Choosing toys for any child can be overwhelming this time of year. Many parents have asked, “If I’m going to buy toys anyway…which ones are the most therapeutic?” Parents are looking for toys that are developmentally appropriate, durable, and fun. Fortunately the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) just posted a great link regarding toy selection: AOTA Toy Checklist. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) recently published a press release on choosing toys for children with special needs: APTA Toys for Play Press Release.
The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) – asks parents to consider the amount of noise toys make before purchasing them. Prolonged use can cause hearing damage. I’ve seen many children with DS who love putting musical toys directly on their ear…or rest their ear on the speaker of the toy. If you can’t redirect this habit, remove the batteries (gasp!) or cover the speaker with patterned duck tape.Wondering which toys are the biggest offenders? Here’s a list of the noisiest toys on the market: 2011 Noisy Toys.
You may have noticed that one of the criteria for toys on our list is “not too annoying.” Let me clarify. Toys that make lots of noise, sing, dance, babysit, do laundry, etc. have their place. However, when I want to encourage communication skills, the best way to do this is through shared experience (child to child or parent and child). Toys by themselves aren’t “therapeutic,” but the way we use toys with children has the potential to:
- Create learning experiences
- Establish joint engagement (parent and child focusing on the same thing)
- Encourage language development
- Improve focus and attention
Many toys that aren’t marketed as therapy tools can actually be better than those in any developmental toy catalogue. If your child loves Elmo, then an Elmo puppet or stuffed animal may be just the toy to pique his interest in communicating with you!