Toys are one of the significant tools in aiding your child's development. Surrounding your child with the right toys may provide opportunities to improve your child’s communication, social skills, motor skills, and cognition, to name a few. Here is a list of toys that may assist in targeting these skills for young children with autism. These items are both visually appealing and great for social and independent play. Keep in mind that in order to reap the most benefits from these toys, your interaction through building conversations, modeling play, and giving necessary prompts will play a significant role.
1. Peg Puzzles - Basic peg puzzles are great for improving your child’s cognitive skills, hand-eye coordination, and definitely fine motor skills. Putting these puzzles together may teach your child to match and improve visual-spatial orientation. Also, since they come in different themes (e.g., alphabet, numbers, shapes, animals, etc.), your child may also get a head start in learning about categories.
2. Wooden Geometric Stacker - Help your child learn how to recognize and differentiate between shapes, colors, and sizes. Enhance your child’s problem solving skills as s/he stacks pieces that vary in size. When you interact with your child, this toy may aid in teaching object attributes and basic receptive skills.
3. Modeling Clays - Nothing disguises fine motor skills tasks as well as playing with these malleable products. Rolling, pinching, smashing, and using the standard plastic tools for these items are good exercises for various parts of the hands. You could make these motions even more functional and fun by creating items with details (e.g., a long snake with eyeballs, a layered birthday cake with small rolled up candles, etc.). Please note that some common brands contain wheat, so please read ingredients carefully.
4. Basic Skills Boards - A puzzle board that doubles as a dressing-up game is a perfect way to introduce this important self-help skill. These types of boards can contain buttons, laces, buckles, and a zipper—perfect for teaching your child how to manipulate these items while improving fine motor skills.
5. Bean Bag Toss Games - Visual orientation, gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination are some of the skills that are targeted as your child aims and throws.
6. Kitchen Play Sets - Playing with a kitchen set provides plenty of opportunities to enhance socio-dramatic play, functional pretend play, parallel play, and language. Your child could imitate real-life actions of cooking and serving food while learning to label food and household items and their functions. Teaching language including verbs and attributes could also be easily done while you model play to your child.
7. Animal Play Sets – These toys present an amusing way of introducing different animals. Your child may learn general knowledge about animals as s/he associates them with their habitats and the bonus matching sounds included in this toy. Creative play, fine motor, and language are some of the skills that could be targeted as your child maneuvers and manipulates the actions of the animals in different ways.