By Veronica Scott
Children love toys. Toys are more than something your child plays with, even if the child doesn’t realize it. Toys help teach interaction and communication, and with a little imagination, they can transport the child from his or her everyday life into another realm. Toys can open up endless avenues of learning that could spark an interest in a future career or simply provide the inspiration for children to be greater than they are.
But what about disabled children? When we think of children playing with toys, images of happy, healthy children usually come to mind. We might not consider the child bound to a wheelchair or one confined to a bed due to a debilitating disease. These children need toys, too.
Buying toys for disabled children shouldn’t be any different than buying toys for healthy children, but for some reason, the thought of a disabled child sometimes brings a mental block. You might feel like you don’t know what toy to get a blind child or one who is deaf.
Selecting a toy for disabled children is really not that difficult. All you have to do is try to look at the toy from a different perspective. The National Lekotek Center, a non-profit organization, devotes its research to making toys for children with disabilities. Here are a few tips the center has for those looking for toys for disabled children:
Consider how the toy would appeal to a child on more than one level of sensory perception. A toy that has a unique texture might appeal to a blind child, while one with lights or movement would be wonderful for a deaf child.
How user-friendly is the toy? Make sure that the toy is not so complicated that a child with a disability will be frustrated. Think about how many steps the child will have to go through to activate the toy. Will it work with a simple push of a button, or are there several things the child must first do before the toy works?
Can the toy be used anywhere? Will a bedridden child be able to use it while lying down? Will a child in a wheel chair be able to play with the toy in his or her lap or on a tray?
Does the child like toys that can be used however he or she likes? Is it a game with a specific goal, or can the child make up his or her own games as he goes along?
Disabled kids want toys that everyone else is playing with. Is the toy based on a current popular movie or book? Is the toy something that everyone else has that the disabled child can have too?
Does the toy allow for self-expression and creativity?
How adjustable is the toy? Try to account for height, volume, speed and difficulty. Will the toy grow with the child or is the toy for a very narrow age range? Does it have the potential as a collectible? Is it something that the child will come back to repeatedly or will the child outgrow it quickly?
Safety is always a consideration whether the child is disabled or not. Take into consideration the child’s size and strength, as well as the durability of the toy. Does the child have the dexterity to handle small moving parts, or do bigger pieces become necessary for the child to manipulate the toy? Can the toy get wet without being ruined? Is the toy easily cleaned?
Is the toy appropriate for the child’s developmental and chronological age?
What is the level of interaction between the child and toy? Is it an active toy, or is it a toy that requires very little effort on the part of the child? Does the toy have the potential to encourage social interaction with other children?
Disabled children are no different from other children. These children still like to play, and they still need toys. With these tips in mind, you should have no problem finding that special toy for that special child.
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