This is for those of you who, perhaps like us, may be behind in the Christmas shopping department and who may be looking for gifts for those little ones with FASD. These are some items over the years that have been big hits.
Apologies, many of these links are for UK sites – but most of these items are available elsewhere. These are suggestions only, of course we can’t endorse any specific product. We understand all kids are different, what calms one may have the opposite effect on others. But in case it’s useful, this is a glimpse into what has worked for us over the years. (There are lots of great items available on sensory toys websites. Here is one example of a great site.) Christmas isn’t just about presents, and for our kiddo less is often better. We are posting a variety of things here, just to get those creative juices going if, like us, you are staring into these coming holidays like a reindeer in headlights.
Our main point is that while some of these might not seem like presents you may have wanted as a child, they might be extremely welcomed by a sensory-seeking kid. So, think outside of the box.
A heavy furry blanket. Our guy has one he uses every single day, it’s great for sensory regulation and calming. I have no idea if this one is heavy, it’s just an example.
Soft colour changing pillow. This one is really soft.
Emoji bedding – we have used an emoji duvet cover and emoji pillows to help develop strategies for how to go from angry to happy (see this blog post) and to help him describe how he is feeling. (We also have been known to encourage throwing the emoji pillows at a bare wall when frustrated or punching the pillows…) He loves emojis!
Sensory den/dark pup tent. We have always wanted to have enough space (and money) for one of these or a bean bag chair (there are lots on that site, including some great full body loungers and some for teens). You can be creative. We have improvised by the bottom of a closet as a calm space for our guy. Previously we hung curtains around the bottom of a bunk bed and put in special lights.
Fidget bag – lots of options for creativity here, great stocking stuffers (this is only one example) or maybe a fidget pencil case for those who have trouble sitting still in class. Pencil fidget toppers or a chew buddy necklace also can help.
Clothes – our guy loves compression shirts and tights, anything with spandex and without tags.
Always wanted a body sox, but suspect we waited too long.
Safety mirror for those who tend to make things sail across the room.
Galt marble runs have been a favourite in our house for years (though marbles do fly, and should be avoided for kids who put things in their mouths).
Hands-on is great. We have had success with magic sand (though be vigilant, we heard one family had a struggle when it was washed down the drain), play doh – our latest is the ice cream shoppe, play foam (but beware it’s very sticky). We also have in past just given a huge plastic bowl so he can mix ‘concoctions’ in the kitchen.
Disco lights (we have many, but not this particular one). A bluetooth speaker with LED lights was also a big hit, worth checking out if you have technology. There are many options for inexpensive sensory lighting, such as this one. Have a google.
Jumping items – a must when our guy was younger – sadly our garden isn’t big enough for a trampoline these days. But a kiddie trampoline for the young ones would be top on my list (there are sturdier ones from disability aids websites). Skipping ropes are great too, and cheaper. Exercise balls can also be great for home use, having a kid just sit on one and watch TV or when doing homework can really help give that little bit of input – but in our house they fly too often for comfort.
Swingball – endless hours of entertainment
Books – we have found that our guy has a different relationship with books than our elder son. He does better with hands-on books, like the Usborne Lift the Flap books (which actually contain some higher level info but more easily accessible for him, in little bursts). See Inside Your Head was one we used to help him start to understand his brain (though it’s not FASD related, we found it useful). (When he was smaller all the touch and feel books were essential, like the That’s Not My… series.) DK Eyewitness books for kids are also a hit, again very visual and short bits of info. DK Eyewitness classics are also a great way to introduce literature – like the other DK books they also have short bits of info and lots of visuals around the main story. A Christmas Carol might be a timely one. (Some of these are out of print. We often buy used books, we call it recycling.) We also have had success with books based on movies like the Spy Kids or some of the Disney stories – the movie visuals in the books seems to help him focus.
Things scented. Scented markers, scented pencils, scented stickers, scented bubbles, and the latest craze – Num Noms (ridiculously expensive but for a kid that loves smells I can see why he likes them).
Time timers – these are great – for kids who can’t innately understand the difference between 5 minutes and 5 hours, they show how much time is left visually. (We sent some of these into school.) There are some cheaper versions or the larger more expensive ones. We also tried a clock that changed colour every hour, but he hated it in the night (he needs a pitch black room to sleep.)
Lego – our guy never got into Lego until we got some Lego Friends. We think the traditional Lego people were too abstract for him. And then he loved the Lego friends performing sets. There is always some Lego set that would appeal to most kids.
Technology – our guy has a love/hate relationship with technology. We have found some things work better than others. The entire LeapFrog range was always top of our list, very sturdy, good educational – and the toys go from very young phonics magnets up to a LeapPad (which he still uses). We have had good luck with the Amazon Fire tablet for kids, (though we got it on sale). Same with the voice command Amazon Alexa speaker (less to break), which we also got on sale.
Topping this year’s list? Bean Boozled 4th Edition party game (these come in smaller packs as well). For those who don’t know, bean boozled jelly beans have two flavours for each colour – one pleasant and one disgusting. For our sensory-seeking son, getting a small pack of these is often a highlight on a Saturday – he films himself trying them and spitting out the horrid ones.
He’s also desperate for Pie Face. I think I see why.
There are so many things he wants in the ‘made for speed’ category. He has a scooter that sparks, that was a highlight of last year’s Christmas. Some of his other demands we consider too deadly to consider: hover boards, skateboards, Heelys, etc.
This seems like a feeble attempt to lay out some ideas. The main message is to ‘think sensory’ when considering toys. Don’t try to push them to a new level if they are not yet ready. Puzzles, dress up clothes, dolls – lots of those items that little kids like big kids might still like and need. It takes some shedding of parental expectations to find those toys that will help them grow but also provide fun rather than frustration.
If you have other ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.