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The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Children with Special Needs

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If you’re here, chances are you have a special needs child in your life on you Christmas shopping list. 

This guide isn’t age-specific as each and every single one of our special needs children are so unique in their interest and development. Instead, these are toys are designed to help develop cognitive and physical skills through play.

You may notice that the majority of the toys recommended here are from the Melissa & Doug collection….my kids grew up on Melissa & Doug toys and Legos… and they continue to make it on their Christmas lists every year.

I have specifically chosen these toys because they’re designed to spark imagination and creativity, and with that being said, friends, let’s dive in!

Melissa and Doug

Cutting Fruit Set – Wooden Play Food

This wooden play food set features a wooden knife and seven pieces of sliceable fruit that can be cut into a total of seventeen pieces! Held together with self-stick tabs, the food makes a fun and satisfying “CRUNCH” sound when sliced. With so many pieces, it’s also a great way to introduce counting and the concepts of part, whole, and fractions!

  • ATTRACTIVE WOODEN CRATE: This Cutting Fruit Set for kids includes an attractive wooden crate that stores all the pieces for convenient travel and organization
  • TEACHES CONCEPTS OF PART AND WHOLE: Our food set features self stick tabs that hold pieces together and “slice” apart with a satisfying crunch sound. It helps teach children the concepts of part and whole for early math development skills

Hop & Count Hopscotch Rug

A classic game takes a leap forward with this colorful, high-quality hopscotch game set! Featuring cheerful birds, fluffy clouds, and a rainbow of colors, this hopscotch rug offers lots of ways to learn and play. Reinforced border binding prevents fraying. Two colorful beanbag play pieces included. Durable rug material is machine washable. Skid-proof backing is safe on all floor surfaces and works for indoor and outdoor use. Rug dimensions are 78.5 x 26.5 inches.

  • DURABLE MATERIALS: Our hopscotch rug is made from high-quality woven materials that can be used indoors or outdoors. The rug is machine-washable for easy cleanup.
  • SKID-PROOF BACKING: This high-quality hopscotch game set features a skid-proof backing, ensuring safe use on multiple floor surfaces.

Shopping Cart Toy – Metal Grocery Wagon

Fun on aisle five! With sturdy metal construction and pivoting front wheels, this kid-size metal shopping cart toy is the perfect addition to your play grocery store. Our mini grocery wagon is easy to maneuver, fun to fill, and built to last for years of pretend play! Food play accessories sold separately.

  • SMOOTH ROLLING MINI SHOPPING CART: This mini shopping cart features front, spring loaded safety wheels that pivot 360 degrees, which permits it to roll easily on multiple surfaces inside the home
  • Made to last: the Melissa & Doug toy shopping cart with sturdy metal frame is made from heavy gauge steel construction that makes it look and feel Just like the real thing

Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks – 40 Pieces

Young construction workers and architects will spend hours with these lightweight yet durable cardboard building blocks. This 40-piece set features three sizes of “bricks” for constructive imaginative play. Made of premium, extra-thick cardboard for strength, they are easy to assemble and feature a wipe-clean surface. The red blocks hold up to 150 pounds!

  • BRIGHT AND COLORFUL GRAPHICS: Our jumbo blocks for kids are lightweight and easy for children to stack. They’re designed with bright and colorful graphics that spark creativity

Side note: This was one of our son’s favorites, he loved building “bricks” and crashing them over and over again.

2-in-1 Talking Ball Learning Toy

Toss it back and forth to hear this amazing ball say the ABCs or count to 10! Designed to delight kids of any age, the pleasantly noisy ball is perfect for indoor tossing, catching, kicking, and helps develop gross motor skills as they play. The layered graphics also offer lots of detail to engage children’s minds as they grow, gently introducing more advanced concepts such as odd and even numbers or vowels and consonants in a graphical way, and inviting exploration and discovery at a child’s own pace.

  • Says the ABCs and counts 1-10 when caught!
  • Develops these skills: sensory, fine motor, gross motor, logical, linguistic, emotional, communication, and self-esteem.

Side note: our son absolutely loved this toy.

