Finding the right holiday gift for a young child can be a challenging task. And if that child is on the autism spectrum, things may seem even harder. A child with autism may not necessarily be into the trending toy of the season and they may have specific interests or sensory needs.
To help make things a little easier for families (and friends) we’ve put together a list of some helpful tips to consider when choosing a holiday gift for a young child or toddler with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as some gift recommendations.
Choosing a Holiday Gift for a Child with Autism
When choosing a holiday gift for a child with autism, there are several things you will want to keep in mind including:
- Special Interests: Many children, especially those with autism, may have very specific interests or hobbies. Take those things into consideration when selecting a gift. For example, if the child loves animals, you may want to get them a stuffed plushie of an animal. Or if they really like boats, maybe a boat toy for the bathtime.
- Sensory Needs: Children on the autism spectrum may have specific sensory needs. When choosing a gift for a child with autism you want to be sure you don’t select a gift that may overwhelm their senses or trigger any sensory issues they may have. For example, a child may be sensitive to certain textures or sounds. Be sure to find out any sort of sensory sensitivities the child you are shopping for has.
- Surprises: Many children with autism prefer routine and predictability, and don’t like surprises. That can apply to gifts as well. If the child you are shopping for doesn’t like surprises you may want to skip wrapping their gift to eliminate the uncertainty they may have around the present.
- Specialists’ Items: When looking for a gift for a child with ASD, specialists can be a great resource! Many specialists sell items specifically for children with autism. Harkla is just one great example.
And when in doubt, it’s always just a good idea to ask. If you can, ask the child directly what they want or like. If you are shopping for a young child or toddler (that isn’t your own) ask the parents what sort of things they like or need. Other adults such as caregivers and teachers can also be great resources of information. They may be able to recommend things that the child is interested in or items that may be appropriate for children with autism.
Holiday Gift Guide for Children with Autism
While every child is different, with different needs and different interests, here are some gift ideas to help you get started!
Gifts under $20
- Liquid Motion Bubbler: This simple bubbler will keep kids entertained for hours. The slow rhythmic drops can help kids with sensory or hyperactivity issues calm down and focus.
- Birds in a Nest Sorting Set: Birds in a Nest is a fun sorting activity for children 3 years of age and older. Kids can sort the birds by size and color or create patterns. It can help young kids learn their colors and improve their counting and sorting skills.
- Aoumi Busy Cube: A fidget toy, but better! The Aoumi Busy Cube is a 7-in-1 cube featuring familiar gadgets from around the house like a light switch and water tap, spinning wheel, lock and key, a screw cap, and more! This toy will not only keep a child busy but can help improve their cognitive attention and hands-on learning abilities.
- Mood Octopus Plushie: These adorable reversible Mood Octopus Plushies are not only cute, but children can use them to help express their own emotions.
- Dimpl Baby and Toddler Learning Toy: The Dimpl Baby and Toddler Learning Toy is a great inexpensive gift for children on the autism spectrum as young as 10 months. This simple toy allows toddlers to push, pop, poke, and grab, while they learn cause and effect, engage their fine motor skills, and explore sensory stimulation.
- Playfoam Go!: Many kids with autism enjoy things like clay, sand, and PlayDoh, tactile materials that they can mold and play with. Playfoam is the perfect gift for that! It also can help a child improve their fine motor skills and boost creativity. The best part is it isn’t sticky and is easy to clean up. It also never dries out.
Gifts under $50
- Sensory Body Sock: The Harkla Body Sock is designed to help children with autism and sensory problems relax. The sensory body sock not only helps soothe children but also encourages children to explore body movements.
- Teeter Popper: Perfect for toddlers and young kids (ideal ages 3-6), the kids can rock, roll, sit, and stand on the Teeter Popper. This toy is not only fun but will also help improve a child’s core strength and balance.
- Wooden Balancing Stacking Stones: This is a more challenging version of traditional stacking blocks perfect for children that need a bit of a challenge. These Wooden Balancing Stacking Stones can help teach hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, visual-spatial skills, and color recognition.
