Toys are important in the developmental stages of young children. Educational toys can help develop problem-solving skills, teach about conflict resolution, and how cause and effect works. It can also teach children about sharing, help develop their fine and gross motor skills, and nurture their creativity and imagination.
This is even more true for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as the need for toys that trigger their ability to learn is paramount. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) enjoy playing like any other child, but they can find some types of play difficult. It’s common for them to engage in limited play, play with only a few toys, or play in a repetitive way. Finding the toy that resonates with your child is very important and for me being a mother of an autistic child, finding toys that my son can resonate with is very important.
There are six main types of play that develop in stages. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might need extra help at each stage. Toy play or functional play is learning how to play with and use toys in the way they were designed such as pushing a toy car, bringing a toy phone to the ear, or throwing a ball. If this is an area of challenge for your child with ASD, the following tips might help:
Allow your child to choose the toys they like the most.
Sit in front of your child so your child can look at you, communicate with you, and see what you’re doing. This also makes it easier to engage your child in play.
Offer two or three of your child’s favorite toys. This gives your child a choice but doesn’t overwhelm them.
Join in with what your child is doing, rather than trying to guide play. You can start by copying what your child is doing, then add to the activity. For example, if your child is spinning the wheels of a car, you could spin them too. Then turn the car the right way up and run it along the floor saying, ‘Brrm, brrm’. Or if your child likes opening and closing doors on toys, start with this and then add toy figures walking in the doors.
Encourage your child to play if your child doesn’t copy you. You could do this by saying, ‘Your turn to drive the car’, taking your child’s hand and placing it on the car, then moving it across the floor together.
Reward your child. Use praise and positive feedback like ‘You’ve built a big tower, good job!’ You could also add other rewards, like a couple of turns of blowing bubbles.
Knowing when to stop or change is also important, so look out for signs of boredom or lack of interest.
Show your child short videos of people playing. This can give your child ideas of what to do with those toys. My son loves Coco Melon and Sesame Street.
Look out for signs that your child is getting bored or losing interest – knowing when to stop or change is important.
Recently my child picked up a new toy outside of his big red trucks. Guess what it is?! Aaliyah! She sparked his interest. Aaliyah very much resembles his sister. Curly-haired, 8-year-old inquisitive Aaliyah, but because of Covid-19 my son doesn’t get to see his sister very often. Aaliyah is my daughter Madison’s favorite doll and I believe it gives my son comfort to have her close. Aaliyah checks all of my boxes as a parent. Not only does she provide representation to our culture, but her story of never giving up on herself really touches my heartstrings.
Right now, for a limited time you can purchase the Aaliyah Doll just in time for Christmas and if you have a child with ASD give them the gift of representation. It is more important than you may think.