Toys & Games Gift Guide by Age
All children develop at different rates. Whether your child is on the autism spectrum, the sensory processing spectrum or neither, proactive parents are crucial in fostering an environment where a child can meet his or her full potential at his or her own pace. Creating such a nurturing and safe environment can help children meet developmental milestones, build confidence and feel secure enough to fail. This concept is especially important for children with autism, SPD and other disorders that may delay development. Even if a child never reaches a certain milestone, a parent should aim to provide the tools a child needs to develop as much as they can.
But how do you create such an environment? Providing your child with good toys and games is a great place to start. Toys and games engage children in developing a variety of skills, such as gross and fine motor skills, social skills, memory skills, critical thinking skills and more – all the while distracting them with good old-fashioned fun. We’ve compiled a guide of great toys and games to gift to your kids at every stage, from infancy to adulthood.
When considering any of these gifts, be sure to think about the types of environments your child thrives in or avoids. Some children seek out stimuli while others avoid it and are overwhelmed by it. The child should feel safe in any play situation while also being stretched and challenged toward development. Encourage the fearful child to try new things and the hyper child to engage with you.
Skip to an Age Group
Newborn & Babies
Three to Five
Six to Eight
Pre-Teen and Teen
Toys for Newborns & Babies
Welcome to the world! Though your newborn can’t say or do much yet, her or his brain is developing rapidly every single day. Interactions such as eye contact, babbling and smiling are the first signs of development, and motor skills such as grasping aren’t far behind. At this stage of early development, babies can already recognize faces and are known to imitate actions.
Now is also the time where signs of sensory processing disorder may begin to appear. Difficulty eating, irritability when being dressed, resisting cuddling and delaying in crawling/walking/standing can all be symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you haven’t already.
As a parent, you can start helping your baby develop successfully from the start. Babies don’t need complex puzzles – a simple toy to hold and explore is enough to stimulate their minds and gain a better understanding of the world around them.
1.Help develop motor skills with a toy they can hold and explore.
The PipSquigz Loops is a great first toy for newborn babies and infants. The rubber base bends and stretches while the plastic rings rattle to make an exciting noise. The high-quality silicone is completely safe for the baby to chew on while teething, and the suction cup at the end of the toy will stick to a wall before being pulled off to make a loud POP. Your baby will love all the textures and sounds the PipSquigz Loops has to offer and will learn skills such as gripping, holding and shaking in the process. Perfect early playtime learning.
2.Encourage sensory understanding with toys that stimulate sight, sound and touch.
Allowing babies to explore their senses will help them gain a better understanding of the world around them. Odd Balls is a set of four balls, each with their own unique texture and pattern. Babies will be fascinated by each ball – especially the one that squeaks – and spend hours bouncing, kicking, squeezing, rolling and chewing. Excellent outdoor and indoor fun for babies. After playing with Odd Balls, your baby will have made meaningful connections between pattern, texture and sound.
3.Solidify baby’s memory with a good nap.
Naps aren’t just for you to take a breather. Naptime is proven to boost a baby’s memory, especially right after playtime and learning. You can help your baby go to sleep and stay asleep with Tranquil Turtle, a comforting bedside friend that projects gentle underwater images and soothing sea sounds. Your baby can get the most out of his or her nap by allowing the brain to fortify the meaningful connections made during playtime.
Toys for 2-Year-Old Toddlers
As your child enters toddlerhood, he or she will gain a better understanding of the self, of cause and effect, and of problem-solving. Language and vocabulary expand greatly during this time, as well as counting and sorting skills. Physically, children can now squat, stoop, sit, walk and even climb by themselves, and have gained a sense of independence from these new abilities. Potty training is also in full swing. However, young toddlers still struggle with reasoning and emotional control, especially children on the autism or SPD spectrum. The “terrible twos” can be a frustrating time for all parents.
Early intervention is crucial in helping children with special needs reach important developmental milestones. At-home play is an excellent way to engage your special needs toddler and help him or her thrive. These toys will challenge and encourage your two-year-old toward successful growth.