Bead Sequencing Set Classic Toy

Stack the brightly colored beads on five hardwood dowels to match the pattern cards! Includes more than 45 brightly colored wooden beads and 5 double-sided wooden pattern cards. A sturdy wooden storage box contains all the pieces and holds the dowels upright for playtime. The 10 patterns increase in difficulty to build matching, sequencing, and fine motor skills.

  • Promotes matching, sequencing, and fine motor skills.

Side note: this is our sons personal favorite. He loves beads, but threading them through with a string was challenging for him. Completing a sequence gave a sense of accomplishment.

Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks – 40 Pieces

Young construction workers and architects will spend hours with these lightweight yet durable cardboard building blocks. This 40-piece set features three sizes of “bricks” for constructive imaginative play. Made of premium, extra-thick cardboard for strength, they are easy to assemble and feature a wipe-clean surface. The red blocks hold up to 150 pounds!

  • BRIGHT AND COLORFUL GRAPHICS: Our jumbo blocks for kids are lightweight and easy for children to stack. They’re designed with bright and colorful graphics that spark creativity

Side note: This was one of our son’s favorites, he loved building “bricks” and crashing them over and over again.

Melissa and Doug

Legos

My kids love Legos, and a holiday gift guide won’t be complete without them. Legos are designed to develop fine motor skills, foster imagination, and spark creativity– who doesn’t love that?!

With that being said, I wanted to provide you more of a general guideline for which lego sets may be best for your child base on fine motor skills. I couldn’t include every single Lego option but listed the ones below to give you an idea of which set levels may be best for your child.

Introductory Sets

These sets are designed to be an introduction to Legos.

Big Construction Site

Little construction workers will love these 3 buildable machines. Clear the site with the tracked bulldozer, before tipping new building supplies from the truck. Then use the crane with its claw and posable arm to hoist bricks and construct a building. LEGO® DUPLO® bricks are specially designed to be safe for little hands. Includes 3 construction worker DUPLO figures to encourage lots of role-play fun.

My First Animal Brick Set

Your child will have so much fun building their own animal train! Help them sort the bricks into different colors and talk about each iconic animal as you build them together: an elephant with a slide for a trunk, a crocodile with hinged jaws, a lion with opening mouth, a giraffe with a bendy neck and a white bird. The bright and chunky DUPLO bricks are specially designed to be fun and safe for small hands and come in a handy storage box.

Ready for a little more challenge

If your builder is ready for a new challenge, here are some sets that are more detailed, but are still easy-to-build and foster creativity.

Mining Heavy Driller

Grab your hard hat and head out with the LEGO® City 60186 Mining Heavy Driller to make new discoveries! This mining vehicle drill toy play set features a functioning heavy driller vehicle with minifigure cab, shovel loader with tipping bed, plus a mine cave with breakaway golden nugget elements and a mobile toy lab. Includes 3 minifigures and a glow-in-the-dark spider figure.

Dirt Road Pursuit

This popular 4×4 offroad truck building set for 5-12 year olds features a police 4×4 toy truck with minifigure cab and net shooter, police motocross bike, crook’s 4×4 toy truck with loot space in the back and a rockslide element with boulder release function. Includes 3 minifigures.

Sets designed to help your child create their own stories and build and rebuild their favorite characters:

Resistance Y-Wing Starfighter

Inspire young minds and collectors with this LEGO® Star Wars™ 75249 Resistance Y-Wing Starfighter model. This updated version of the classic fighter-bomber, a.k.a. wishbone, featured in the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie, has a new-for-October-2019 color scheme, opening cockpit with space for a minifigure inside, firing spring-loaded shooters and dropping bombs that will inspire kids to create action-packed Star Wars scenes with their friends. With Poe Dameron, Zorii Bliss and First Order Snowtrooper Star Wars characters, plus D-O and astromech droid LEGO figures, this starship playset makes a great addition to any fan’s collection.

