Day 15: Toy Suggestions

by | Adapt & Modify Activities

31 days medal 400 by 400 red

My family members learned pretty early on that it’s not easy to shop for my son.  They tend to consult with me first, or just slip money in an envelope to purchase on their behalf.  You may find yourself in the same predicament.  What to buy a child who still mouths everything, doesn’t stand yet, and doesn’t have the cognitive skills required to play with certain toys?

If you haven’t figured it out already (and I’m confident that as a parent you have this down pat by now), this post will help you create a list of toys that are not only fun but have therapeutic qualities to them.  Next time your family members ask you what they can get your child, just pull out this list.

(Note to my family members: We already own these toys.  Ask me.)



Toys screenshot

You can find toys pinned on Pinterest all the time. But, can your child play with that large stand-up playscape and that construction set with tiny construction pieces?

Why some toys may be a challenge for children with special needs

  • For the child with fine motor delays, picking up some toys may be difficult.
  • If the child isn’t walking yet, standing at a child-size kitchen or in backyard houses is just not possible.
  • For the child who still mouths everything, certain toys are choking hazards.

Toys Suggestions

Toy suggestions

This post could go on for days because of the selection of toys we find on the market today.  While Barbie playsets may not be appropriate for your child, today we are lucky enough to find a plethora of toys that are.  Please bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive.  Further, I’m not being paid by any of the toys companies.  These are toys we own and use and love.

General tips

  • Don’t pay too much attention to the age suggestions on the box – unless they’re recommended for older kids.  If your child plays best with toys at the 18 month level while he’s 7, then so be it.
  • Purchase toys that have multiple functions in your homeschool day.  Think about therapeutic functions as well.
  • Purchase open-ended toys.
  • Avoid toys with too many mechanical functions that do the work for your child.

Mouthing Toys

While you want to eventually teach your child not to mouth items, the truth is, this is the manner in which your child learns about his world.  The mouth is a highly sensitive part of the body, which is why babies tend to mouth their fists and toys.  They first explore with their mouths.  This is also true of the child with who has developmental delays.  He is still exploring much like a young child.  It’s comforting and soothing as well.

While we spend a lot of time taking items away from his mouth, there are times I just let my son enjoy the sensation.  And, we may as well allow one or two toys for that purpose that are safe, and also easily washable.

Besides the chewy toys that your therapist may have already recommended to you, here is an additional idea.

mouthing doll - toys

This is actually an organic teething doll. It washes beautifully. We’ve had this for about 5 years now. You can see that the hat, the feet and hands make for great chewing parts.  Since my son can tolerate fabric toys, I allow him to mouth this, as well as his cotton bibs so that he shakes the need out of his system and doesn’t chew his clothing instead.

Fidget Toys

My son likes to dangle and flap certain toys.  It’s also very soothing to him.  And, I let him do this for a short time for self-regulatory purposes.

wooden beads - toys

These are large wooden beads that are attached by a safe and sturdy elastic. It’s great for fidgeting – even for adults.

fidget toy - toys for children with special needs

My son has had a variety of these types of toys over the years. This is his most recent favorite. It tangles and twirls and is great for children in the classroom as well.


3d puzzle blocks - toys

This is a great place to start with puzzles. Use large blocks in a very shallow indentation of the shape. We do this hand-over-hand at first. When I say, “You do,” my son aims in the general direction of the space. Big cheers! “Yah!”

shaped wooden blocks for 3d play - toys

These puzzles have more defined shapes, but still require the full-hand to place them in the shallow indentations. I like these wooden puzzles pieces because they can be used as stand-alone toys for other skill practices like stories, songs, animal sounds, etc.

large knobbed puzzles - toys

Large-knobbed puzzles are super for grasping skills. I have my little guy pick up two pieces and tap them together like cymbals, and eventually practice placing in the space.

small knobbed puzzles - toys

These knobs are slightly smaller than above and require a child to have a finer grasp. The next step would be the pin-sized knobs (not pictured, but we own those too).


irregular wooden blocks natural - toys

I love these natural cedarwood blocks because they’re irregular shapes. They are open-ended and we’ve used them to create bridges in storytelling as well as towers, etc.  Wooden toys offer such wonderful sensory experiences.  

irregular wooden blocks - toys

These are also wooden and irregular, but they are colorful and are sold as individual sets that can be gnome homes or anything else the imagination would like when they’re mixed together.

beaded blocked - toys

These are wooden blocks with clear windows and colorful beads on the inside. They are not only wonderful to touch, but also make a light sound when shaken.

Stacking Toys & Sorters

stacking wooden blocks - toys

These are wooden stacking toys that can be stacked from above as well as inserted into one another. I like these because they’re cubes.

stacking cups - toys

Stacking cups and sorter.  Even if your child can’t do these tasks yet, you can show him hand-over-hand and talk about the shapes, etc.


mr potatohead - toys

Everyone needs this collection. Be sure the smallest parts are used under supervision. Lots of talk about body parts and articles of clothing can be done with these.

potatohead collection - toys

Potatoheads also have pets.

Beading Toys

large beads - toys

These are large beading toys that click together and pop apart. Different textures and shapes for plenty of fine motor practice.

large bug beads - toys

Snapping beading toys in bug shapes.

Construction Toys

magnetic construction - toys

These are so perfect just getting started with construction toys as they’re magnetic and require very little muscle strength to build.

Puppets and Dolls

puppets - toys

A variety of hand puppets and finger puppets and dolls are great for language activities and storytelling. Must-haves.


mini desk - toys

This short desk has plenty of storage and is great for using while seated on the sofa – or, like I do, at my son’s low adapted chair.

Silk Scarves

silk scarves - toys

Silk provides a super sensory experience and comes in many colors. Great for movement activities, or as props in storytelling.

What are your child’s favorite toys and why?  Share in the comments so that we can keep building this list.



  1. Catherine

    My son has quad CP and he loves:

    cars (he sorts them, parks them, and drives them)

    Duplo blocks (these are still tricky, but he likes to do Legos like his big brother)

    CDS (he LOVES buttons and plays with his radio often)

    Monopoly JR (moving a figure around the board is challenging, but good practice for hand/eye coordination)

    • Gabriella Volpe

      That’s so great, Catherine. Does your son have a child-friendly CD player you can recommend, or is it just any CD player?

      I wanted to mention both the cars and Duplo-style blocks in this post, but needed to draw the line somewhere. I’m glad you mentioned those. We have this really neat car that has a handle on the top for easier grasping and rolling for those just getting started with car-play.

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Chantal Halle

    Great article once again!
    One toy that I find great are wooden train tracks. It’s an open ended toy and it can help the child understand the notion of concave and convex, which is quite useful for more complex puzzles down the road. And just having the child guide the train through a path he or his parents have made gives for varied hand movement.

    • Gabriella Volpe

      How interesting that I’ve never thought about train tracks in that way. They are indeed advanced puzzles. Perhaps this is why my little one doesn’t really show an interesting in having trains race around a track, even though he is attracted to trains and their sounds.

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