1.Challenge her or his vocabulary.
The best educational toys for 2-year-olds allow them to explore a new realm of vocabulary that will help solidify new words and concepts. The 16-Piece New Sprout Fresh Pickled Fruit & Veggie Tote allows children to touch and feel a variety of different fruits and vegetables to strengthen their food vocabulary. When playing is done, children can organize their fruits into the durable canvas tote, practicing sorting and cleaning up.
2.Let them explore their independence.
At age two, many children begin wanting to do things on their own. While supervision is important, safely allowing them to explore this newfound independence will help them develop as they get older. Giving kids a safe space to be by themselves is a great place to start. The Me Too Play Tent from Pacific Play is excellent outdoor or indoor fun for 2-year-olds, easily fitting in the backyard or the living room. The tent includes mesh panels on both sides, so it won’t get stuffy and you can easily check in and supervise.
3.Help their physical development – and maybe wear them out a bit!
Two-year-olds are known for their boundless energy. With the new Mini (Nursery) Fold & Go Trampoline, your two-year-old can practice physical motor skills, posture, balance – and get some of that energy out too. Your child will love the bouncy fun of this indoor trampoline and get stronger and more confident along the way. Children who find comfort in rocking or bouncing love this trampoline, too.
Toys & Games for 3- to 5-Year-Olds
At this age, a child’s world expands dramatically. Some children will begin attending kindergarten, allowing them to make friends and connect with adults outside of the family. As a result, they tend to be more mobile, verbal and social. Children at this age love drawing and writing, their vocabulary continues to grow exponentially, and they now understand the concept of passing time. Physically, they become more adventurous and enjoy challenges in jumping, balancing and swinging. Tantrums are still a normal occurrence, but 3- to 5-year-olds are better at making sense of their emotions than their two-year-old selves. Imaginary play is major for children of this age, especially with their classmates and friends.
1.Encourage group play and socialization.
Autistic children struggle with socializing and are often socially detached. Consistently encouraging social play will be a vital part of continued development. Make playtime with others more fun and easy by providing them with activities and a space to enjoy time with their friends. The Super Duper 4 Kid Play Tent has enough space for your child and three friends to play together. Complete with a Velcro front door and two tunnel ports, kids will have a blast climbing in and out of their own personal playhouse.
2.Practice new vocabulary
At age 3, the average child has a vocabulary of about 300 words. By age 4, this number will have grown to 1,500 words, and at age 5, most children know an astonishing 2,500 words. By talking, reading to and playing vocabulary games with your child, you can ensure he or she stays on track to have a great vocabulary no matter at what level. Pop for Sight Words is a fun, interactive game your child can play with you or with friends. Learning sight words will increase vocabulary and help strengthen reading skills.
3.Let their imaginations run wild!
Imaginative play, a major part of a 3- to 5-year-old’s life, is when a child role plays or acts out experiences they’ve seen in the past. Children at this age spend most of their time in imaginative play, either on their own or with friends. Imaginative play lets children practice social skills and behavior. You can encourage imaginative play with a fun playset such as the Pretend & Play Doctor Set, complete with a battery-operated stethoscope and tons of play medical tools. Playing doctor with Mom and Dad not only encourages imagination, it also helps children to practice empathy as they care for you or you care for them. Use the Pretend & Play Doctor Set to teach your child about his or her next doctor’s visit.
Toys & Games for 6-8 Year Olds
Between ages 6 and 8, your child may surprise and excite you with his or her rapidly developing intellectual and physical abilities. In school, your child will gradually begin reading, learning more complex math such as multiplication, and pay more attention to friendships and teamwork. Additionally, she or he might speak freely about the past and the future and display a better understanding of her or his place in the world. Your child will be better at describing her or his thoughts and feelings and want to be liked and accepted by her or his friends.
At this point, any developmental delays will become more noticeable. Work with your child to reinforce concepts such as properly expressing emotion, sharing with others, empathy and time management. Additionally, aim to improve physical coordination, balance and fine motor skills on par with your child’s peers. While some children may struggle severely with these skills, it is important to continue to foster an environment where your child has the confidence to continue to try.
