Which toys are best for children with special health care needs? It’s simple.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says toys that enhance parents’ play with their child are always appropriate.
“Parents should choose toys that they can use to play together with their child,” said Alan L. Mendelsohn, M.D., FAAP, an expert in early childhood. “The goal is to have high quality, bonding, warm time together as they play, rather than looking for the toy to advance the child’s development in some way.”
Expensive toys and electronics are not necessary. Creativity and play are enhanced by simple toys like wooden spoons, blocks, puzzles, crayons and by parents who read, watch, play with, and talk and listen to their kids, the AAP says.
The AAP offers the following tips for parents on choosing toys for young children with special needs:
- Choose toys for your child’s developmental (not chronological) age. Children with special needs have a unique risk for injury if their physical or behavioral development does not match the age on the package, according to a 2016 study.
- Watch for choking hazards. If your child is small for her age or has a swallowing condition, avoid toys with small parts, balls, marbles or balloons.
- Look for toys that help parents and children play together. This helps kids explore with pretend play and creativity. Being involved in these fun activities also helps parents notice their child’s strengths and achievements, the AAP says.
- Ask your child’s therapist for ideas. Speech, occupational or physical therapists can suggest toys, activities and interactions to help your child master new play skills at home.
- Adjust the toy to fit the child. Putting foam, Velcro, larger buttons and other aids on a toy can help children with motor, visual or other disabilities enjoy play.
- Limit digital screen “toys.”Children and adults talk less when they play with electronic toys, according to the AAP. Traditional toys inspire active, creative and pretend play.
- Books are toys. Read with your child to inspire ideas for pretend play. The AAP recommends that parents read to or with their children every day.