to do both -- and keep both their hands and mind active at the same time.

Sumo Bumper Boppers

For active children who crave gross motor interaction, or perhaps a bit more rambunctious, these Sumo Bumper Boppers will be perfect. 

The tight-fit sumo suit ensures that your child will feel safe and secure enough to give it a whirl.

And who knows? Parents might have just as much fun watching the action as the children doing the playing!

Start-Up Circuits from Mindware

This toy is also great for young minds that like to tinker around with how things work. Best for children from 2 to 6, this toy provides a great introduction to circuits while also providing exciting rewards when your child correctly puts the circuits together.

It doesn’t matter if your child is a budding builder or a tinkerer extraordinaire, this toy is a ton of fun.

American Educational Products Gonge Riverstones

Did you ever have fun jumping from one object to another when you were a kid? 

There’s something innately fun about playing “Don’t touch the floor!” 

Designed to mimic stepping stones across a river, these rubber triangles are safe and sturdy enough for even the most energetic children. 

Create a path for your child to get across - or let them make one of their own. 

The fun is in the simplicity and the ability for your child to make it his or her own.

Surfloor Sensory Liquid Floor Tiles

But what if your child with autism finds it too frightening to jump from stone to stone? 

Then this next gift idea might work great. 

These brightly-colored tiles are designed to be stepped on and admired. Filled with non-toxic liquid, these sensory squares will mesmerize children and adults alike.

Lakeshore Color-Changing Touch Board

This toy incorporates sensory play in a fun way. 

It’s heat-sensitive, which means it will change colors as your child touches it. 

The magical board provides an exciting, ever-changing reward for children who may be hesitant to touch and try new things. 

This is a great tool to help your child explore his or her creative side.

Kinetic Sand

Kinetic sand has quickly become a sensory-play staple. 

You’ve probably heard of it or seen it before, but have you used it? 

Because once you do, you’ll understand what has made kinetic sand so popular. 

We saved it for last because it’s a tried-and-true gift idea that has been enjoyed by children and adults of all ages. 

And one last gift - but this time from us to you! Waiting to open these beautifully wrapped presents can be so difficult, for anyone. 

Social stories are a great way to help children on the autism spectrum build a script to follow when they are in a situation that they are not comfortable with.

Here is a Social Story script that talks about why they have to wait to open their gift from the The New Social Story Book*, by Carol Gray. You can add drawings, pictures, or your child’s favorite characters to help your child grasp the idea. 

A gift has a nice surprise inside. Waiting to open a gift may be a little frustrating, especially for children. How can adults be so calm? Why would they ask children to open a gift later, instead of right now?

It helps to know what adults are thinking. Adults have as much fun waiting to open gifts as they do opening them. They like the festive feeling of sitting and talking among pretty gifts. 

Adults may think it’s polite to wait a while before opening a gift. That’s why, at many parties, people eat, talk, or play games before opening gifts. 

Visiting with the people who bring gifts is sometimes more important than opening the gifts that they bring. So, visiting is first. 

Usually, adults decide when to open gifts. It may be now, but often it is later. Sometimes, knowing what adults are thinking makes it easier to open gifts later.

We hope these gifts and tips brighten even more of your family holidays. If anytime you feel like you need more help with your child, our BCBAs are always available through video and chat. Click here to check out if you qualify for tele-ABA therapy through your insurance provider.

*The New Social StoryTM Book, 10th Anniversary Edition

© by Carol Gray, Future Horizons, Inc.

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