Toys that Help Development for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder

So much science and creativity goes into toy development now that the diversity on the shelves of the toy store is astounding.

Our understanding of how the developing brain works has inspired many truly brilliant activities, games, and projects, and while these toys provide a wonderful experience for all children, experts have found that some of them are particularly effective in engaging children with special needs like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and learning disabilities.

Below is a roster of innovative toys that, according to ASD organizations like the National Autism Resource and, can help with basic systems like letters and numbers, categorization, social skills and more.  

  1. Theraputty

It’s tactile, non-toxic, colorful and really an activity that is suitable for all ages. Kids can just sink their hands in and squish when they are young, but if they experience it in an ongoing way can start to experiment with shapes. There are even different levels of resistance to help build hand strength and dexterity.

  1. Living Sands Large Set

Touch is a really important part of learning; children are quite literally wiring their brains by using their hands and discovering sensations.1 The Living Sands set is a table with a non-drying sand clay hybrid formulated to be anti-bacterial and safe.

It comes with tools four pounds of Living Sand, and again, great for any age, even adults.

  1. DIY Sandboxes

For almost no money at all, you can get a couple of plastic containers with tops and fill them halfway with rice, beans, beads, sand, or anything else that feels good to touch. You can hide other blocks or toys in them and children can put the tops back on and stack the containers when they are done. (Hint: Rice and beans are easier to sweep up than sand.)

  1. Stamp and Sort Mailbox

Stamp and Sort Mailbox is really fun and highly recommended because many children on the spectrum enjoy sorting. Built by Melissa & Doug, a company that is known for well-made, tough kids toys, this all-wood painted set includes a mailbox, six letters, and six stamps. Many of their play sets and puzzles are appropriate for kids with special needs.

  1. Pop Up Theater Tent

When children with ASD are over-stimulated, having a safe place to go is really helpful. We all get overwhelmed at times and for children who are still learning to cope, they need an easy way to reduce down their input. The Pop Up Theatre Tent is a lightweight, easy assembly mini-tent that travels well, so it’s great for unfamiliar environments.

  1. Hot Dots Jr. Phonics Fun–

For speech and pattern recognition, Ace and Cat is kid-size stylus that responds with sounds, exclamations, and blinking lights when kids press the right answer on the card set. Cute and cartoony, this learning activity has 160 different games that build vocabulary and other reading readiness fundamentals.

  1. Friendship Farm-Who Is Being Friendly?

This game uses the farm theme to help children build social skills. Recommended for ages four and up, kids work together on a puzzle with a question on the back designed to stimulate social conversation, and when the picture is complete, the players can see the animals exhibiting friendly and appropriate behavior.

Another thing to remember about these activities: parents’ involvement is important, so choosing activities, crafts, and games that you find interesting as well as your child can make a difference. The trick is to keep experimenting and give them many opportunities to engage these ideas. Fun is a great teacher and that goes for everyone. For more information about ASD appropriate toys, visit:




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