Friday, November 20, 2009

It's that time of year again... And refrigerator boxes and bubblewrap reign supreme.

In the past five years of gift shopping for my son, I cannot count the number of times I've thought that it would be more logical to bypass the expensive, flashy toys in favor of the boxes and wrapping that he enjoys so much more! How many fellow autism parents have developed an eye twitch after spending hundreds of dollars on high tech toys promised to develop skills that these kids are lacking, and seeing them toss the toy across the room then grab the bubble wrap and scream with delight? Fear not, however, I have finally found some toys that can compete with their packaging.

If it's fragile, it's a bad, bad, bad idea! The biggest characteristic of a good toy for kids with autism is durability. If it's not durable, it will not last long. Toys have to withstand throwing, stomping, dropping, moisture, food being mashed into them, and being left out in the rain. As cool as that Nitro Notebook laptop toy is, it's $80 badly spent in this case. Delicate electronics don't stand a chance. Porcelain dolls are dangerous. Stuffed animals often get shredded.

There are certain toys that a child gets attached to, to the point of not being able to handle being away from it. In our case, it was a stuffed horse that came from Wal Mart. By the time it had worn to pieces, Walmart had stopped selling the toy. Get something relatively generic, so it can be replaced with an identical one later down the line. It will save you a lot of heartache, headache, and you won't have to watch the child carry around the shredded, filthy remains of whatever the toy started out as.

I've yet to meet the autistic kid who did not absolutely love music playing, light flashing, noise making toys. A favorite of my son's is Playskool's toddler guitar. It's a noisy, headache inducing toy, but he has been unable to break it, and has not tired of it. Anything with lots of lights and cound will keep an autistic child interested, but after awhile the parents may ban you from giving them!

So called "fidget" items are really useful for kids with autism. Small balls with different textures offer a wide variety of tactile play, a bucket of beans is always a favorite, and small puzzles like the plastic Tangle toy or the Rubix cube are great, depending upon the age of the child. Play Dough is good for certain kids, but not so much for individuals who are sensitive to messy hands.A huge Tupperware box of dry rice and beans can provide a wonderful, affordable toy. It's messy though, so keep it outside. Also, be prepared to see hundreds of tiny bean stalks sprouting from your lawn after it rains.

Talk to the child's parents and find out what he or she is doing in therapy. Perhaps a therapy swing from Flaghouse could be a welcome addition to the home. Flaghouse also carries a variety of balls, toys, weighted blankets and vests, ball pools, climbing toys, and even bubble columns. These are all things that parents of autistic kids will get a ton of use from, and which will retain their value should the child outgrow or develop beyond the use of the item, enabling them to resell it later on to get something else. it's the gift that keeps on giving.

One product we own and love is the My Busy Kit. Not only is this collection of activities a blast for both kids and parents, but by buying one, you're supporting a small business that is giving back to the community in a big way! The kits come in a variety of types, including a My Airport Kit, My Toddler kit, and kits specifically designed for either boys or girls. The kits come with mini puzzles, stickers, word games, tactile toys, safety scissors, sewing cards... Basically a treasure trove of autism-safe fun in a very nice, reusable zipper bag.

Another product I'm a big fan of is Goosie Cards. I believe they are now selling the gift certificates for card sets at Toys R Us. Basically, you pay for whatever size card set you want, then you go online to their website and upload your own photos. Next, add your text to create a one of a kind set of flashcards geared especially toward your child's learning goals. We made a "Places to Go" set that included carda featuring the Children's Museum, school, grocery store, and a small set that showed the steps to getting there (i.e. getting into the car, fastening the seat belt). The cards are huge, sturdy, and waterproof. They are also just about indestructible. Kids think it's cool to see their picture on the cards too!

Or, you could always go old school style and just buy a huge roll of bubble wrap from the packaging store. I guarantee that will be the best loved gift at any party, autistic kids or normally developing!

1 comment:

Crystal said...

My son likes the boxes and paper, too. :)