The 2012 guide is chock-full of appropriate toys grouped by skill sets that apply to children with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities. This year, the guide also includes safe play tips just for kids with special needs to avoid playtime injurie, as well as the National Lekotek Center's list of Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys.
The toys are not grouped by disability, nor is age-appropriateness suggested overtly in the guide. As parents of special needs children know all too well, disability doesn’t define ability. Rather, symbols are used to gather toys by the skills they encourage. And every toy fits into at least two categories, which include auditory, language, social, creativity and more.
The National Lekotek Center, which evaluates hundreds of toys on their suitability for children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities, collaborated on the project to find toys worthy of inclusion. According to criteria evaluated during therapeutic play sessions, the center identified those toys having exceptional educational and developmental qualities for the guide.
Here are some of the questions the professionals at the National Lekotek Center asked themselves when making decisions about which toys would most benefit children with special needs. You can use them to help guide your choices whenever you purchase toys for your child.
- Multi-sensory appeal: Does the toy respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?
- Method of activation: Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required for activation?
- Places the toy will be used: Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home? Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?
- Opportunities for success: Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child's individual style, ability and pace?
- Current popularity: Is it a toy that will help the child with special needs feel like "any other kid?" Does it tie in with other activities, like books and art sets, that promote other forms of play?
- Self-expression: Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness and making choices? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?
- Adjustability: Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed and level of difficulty?
- Child's individual abilities: Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child's interests and age?
- Safety and durability: Does the toy fit with the child's size and strength? Does it have moisture resistance? Are the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Can it be washed and cleaned?
- Potential for interaction: Will the child be an active participant during use? Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?
The 2012 Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids is available for free at all Toys "R" US and Babies "R" Us locations. You can also download the guide from the information page.