1.Games with physical activity will challenge your child, enhance his physical development and build confidence.
At this stage, developmentally challenged children may begin to fall behind physically. Encourage your child to engage in physical activity to gain and maintain coordination and balance. This Yoga Spinner Game encourages teamwork and opens your child to the world of yoga. Your child will benefit physically and discover a fun new activity he or she can participate in.
2.Talk with your child about good behavior and appropriate socialization.
Friends and groups become very important at this age, and autistic children struggle with knowing what to do in social situations. With Hidden Rules Card Games, you can turn practicing good behavior into a fun activity for you and your child to enjoy. With four different sets (Everyday Social Situations, in the Classroom, with Friends & in the Community), your child will learn unspoken rules such as asking for permission before touching, what to do when you’re lost and how to come to a compromise with a friend.
3.Practice time management.
Children aged 6-8 begin to develop a strong sense of time as well as some basic time management skills. Help keep your special needs child up to speed with the Time Timer Watch PLUS. With two visual timer options, your child will be able to stay on schedule with his or her daily routine and get a better understanding of the “time remaining” concept. Time concepts will help your child’s motivation, frustration level and planning skills. Your child will have fun gaining a new sense of independence and a better understanding of the world around him or her.
Games & Activities for Teens & Pre-Teens
Teenagers are still rapidly developing mentally, but these signs are usually less noticeable than the signs through childhood. All teens, special needs and not, can be awkward and moody. Although teens may be resistant to your interference, this stage in life continues to be an important time to foster proper social skills, empathy and more. Many teenagers begin dating during their early teens, and romantic relationships have the potential to become very intense. Don’t be afraid to tackle these topics with your child and remind her or him that she or he has your love and support.
1.Break down social skills.
Social skills and norms are crucial to insecure teenagers. Help your autistic teen grasp basic social skills that are relevant to high schoolers with this Explore Social Skills Card Set. “Eating in the cafeteria,” “getting ready for school” and other common scenarios are broken down into five easy steps with pictures to help your teen take on the day.
2.Continue to encourage healthy coping.
Practicing good coping skills can become more difficult during the stressful teenage years. Help your teen familiarize himself or herself with beginning & advanced coping mechanisms for stressors in their life, such as body image, grades and health issues, with Coping Skills Bingo. This game will open up discussion about stressors in your teen’s life and allow you to encourage good habits and advise against unhealthy habits.
3.Plan for the real world.
The time and effort you’ve put into raising your child, whether with special needs or without, culminates in major adult life events such as a career, a marriage or children. By now, your child will hopefully have the confidence he or she will need to take the first of such independent steps. The game Interview Challenge, will allow you and your teen to practice good interviewing skills and preparing for a first job. This game reinforces important skills such as being prepared, being positive about oneself and others, saying what you CAN do, and using good body language.
Gifts & Activities for Adults
Desk accessories such as stress relievers, fidget spinners, and other decorations make great gifts for any adult.
Brighten up their day with a Happy Face Gel Stress Ball. One squeeze of this smiling face helps melt the stress of daily life away. This squishy friend can be used as a fidget, creativity tool or distraction aid. Stress balls are excellent coping aids as well. Our stress balls are available in packs of three so they can keep one at the desk, one in the car and one on the nightstand. It’s a win-win-win!
Many autistic adults need help staying on task. That has never been easier than with the Spinnerz Fidget Spinner. With a mesmerizing, all-new design, this one-of-a-kind fidget spinner will help increase focus and decrease stress during work. Easy to slip into your pocket and take anywhere – and it even lights up in a variety of colors!
Who doesn’t love Gumby? Able to be bent into any pose or shape, this little guy makes a great desk decoration and fidget friend. Keep Gumby posed in the same spot or twist and turn his body while you work. He’s super durable and meant for bending! This six-inch figure makes a fun gift for anyone and will bring some joy to any desk space or shelf.