Legacy Toys is committed to the growth and development of all children. Children with differing abilities are a crucial piece of the fabric of our world, community, and families around us. In celebration of Autism Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight some games and ideas, specifically emphasizing some skills children on the spectrum might be working on to foster interaction and growth. Legacy Toys strives to be a safe place for all children to explore and play.
Social Engagement & Interaction
These toys and games promote turn-taking and cooperation while developing opportunities for working with a partner to create and nurture relationships.
- Grab a ball! Rolling, bouncing, or catching a ball back and forth or in a round helps with bilateral coordination and engages all involved in communicating as they play. Scan your garage or toy boxes for playground balls, bounce balls, beach balls, and squish balls.
- Bubbles: Whether you are turn-taking blowing bubbles or popping them, bubbles are an inexpensive way to play together and promote interaction. Try to see how many bubbles you can blow with one dip into the bottle, how many you can pop, or how big of a bubble you can make. This simple game promotes turn-taking fun on either side.
- Dice Games: Dice games are games that can be played as slow or fast as you like. Playing with dice doesn’t involve reading; there is less turn-taking and doesn’t require long sit times. Based on one of our favorites, Tenzi, each player has a set of dice they are rolling simultaneously. Decide on the number collectively before gameplay begins. As each player rolls the decided number, they set it aside and continue rolling all dice until all their numbers are the same. There are so many variations on this and dice games. Left Center Right with dice is also great for coordination and left-right recognition.
- Sidewalk Chalk: There are so many games to be played with sidewalk chalk! Work on letter or number recognition by writing on the sidewalk and having your child use a spray bottle to spray the letter, number, or word when you call it out. Color an obstacle course with hopping, swirls to follow, or even roar like a lion! Sidewalk chalk is also great for drawing outlines and coloring in faces. It helps with reading faces and feelings such as happiness, sadness, or content.
Emotional Development & Regulation
Toys and games that help with regulation can help children, and adults, express their emotions, wants, or needs appropriately by helping with self-management of feelings, energy, or thoughts.
- Reading a short story or book together can help build connections. Instead of asking questions about the story, say what you notice. “That cow is standing by the sheep,” “the Apatosaurus must need to eat a lot of plants because he is so big,” “this little girl with the red hair looks very happy with that smile on her face.”
- Build something together like a puzzle, lego, or another building toy. Together with focusing on a result can be calming and regulating while promoting connection.
- Use paper, crayons, sidewalk chalk, or finger paint to create scenes and talk with your child about what might be going on.
Creative Thinking & Imaginary Play
Creative thinking sparks the imagination! Engaging imagination and self-expression help to develop confidence and navigate their world. After all, children learn best by play.
- Have a toy shopping cart and pretend to go to the grocery store. Open up your pantry and see what items you can pull out for sale. Do you need to find specific things to create a recipe?
- Baby Strollers and baby dolls are a great way to focus on nurturing and connecting with others. Pets are also another great playmate if they are willing.
- Use dolls and stuffed animals or plush to pretend or act out a story.
- Puppets are also a great way to foster connection, communication, and regulation. Having the puppet act out a small social story, like brushing teeth, might open communication lines or provide motivation!
Sensory Motor DevelopmentChildren developing their gross and fine motor skills help them organize themselves in relation to the world.
- Fidgets can calm sensory seekers, provide stress relief, wrist, finger strength, attention aides, aides in physical therapy, hand strength and dexterity, ease arthritic pain by increasing circulation, reduce stiffness, lower anxiety, and promote focus.
- Jumping, trampolines, and crash pads can provide the sensory seekers some input to help them regulate. Make an obstacle course in the house or outdoors. When cleaning up a room, make it a game. Pick up the red sneaker and then find me. When the child puts away the red sneaker, they will often run to you for the next clue. If safe, try to make it a fast pasted game to get their feet going.
- Hold the wall! Push against the wall for as long as they can. This “heavy work” uses their weight to help them regulate and know where their body is concerning the world around them.
- Go to the park. Swings and slides are some of the best ways to get those muscles moving!
Teaching communication both verbally and non-verbally helps children learn to recognize appropriate social cues and communicate to advocate for their needs.
- Grab an old phone. Have an old cell phone lying around? Use it to pretend to have a two-way conversation with your child. You are practicing turn-taking, social skills, and appropriate communication. Don’t rush the conversation. Give your child more than enough time to answer if you ask questions, even if it seems awkward. Don’t mistake silence for not having an answer. Children that are growing communication skills might be trying to organize what and how to say, and it might take longer.
- Make a kindness jar. Jot or print some short activities on slips of paper and practice them. For example, “smile at a stranger,” “wave to a neighbor,” “do a silly dance,” “draw a picture for a friend or family member.”
- Having natural conversations while playing with a doctor’s kit or making cookies together encourages natural back and forth communication skills.
Cognition & Problem Solving
Mastering new skills and concepts are essential building blocks for independent living and social integration.
- Logic Games and toys like Tanagrams, Puzzle Cubes, and sorting games.
- Grab a muffin tin and some different colored beads, marbles, buttons, or any other safe object, and have your child sort them into different cups in the muffin tin. For a challenging twist, get a container or tube of animals or dinosaurs and have them sort by size, type, or species.
- Play some cooperative games together. Cooperative games encourage problem-solving as a team. It gives children that might be shy or unsure opportunities to speak up and engage where they otherwise might not. Another great perk is there is no winner or loser! From two to ninety-nine, cooperative games can be found for all ages!
At Legacy Toys, our mission is to inspire the next generation to lead meaningful, happy, and productive lives. We encourage families to laugh, grow and play together. We celebrate and embrace the Autism Community and are committed to grow with you and be a supportive resource for families and caregivers.