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13 Fun and Therapeutic Holiday Gifts for Children With Disabilities

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Often for the holidays, specifically Christmas time, children really want that one special toy they have been dreaming of getting. Parents then try with all the care they have to make their child’s dream come true. More often than not, they end up making the holiday the child’s best ever. However, will those toys help the child develop? Will every holiday be like that for the child? Will he or she get the most out of the gift?

A typical holiday season aside, there are not only less fortunate families out there, but also families who have someone with a disability. Depending on the disability, these children may benefit even more from getting the most fun, yet useful, gifts possible for their growth and development.

Here are some totally awesome gift ideas to help a child with disabilities have the most spectacular holiday.

1. Easy Bake Oven.

What better way to encourage their growth and development than by becoming part of their playtime? Get in the kitchen with them and their new appliance, bond with them, and teach them some lifelong skills.

2. Anything arts and crafts is perfect.

It’s all about creativity; using their hands and their minds to create something that they will be proud of, even if it’s simply painting a pet rock or making a popsicle stick house. To them, it will be special, and that is what truly matters.

3. Kendama toys.

Kendama toys can help teach hand-eye coordination. It’s a simple toy, yet difficult to master for most adults. Even if your child has a difficult time mastering it, it will still teach aiming for a target and sharp focus on a task.

4. Interactive story books.

They are great for the imagination, and teach cause and effect. They promote verbal interaction by allowing the child to push a button and learn different outcomes along with different words, letters, and so forth.

5. Fidget toys.

If your child has anxiety, trouble with spitting, twisting their hair, or biting their nails, fidget toys can help by keeping them occupied. Anything from squeezable stress balls, Rubik’s cubes, the Simon game, or hand or finger puppets can be helpful in reducing harmful behaviors.

6. Bubble machine.

Some children need mental stimulation, while others may not be able to move some body parts as well as others.  A bubble machine can help them learn to move their upper body a little better by trying to catch every bubble they can.

7. Kinetic sand or play foam.

These can be just the ticket for kids who are extra-sensitive to touch. Children tend to enjoy the feeling of sand flowing through their fingers or the forming properties of Play-Doh. However, they can be sticky, which can be bothersome. Kinetic sand and play foam take care of these problems due to their ability to form shapes and tactile stimulation, but not stick to the hands, a bonus for kids with sensory impairments.

8. Hula hoops or jump ropes.

Instead of letting them spend all day sitting in the house playing video games, inexpensive, classic toys such as these will get them up and active. They can really help with muscle memory and reflexes. If your child can’t use a hula hoop or jump rope, you could get them some chalk, a ball and jacks, or a deck of cards. These can be calming, yet fun tools they can enjoy while getting some much-needed time outdoors.

9. Bean bag toss.

This game can be a good first exposure to target practice. Some kids can have difficulties with fine motor skills, so bean bag toss is perfect to custom fit the developmental stage of your child. It allows the child to start out close, and slowly move farther back.

10. A few video games.

You hear people complain about kids spending too much time playing video games. The truth is, with the right games and parental supervision on time limits, video games can be extremely beneficial for hand-eye coordination and mental stimulation. Plus, it gives them something cool to talk about with other kids at school.

11. Motivate them with a movie such as “Angus” (1995).

While “Angus” is not about someone with a disability, it is centered around someone who is different from the rest. Angus, known as the “fat kid” in high school, is made out to be a joke by being elected Winter Ball King. He then uses any resource he can to not be seen that way and finally gets the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams. The film is superb for children with disabilities because it shows them they are not alone in trying to find acceptance, and it is more than OK to embrace your differences.

12. Musical instruments.

Take them to the closest music store and see what they gravitate towards. Will it be the flute, drums, trombone, guitar, xylophone, or another instrument? Let them try out a few and see which one they like. Music can be very therapeutic, whether the child is playing or listening.

13. Friendship.

Perhaps the most important gift of all is giving children the opportunity to improve their social skills. Treat your child to a night out with a group of kids. Anything from bowling, to arcades, ice skating, sledding, bumper cars, and so forth would be perfect for them to enhance their self-confidence and self-worth as they get to know some new friends. Who knows? These kids may become like a second family to your kid because of the opportunity you created. Some of these activities don’t cost you anything at all, except possibly a cup of hot cocoa and a treat at the end. The wonderful memories you are creating and the friendships and bonds they form will mean the world for the rest of their lives.

Even if your child with disabilities wants something that may be “too advanced” for their developmental ability, consider getting it for them, as they may be more motivated to take on the challenge. Most importantly, create lifelong memories for your child — that is the greatest gift of all.

Originally published: December 15, 2016
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