As the mommy to a four-year-old with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I’ve discovered many wonderful mainstream toys that are both fun and therapeutic. Toys that improve language development, sensory and motor regulation, build core strength, muscle tone and coordination. Toys that spark my son’s inner drive, encouraging more engagement and child-lead interaction.
Here are five of MommyQ’s favorite toys, from $18 – $300. Most of them are eco-friendly, which I personally love. I’m not speaking as a medical expert here, just as a mom. If you’re the parent, relative or friend of an autistic child, maybe this list will make your holiday shopping a little bit easier. I hope so!
Wheely Bug – If you haven’t seen these cute little ride-on critters, you need to check them out. I bought the cow for my boys last month and my ASD son loves it! (Also available in bee and ladybug!) It really helps him with coordination and balance, while building his core. We he first started riding it, he was wobbly. Now he can lift his feet and maneuver it around every corner. It has helped him adjust to motion that had bothered him in the past. In my opinion, this is one of the best gifts for an ASD child. Make sure you buy the big Wheely Bug to get the most use out of it. Eco-friendly! $70
Breakfast Menu Set – These types of wooden toys are great for a variety of reasons. Many autistic children have issues with food due to textures. By incorporating pretend food into playtime, it seems to make real mealtime easier. You can ‘prepare’ the pretend food together and takes turns ‘tasting’ it. That way your child is more open to the idea of trying different foods. Manipulating smaller toys, like shaking the salt & pepper shakers, improves fine motor skills too. Plan Toys is a wonderful green company and makes a huge selection of incredible wooden toys. Eco-friendly! $18
LIKEaBIKE – This is a unique eco-friendly bike sans pedals! That’s because this bike was designed to boost your child’s confidence and comfort in riding a bike, while building their balance, core strength, etc. They start out slow, usually walking with it and then as they improve, they can go much faster. Obviously this is not great for hills or steep surfaces, but on flat streets, in the driveway or at the park, it’s a wonderful (and fun) toy. Our OT therapist has mentioned it multiple times. Eco-friendly! $300
Haba Ball Track Master Builder Set – Many autistic children love toys that spin and roll. My son does a variety of activities at OT therapy involving marbles, which is why I love this toy from Haba. Your child can build the track and then watch the marbles spin through it. This is the big set and Haba also makes a smaller set for $43. This toy is perfect for fine motor skill improvement and development. It also gets the imagination and interaction rolling. Eco-friendly! $200
Hopscotch Puzzle Mat – Another great toy for improving balance, motor skills, interaction and organizing thought processes is this cute Hopscotch mat by Alex. First you put it together like a puzzle, then you play the game. This gives you child a great opportunity to practice hopping on one foot and then jumping with two feet. It’s also a good game for ASD kids to play with their friends or siblings. $23
Read Ode to a Wheely Bug to see the cow in motion!