Ordinary Toys for Kids with Special Needs
Tags: special needs,
Posted: 2012-10-25 17:04:36 By: Joanne Oppenheim




2012 Awards
Wimmer-Ferguson Learn and Play Ball
(Manhattan Toy $20 Score: )

Amazing play value has been rolled into one fabric ball. For newborns, the high contrast images printed on the fabric ball will be interesting to gaze at. They have used faces, targets, and patterns that will attract the visual attention of infants. The panels of the ball are piped with bright satin with lots of colorful ribbon taggies. Give it a shake to hear the jingling bell. This is one of those wonderful fabric toys that plays to all the senses and invites you to play early socializing games with your sitting up baby. A terrific gift for a baby shower or first visits.  Marked for 6 months but this will be good as visual stimulation long before baby can reach out and touch.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
Sassy My First Rattles
(Sassy $5.99 Score: )

Choose a predominantly hot pink or blue set of ring or dumbbell rattles. These are classic rattles that have been updated many times, but the basic shapes are exactly on the mark for baby. There are patterns for visual stimulation, textures to interest little hands, and quiet rattle sounds that are not too loud. In other words, this is just right.

SNAP: Use these colorful rattles for tracking games and early interactions. At first you will do all the actions to get a reaction. These are easy to grab and fit well in little hands when your child is ready to reach out and take hold of things.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
North American Baby Long Legs Puppy
(North American Bear Co. $28 Score: )

These black and white puppies, an 18-inch or 8-inch squeaker will grab the attention of newborns and continue to please for a long time ahead. Like the other Baby Long Legs from the same maker, these dolls are a lovely combination of knit and plush. The big one is totally on the mark for toddlers who like a big but light enough huggable to drag about. The photo of this soft cuddly doll with long legs and arms and floppy ears does not really convey just how cute it is. The legs are not rigid or wired, but soft and easy for little ones to grasp. The features are stitched and baby safe. There is also a grey elephant version as well as a pink mouse and a pink or blue bunny. Also adorable, Baby Long Legs Squeakers, Puppies, Bunnies, Elephants and Pink Mouse ($12.99 each) 8-inch miniatures of the bigger dolls that are good for tracking games and will be easy for baby to clutch and carry. Baby safe and machine washable.   All ages.

SNAP: We suggest the Baby Long Legs Squeaker from this collection. Use the small high contrast black and white pup for tracking games. It is eye catching and the squeaker inside will attract baby's listening as well as visual attention. Soft,safe and totally cleanable for infants and toddlers.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
ELT Click-Clack Caterpillar
(International Playthings $59.95 Score: )

A two-sided toy with fast click-clack segmented car that runs down the track on one side and a ball run on the other side. The ball run moved slower for tracking, while the little segmented car whizzes on down. Toddlers love the repetition of this kind of toy. They can play this with sound effects, music, or with the sound switch off. Just the motion of the car or balls produces sounds. There is also a most welcome volume control switch. A great 1st birthday gift! 12 months-2.

SNAP: A good choice for visual tracking, since the ball run moves slower than most. This is one of those toys that develops dexterity as well as hands on experience with cause and effect.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza
(Fisher-Price $60 Score: )

Finding toys that are just right for sitting up babies and toddlers can be difficult. The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza fills the bill.  You'll need space for this large "making something happen" toy that both older babies and toddlers will enjoy exploring.  There are two different ways for the big balls to go from the top of the structure to the base. Of course at first, you'll be making it happen--but soon enough your toddler will enjoy making the balls drop again and again.  The small green "gate" will be another aspect of the toy your child will enjoy pushing back and forth.  There is also an arch for babies to go under.  There is music that happily you can turn off and still enjoy the toy. A definite plus in our book. The tripod design of the base makes the toy steady but of course a cruising baby will still need a watchful hand. Our older toddler twin testers loved how the ball could be placed at the top so that it bounces off a platform onto the ramp: "high marks for innovative design." Comes with 8 oversized balls so if two end up under the sofa, you're not out of business. 

SNAP: This is big enough to satisfy slightly older kids who may not have the dexterity for more complex ball runs and tracks. Though our testers found this pretty steady, you may want to stabilize it with some tape to the floor. This is not just a good social toy that two or more can use, it is a great hands on setting for dexterity, tracking, color concepts and language.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
Educational Insights Puppet-on-a-Stick
(Educational Insights $24 Score: )

Three zany looking puppet heads are on rods with levers that make their mouths move. They have googly eyes, three colors, and odd-looking head shapes. These may in fact be easier for kids to manipulate than the usual hand glove puppets and with their strange look may lend themselves to original story telling. 4 & up.

SNAP AWARD: Given their rod holding design, these may be easier for kids with physical challenges to operate. They can be held in one hand and the mouths made to move with the other hand. So these may be real find.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
Talking Tubes
(Alex $27.99 Score: )

An update from the can and strings inventions you played with in school, this plastic set works really well to the delight of our testers young and old. It comes with 3.3 yards of yellow tubing with a red and blue telephone on either end. Go around a corner so that you can't see each other and whisper something. Your voice comes through loud and clear. An early science lesson about sound! 3 & up.