- Wooden Doctor Set for Kids: Lots of kids enjoy playing pretend, but for a child on the autism spectrum a toy doctor set like this can be more than just a fun afternoon. A toy like this can help a child prepare for a visit to the doctor’s office in real life. Parents can use this Wooden Doctor Set to act out what a visit to the doctor may be like.
- Cuddle Ball: Cuddle Balls are a great relaxation aid, designed to help relieve stress. Gaps in the ball allow the child to slide their hands and arms in for tight squeezes and deep pressure.
Gifts under $100
- Light-Up Tiles: These light-up tiles are not only a great visual addition to any bedroom or playroom, these interactive tiles can be controlled by music, remote, and even touch!
- Sensory Swing: A sensory swing is the perfect gift for any child with sensory needs. This swing is a great way for a child to relax and have fun at the same time!
- A-Frame Wooden Hideaway & Climbing Toy: If the child you are shopping for has lots of energy to burn but limited space to play in this A-Frame Hideaway and Climbing Toy is perfect! This a-frame toy works double duty as both an item to climb on and over and a place to hide away in and relax.
- Toniebox: Toniebox is great for any child who loves listening to stories. This is a portable audiobook and music player, with no screens and lots of different character options.
- Pop-up Sensory Den: Sometimes children on the autism spectrum need a quiet calming place to escape to. This Pop-up Sensory Den is perfect for that. This easy-to-assemble tent creates a fully blacked-out, non-stimulating space for the child to decompress, relax, and self-regulate.
- Montessori Busy Book: This soft felt busy book is full of fun activities and creative pages meant to stimulate fine motor skills, develop hands-on skills, spark language skills, and enhance general knowledge.
Gifts to Splurge On ($100+)
- Crash Pad: Crash pads can be a great gift for kids of all ages! They are not only fun and comfy but are great for kids with sensory issues to develop their sensory awareness.
- ROYBI Smart Educational Companion: These robots are perfect for any tech-loving kid who needs either a challenge or some extra academic help. This Smart Educational Companion can help a child learn a new language as well as a variety of subjects including science, tech, and math. The robot is designed to increase a child’s vocabulary and improve their speech and language skills.
- 6-Piece Indoor Doorway Gym Set for Kids: Many children with autism are sensory seekers, constantly looking for physical feedback. This is the perfect gift for them! This six-piece set has different attachments for the child. to climb and swing on, that can all be fitted to the frame of a door without any damage
More Great Gift Ideas for Kids with Autism
And if you still need a bit more help finding the right gift, here are some general gift ideas to consider for a young child or toddler with autism:
- Chew toys: Chewable toys are great options for kids with autism. A child with autism may use these types of toys to self-regulate and calm themselves down. Consider checking out Ark Therapeutic for some great chewable stim toys!
- Fidget toys: Fidget toys come in all different shapes and sizes, from cubes to spinners, pop-its, and more! Fidget toys are a great way to keep a little one’s hands busy, while also helping to develop their fine motor skills.
- Sensory mats: Sensory mats can be used to simulate a wide range of textures and can be a great way to expose a child with autism to different surfaces. This can help improve their cognitive functions.
- Tangle toy: Like fidgets, tangle toys are another great option to keep little hands busy. They also can be used to help a child relieve stress through repetitive, twisting motions.
- Weighted stuffed toys: Make a stuffed toy even better! Many children love stuffed toys, but a weighted stuffed toy has the added benefit of helping children with sensory issues better regulate their moods and calm themselves down. (Weighted blankets are another great option, just make sure to choose one that is an appropriate weight and size for the child.)
- Board games: Board games are a fun option that can also help kids and teenagers develop their social skills, concentration, and much more!
- Sensory lamps: Although sensory lamps may look like lava lamps to most, they actually provide a calming effect on individuals with autism.
Spending time with family over the holidays? Click here to learn how to make your holidays more accessible.