Fire Plane

Help the firefighters protect the forest critters of LEGO® City with the exciting 60217 Fire Plane set, featuring a dual-propeller firefighting plane with pontoons, detachable minifigure cockpit, hatch on top to load the water elements and a lever to drop them. This rescue building toy set also includes a fire buggy with new-for-January-2019 3-shot stud shooter, plus 2 trees, 3 minifigures and a skunk figure.

T. rex Transport

Track the Tyrannosaurus Rex toy in this big-action LEGO® Jurassic World™ T. rex Transport play set and return it to the vehicle, featuring a single-seater truck, detachable container with opening and lockable side panels, and a mobile laboratory unit. This T. rex dinosaur toy includes 3 minifigures, a T. rex dinosaur figure and a baby dinosaur.

Larger sets that require more patience, but also have a greater sense of accomplishment and more longevity for playing and rebuilding.

Batcave Clayface™ Invasion

Inspire kids to create their own thrilling stories with this 1,037-piece LEGO® DC Batman™ 76122 Batcave Clayface™ Invasion construction toy. The Batcave is packed with play-starting features and functions including a Batcomputer zone, detachable transformation tower with a function to ‘transform’ Bruce Wayne™ into Batman and a detachable jail building with an explode function to play out a prison break.

Townhouse Pet Shop & Café

Kids can enjoy creative play with the LEGO® Creator 3in1 31097 Townhouse Pet Shop and Café, featuring a 2-level building with café, upper-level kitchen and rooftop terrace, plus a 3-level building with pet shop, apartment and rooftop terrace. This colorful townhouse includes an array of interior details that inspire creative building and comes with brick-built animal toys, including a dog, toucan and mouse. With Creator 3in1 playsets kids get 3 different build and play experiences. Build the Townhouse Pet Shop and Café and then rebuild it into a multi-story Bank or Market Street with tram. Includes 3 minifigures, all ready for downtown adventures.

Ferrari Ultimate Garage

Create the LEGO® Speed Champions 75889 Ferrari Ultimate Garage with a workshop/museum, attachable racetrack section and LEGO® Speed Champions versions of the classic Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari 488 GTE and historic Ferrari 312 T4 cars. Build the cars in the workshop, featuring an adjustable car ramp, vintage-style fuel pump and a tool rack, display a car in the museum, and race around the curbs and under the arch on the racetrack section. This building set includes 7 minifigures for endless role-play options.

Be inspired and challenged by these detailed sets.

Empire State Building

Elevate your LEGO® building skills to a higher level with this LEGO Architecture 21046 Empire State Building set. At 21” (55cm), the tallest LEGO Architecture model to date (July 2019), this highly detailed, collectible replica accurately recreates the symmetrical lines of the building’s 4 curtain wall facades and art deco antenna tower. The tiled baseplate depicts Fifth Avenue and surrounding roads complete with yellow cabs, and the model is finished with a decorative nameplate. This 360°-displayable model delivers an interesting and rewarding building experience and makes a truly iconic centerpiece for the home and office. It has been developed for all with an interest in travel, architectural culture, history and design.

NASA Apollo Saturn V

Display and role-play with this majestic meter-high LEGO® brick model of the NASA Apollo Saturn V. Packed with authentic details, it features 3 removable rocket stages, including the S-IVB third stage with the lunar lander and lunar orbiter. The set also includes 3 stands to display the model horizontally, 3 new-for-June-2017 astronaut microfigures for role-play recreations of the Moon landings, plus a booklet about the manned Apollo missions and the fan designers of this educational and inspirational LEGO Ideas set.

Amazon has an extensive list of Lego options to choose from. Go ahead and explore their options here, and instead of basing it off of your child’s age, figure out where your child is in terms of their fine motor skills and where their interest lies. Legos are always a big hit in our home!

These are a few of our favorite things… (to the tune of Julie Andrews – My favorite things)

Without further adeiu, here is are the toys that made it on our son’s list from years past:

Tinker Toys

These are so much fun to build. Great for any age (the recommended age is 3 and over, but I think that has more to due with small pieces– you never know with tiny little ones). They’re flexible and durable (which is much appreciated in our household where things tend to break easily), and it was well-loved for years. Highly recommend!

