If you are looking for sensory-friendly gift ideas for a child this Christmas, we’ve got you covered. We partnered with the team at Autism Spectrum Australia to find out what things to consider when buying gifts for kids to develop skills, get out excess energy or to calm themselves when they feel overwhelmed.
People on the autism spectrum are just like any else, with their own unique skills, interests and motivations. Interests can vary widely between individuals and can be common things like Star Wars, or unique interests like ceiling fans. As a first step, ask the person, or someone who knows them well, what they like, and what they like about it.
Ride On Toys
Ride on toys can help to develop children’s gross motor skills, providing opportunities to co-ordinate the muscles in their whole body, and get their bodies moving. They are a great way for kids to get exercise – inside or outside.
Our top pick: Big W Little Tikes Perfect Fit 4-in-1 Trike $199
Turn taking games
Games that have a clear turn taking structure are great for supporting interaction and developing various social skills, like waiting, communication and dealing with surprise. They also have strong visual elements, which help to develop common autistic strengths like pattern recognition, matching and memory.
Our top pick: Sportsgirl Toppling Tower $19.95
Squishy Tactile Toys
Stimming (self-stimulatory behaviour) helps people on the autism spectrum to stay calm, and can even be a sign that they are enjoying themselves. Some people might spin, rock their bodies, or flap their hands. Using objects can help to provide sensory input too. Look for tactile toys that are made of different textures and squish, bend, bounce, pull or spin.
Our top pick: Spotlight Baby Plush Toy Octopus $12
Bouncing toys can help to improve balance, strength, co-ordination and the sense of where a person’s body is in space. Toys that help kids get their body moving can help to provide exercise, process out extra energy and regulate emotions. They’re also just fun!
Our top pick: The Reject Shop Play Ball $3.50
Puzzles can support the development of a range of skills, like pattern recognition, problem solving, trial-and-error and persistence. People on the autism spectrum often show a preference for visual information, so puzzles can be a great way of working together to complete an activity without the need for extra verbal information. They can also be completed independently, which provides a sense of achievement.
Our top pick: Woolworths Jar Melo First Puzzle Dinosaur Jigsaw Puzzle $29
All information in this guide, including prices, descriptions, quantity and origin has been provided by individual retailers. All reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is correct at time of printing; however, no warranty is given as to the accuracy of that information. The information may change from time to time without notice. Stocks are limited and only available while stocks last with individual retailers. Please check that the toys are of suitable age before purchase.
Disclaimer: If these items are intended to be used for a therapeutic purpose, it is recommended that the advice of an Occupational Therapist, with experience in sensory processing, be sought. For more information please refer to the Autism Spectrum (Aspect) Australia website.