Choosing the Right Toys for Special Needs Toddlers

Playing is one of the children’s ways of learning and developing their skills, and this is particularly true for children with special needs. Special needs toddlers might have to work harder to develop certain skills, and the best way for them to do that is through play. Toys are hence instrumental in the development of special needs toddlers, and as a parent of a special needs child you should look into finding the right kinds of toys for your little one.

Poor Motor Skills

Children with poor motor skills would benefit from playing with toys that involve placing other objects in them, such as large dump trucks that can be filled with rice, sand and textured objects and then can be pushed around. The same goes for stacking blocks that can be used to create towers which can later be knocked down. 

For fine motor skills, recommended toys include:
  • Building toys 
  •  Snap beads 
  •  Connecting toys 
  •  Lacing toys 
  •  Peg boards
  •  Toys with knobs, levers, buttons, switches and holes

Talking Delays

Toys that help stimulate verbal development do the following:
  •  Make realistic sounds 
  •  Relate words and letters to the sounds they make 
  •  Require the toddler to make sounds in order to trigger a response 
  •  Emphasize initial consonant sounds, rhyming words or other pre-literacy activities 
  •  Make sounds and let your child repeat them to practice

Thinking and Learning Delays

Toys that experts recommend for children with thinking and learning delays ideally have the following features:
  •  Have realistic sounds and figures 
  •  Offer consistent reactions that continue after the initial activation 
  •  Are of simple design with high-contrast colors 
  •  Have highlighted and obvious features that make the toy work

Hearing Loss

Deaf toddlers who don’t use cochlear implants and who use sign language will enjoy toys that offer visual stimulus, such as toys which link the name and sign of an object with its picture. Other suitable toys include ones with lights and tactile stimuli. Deaf toddlers with cochlear implants or hearing aids, on the other hand, will benefit from toys that offer visual and tactile stimuli, such as toys with volume control and which display a picture of the object that is being named. Such toys help improve pronunciation in children receiving speech therapy. Cause-and-effect toys where pressing buttons will cause a light to come on or an object or picture to pop up are also useful. Toys that are recommended by experts include:


  •  High-pitched or low-bass sounds 
  •  Realistic actions, figures and sounds 
  •  Varied textured surfaces


Basic toys are great for toddlers with autism. These include toys that don’t make sounds and are made simply of wood or colored plastic without pictures on them. Toys recommended by experts include the following:

  •  Play dough
  •  Bubbles 
  •  Peg boards 
  •  Puzzles 
  •  Shape sorters 
  •  Lacing beads 
  •  Dolls 
  •  Kitchen sets 
  •  Parking garage 
  •  Telephones 
  •  Toy cars and trucks 
  •  Barn sets with animals 
  •  Dollhouses 
You’ll want to limit the time a toddler spends playing with toys that have wheels if the toddler tends to fixate on spinning objects.