SNAP: For kids who are working on speech, this is a fun prop that will add playful fun to their efforts. Try a game of echo. Say what I say...start with one or two words and buld. Reverse roles and you say what your child says.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
Blossom Cottage
(Big Jigs $119 Score: )

A relatively small painted wooden doll house with lift up roof that makes getting into the house easy. It has a carry handle feature, but would be a tad heavy for young children to handle on their own. That said, this is a good scale for a small space or as a good toy for Grandma's little visitors. It comes furnished with a family of four and 18 pieces of furniture. You fold the front down to reveal a painted garden, as well. Marked 3 & up. 

SNAP This small uncomplicated house will fit on a table top or wheelchair table.

Age: Preschool. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Awards
Poppin Play Piano
(LeapFrog $24.99 Score: )

Toddlers will like the action of hitting the keys and making the color balls jump. But this poppin' piano goes way beyond that simple play mode. It is an electronic toy and has a load of built-in bells and whistles. As electronic toy pianos go, this one has pretty good sound. It plays a variety of instruments --piano, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer, and something called popping sounds. But you cannot go from one instrument to another without going to another activity and returning to the "choose an instrument" mode and then striking a different note on the keyboard. In other words, there is nothing easy about the choices. There are several modes, most well beyond the 12-36 month age group on the package. Mode one is a number drill with the audio telling children to hit the numerals on the big colorful keys. Mode two tells children the color of the key they are striking and makes a ball jump up. Another skill set that does not match the age group. There is another mode that plays premade music and kids can hit whatever notes they choose while the song is playing. Kids need to be in the instrument section to have free playtime. It has loud and soft volume settings.

SNAP: This child friendly keyboard will encourage children to use fine motor skills as well as giving them the powerful satisfaction of making music with a swipe of the hand. 

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
eeBoo Carnival Glitter Glue
(eeBoo $5 Score: )

Who can resist the thrill of a fresh pack of glitter glue? Use them for drawing, decorating cards or packages, add it to gift tags. eeBoo has several mixed sets with narrow tips that allow you to draw with some accuracy. Each set comes with four glue sticks of related hues.  They do look a bit like candy sticks and choosing the colors you may be hard to do...they all look so tempting to kids who like crafts.

SNAP: An appealing way to get kids to develop hand strength. Cover up the work space, cover up the cloths and let the fun begin. Allow kids to explore in an open-ended way for starters. Then, print your child's name on a big piece of paper and have her trace the lines to make a name sign.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2012.




2012 Award
Crayola Mess-Free Marker and Paper
(Crayola $9.99 Score: )

We have seen reviews online about this product drying out quickly and the tip breaking off. We disagree with the age label of 12 months. However, we do think with adult supervision this may be a useful tool for kids with physical challenges. We are recommending it solely for that purpose.

SNAP AWARD: New to their Color Magic line, this chunky marker is designed for an easy whole hand grip and the colorless ink makes magical colors on the special color magic paper. Although this is being marketed with a label 12 months & up, this is a product with far more value to kids with fine motor challenges. We think this may be a gem for some kids who cannot grasp a regular writing tool. Of all the tools in the line, this black and white graphic is not so babyish that it will offend older kids. Use this for encouraging kids to explore the thrill of creating lines and swirls and discovering how to control their hand movements. After they have had the fun of exploration you can even use this for tracing shapes and letters. Be Forewarned: The marker will dry out if left open for any length of time. Also, this is not going to last a long time. It does produce a fine line that children who are learning to write their names or letters will be thrilled with being able to produce! There are also My First Crayons in this line packaged two colors-red and blue or yellow and green in a pack. The holders are more babyish looking but they are easy to grasp. The pointed tip on the crayon is likely to break off, but then the crayon can be extended and will have a blunt and more user-friendly tip. These will hold up longer than the mess-free marker and work on any kind of paper, but they are less magical and more babyish.

Age: . Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.




2012 Awards
Creativity for Kids Stuck on Fashion Tote Bags
(Creativity for Kids $15 Score: )

There is no right or wrong way to add the decorations to this big 15 inch by 9 inch bag. It comes with 200 peel and stick hearts, flowers and dots in multiple colors. The kit also includes a hang tag for the designer's name and s small change purse that goes inside. Speaking of the inside, there is a flat insert that goes in the base and helps the bag to stand up on a flat bottom. We think kids as young as 5 will enjoy this kit. It would also be a great kit to use with kids with special needs who will not need to cut or use glue to add the decorations. Use this to reinforce color names, sizes, and shape names. 5 & up.

SNAP: Success is built into this kit that allows kids to decorate the bag with no right or wrong moves. Yet, when they are done, they have a usable end product they can carry with pride. 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.


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