Magformers

Similar to tinker toys, our little man couldn’t get enough of these. Magformers are magnetic building toys for kids. He had so much fun connecting, and reconnecting these– and we never had to worry about them losing their connectivity.

Lincoln Logs

What you may have noticed by now is that we love to build. And one of Jacob’s all time favorites were Lincoln Logs– although he liked finishing some of the projects in the instructions manuals, what he loved most were stacking these, watching them crash, and rebuilding them some more. These logs were well-loved by our little man.

Melissa and Doug

Alyssa’s favorite things…

lover of all things Legos and Melissa & Doug. There’s probably too many for me to list, so instead, I’ll list just a few from each category of her never-ending wish list;)

Fresh Mart Grocery Store Companion Collection

This companion set to the Fresh Mart Grocery Store has everything kids three and older need to stock shelves and get shopping! There are 70 pieces to play with, including grocer and shopper role-play items like an apron, conveyor belt divider bar, and a cloth shopping bag, a fully stocked grab-and-go rack designed to hang on the grocery store shelf (holds gum, granola bar, a magazine, and more!), play money, cards, and coupons, and grocery boxes and cans! This set plays perfectly with the Melissa & Doug Fresh Mart Grocery Store!

Star Diner Restaurant Play Set

Order up! Everything kids need to serve up delicious diner classics is included in this 41-piece restaurant play set collection. Order on the reusable menu, cook with the durable plastic frying pan and spatula, and serve using a full place setting. Seven wooden food pieces have different food options on either side, and there are even double-sided milkshake and hot drink inserts. Servers and chefs can wear the apron and ring the bell when meals are ready, and customers can pay their bill (use the dry-erase marker on the guest check) with the included play money.

Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter

Scoop up some cool treats with this all-inclusive, 28-piece pretend play ice cream counter! The sturdy wooden tabletop counter holds eight wooden scoops of different-flavored ice cream, six assorted toppings, two cones, a plastic cup, an ice cream scooper, tongs, and a wooden spoon. The scooper fits into a hole on top of the scoops to lift, stack, and release. Take orders on the reusable menu card, pay with play money, and serve up delicious fun!

Lego Hogwarts™ Express

Step aboard the iconic LEGO® Harry Potter™ 75955 Hogwarts™ Express train from King’s Cross Station, featuring a railway bridge with a clock and steps leading to Platform 9¾™, moving brick wall entrance, ‘Wanted’ poster and Daily Prophet newspapers, plus a train toy and carriage with 4 seats and removable side panel and roof. Order candy from the Trolley Witch, fly the Dementor™ into the carriage and recreate fantasy realm scenes from blockbuster Harry Potter™ movies. This great LEGO Harry Potter gift also includes 5 minifigures plus Dementor and Scabbers™ figures.

Hogwarts™ Clock Tower

Transport fans of Harry Potter™ aged 9 and over to a magical world inside the LEGO® Harry Potter 75948 Hogwarts™ Clock Tower set. With 8 minifigures and iconic locations from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™, kids will be immersed in a world of imaginative play. Whether visiting Dumbledore’s office or attending a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, traveling through time by resetting the tower clock or unwinding at the Yule Ball by operating the ‘dance’ function… once they enter the Hogwarts Clock Tower, they’ll never want to leave!

And in case you’re wondering why we didn’t quite list some of Jacob’s wish list… let’s just say, it’s rather pricey. He loves biking, and as of late, has been having difficulties navigating our little neighborhood with his current bike. We are looking at purchasing him the Mobo bike. Is it just me or do kids get more expensive as they get older?

Merry Christmas friends! I hope you found this gifts list to be helpful and as my way of thanking you for I’d like to send you off with this FREE printable Guide to a Stress Free (Minimal Meltdowns) Holiday season.

Related: The Autism Mom’s Guide to a Stress-free Holiday Season

Related: Easy Holiday Meal Planning Tips for Busy Moms

Melissa and Doug

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A STRESS-FREE (MINIMAL MELTDOWNS) HOLIDAY SEASON

want more joy this holiday season?

that you can do right now!

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