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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 on you Christmas shopping list. 

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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, fine motor, 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!

Side note: This was one of our middle daughter’s favorites, she loves playing grocery store and restaurant.

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. Durable rug material is machine washable. Skid-proof backing is safe on all floor surfaces and works for indoor and outdoor use.

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. This mini grocery wagon is easy to maneuver, fun to fill, and built to last for years of pretend play!

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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.

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.

Side note: our son absolutely loved this noisy ball.

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.

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 him a sense of accomplishment.

Melissa and Doug
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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.

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. 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.

Dirt Road Pursuit

This popular 4×4 offroad truck building set 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.

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 WorldT. 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.

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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.

Ferrari Ultimate Garage

Create the LEGO® Speed Champions 75889 Ferrari Ultimate Garage with a workshop/museum, attachable racetrack section, and LEGO® Speed Champions. 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.

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.

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.

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!

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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
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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 need to stock shelves and get shopping! There are 70 pieces to play with. 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. 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! 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. This great LEGO Harry Potter gift also includes 5 minifigures plus Dementor and Scabbers™ figures.

Hogwarts™ Clock Tower

Transport fans of Harry Potter™ 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. Once they enter the Hogwarts Clock Tower, they’ll never want to leave!

Jacob’s favorite things…

This year, Jacob has a bike on his Christmas list. We looked everywhere for a bike that was sturdy, easy to maneuver, and low to the ground, so we’re 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 here’s my gift to you!

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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