In the spirit of Big A turning three this month, I’d like to share some of the best toddler toys for autism we considered for his birthday.
It’s not so much that a toddler diagnosed with autism can only have certain toys. Or that certain toys that will make symptoms of autism better. It’s just that, sometimes, a diagnosis of autism can entail developmental delays.
Big A has speech, social, and emotional development delays and he (currently) is non-verbal. I picked fun toys that encourage growth in these areas. Maybe they’ll delight a toddler diagnosed with autism in your life. As with all my gift round-up posts, these items have glowing reviews on Amazon.
No Reaction Toys
Big A’s speech therapist advised me to donate Big A’s reaction toys the closer he got to turning three. What are reaction toys, you ask? Anything that lights up or makes noise at the touch of a button. The fun stuff.
See, exploring reaction is more of an infant’s game. Babies need to understand that pushing a button makes cool things happen. This knowledge is the basis of cause and effect, problem-solving, etc. However, autistic toddlers tend to get stuck there. To push the button over and over, not really playing with the toy, just…stimming.
Removing reaction toys forces Big A to use toys more functionally. To actually drive the fire truck, as opposed to only pushing the buttons to see the flashing lights and hear the horn. Big A is more likely to try imaginative play, to interact with us and take turns. Pitching the reaction toys has made Big A more social, overall.
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7 Best Autism Toddler Toys
This sturdy, small, portable trampoline is perfect for Big A. It will let him get his jumps out in a secure and safe environment. My son isn’t very coordinated, especially when he is very excited. That’s why this trampoline with its safety handlebar is a must. It attaches firmly to the platform and has enough padding to help his noggin should he forget to hold on.
This play kitchen is wooden so it’s easy to clean and hard to knock about. It fits in our weirdly short wall areas, is a snappy color, and totally encourages pretend play. Big A is always interested in what we are doing in the kitchen and this play set gives him the opportunity to play with all the cool kitchen stuff that he can’t reach in our house’s kitchen. Unless by some miracle there’s another model at the thrift store, this one’s my favorite.
Roll and Play is like a board game for toddlers without the board! This game comes with a giant, plush die which is great for squeezing and throwing. This is great for sensory input, and increasing hand strength/gross motor skills. The instructions on the 40+ cards are clear, physical, thought-provoking and some are silly. The game encourages turn-taking too! All-in-all, this is the perfect game for a toddler diagnosed with autism.
This is another toy that encourages pretend play and social skills. This Dog Grooming Doctor Kit also encourages water play. We’ve been trying to get Big A up on his step stool and doing the dishes with us. So far, he’s like “Naaaah.” Maybe pretending to wash a little doggy will make sink play more inviting. Big A loves dogs so it will be easier to coax him into playing pretend if there’s a canine involved.
I Know What To Do is an amazing book, STEM activity, and game for all toddler and preschool children. The colorful cartoon emoji faces are helpful for teaching autistic toddlers about emotions and coping skills. There are 18 different emoji tabs to use on laminated, easy-to-read pages. Everyone will be better at identifying and dealing with their emotions after playing this game.
The Dimpl is a toy with thin plastic pockets that can be popped in and out. Sounds simple, right? We checked out the bigger version from the library and Big A loooooved it. Being able to pop The Dimpl gave Big A something to do with his hands/builds hand strength and helped increase his focus. I’ve listed the Simple Dimpl, a smaller version that can be clipped to Big A’s belt loops. He’ll be starting school soon. Maybe the Simple Dimpl will help him in the classroom.
Big A has been getting more into blocks, which is wonderful! Playing with blocks bolsters fine motor skills, problem-solving, social skills, and more. Our autistic toddler loves that these shapes are magnetic and he can explore all the ways they come together and apart. That this set comes with car wheels is just the cherry on the sundae.
We hope to get Big A a pretend kitchen for his birthday; I can’t wait to play “dinner” or whatever. And I know the trampoline will save my couch cushions. That boy can jump.
Have any great toy suggestions? For toddlers diagnosed with autism or otherwise? Let me know in the comments below! Did you find this article helpful? Share it!