Gift Guide for Children with Different Abilities

Hand-selected by our special needs expert, these gifts will not only be a hit with your little one, but will also provide therapeutic benefits! From books to toys and tents, we’ve got you covered this holiday season!

Pin Art (~$7) This simple toy will provide hours of fun. Push the pins to make impressions and artistic images and then stand it up on a table or hold it in your hands. Pin Art provides children with visual, auditory and tactile input. They are available in both large and small stocking stuffer sizes. Available at Amazon.

Teepee Tent ($20-$50) Everyone needs a space that they can call their own and children are no exception. A child’s bedroom can sometimes be too large or busy to provide the comfort of a safe space, while a tent provides the perfect amount of room for a child to spend time alone. Put some comfortable pillows, blankets, books and fidget toys inside the tent to complete the space. Explain or show your child ways to use the tent. To prevent future issues, also prep your child by mentioning that, when mom or dad says, “two more minutes…tent is all done,” he/she will have to come out of the tent. Available at Carson's and Target.

Thomas the Train DC Super Friends ($7-$48) If you have a little train lover at home, these DC Super Friends from Thomas the Train will be a great addition to his/her collection. Our ABA Clinician specifically chose these trains to help teach pretend and dramatic play skills. Some children do not understand how to take on the role (e.g. talk, dress, perform actions of role) of another character or person. Thomas and Friends can help you begin to teach this important skill. The trains are dressed up as superheroes. Remember to teach that Thomas and Friends are pretending and they can change back into their other outfits when they are done playing. Make sure to play trains with your little one and model or show your child how Thomas and his friends can act like superheroes. Available at Amazon and Walmart.

Elephant & Piggie Books ($5-$9) Elephant & Piggie Books are not only entertaining, but can help children understand important concepts like sharing, being polite, waiting and even how to play pretend. In one of our favorite books by Mo Willems, I’m a Frog, Gerald the elephant is worried because Piggie says he’s a frog. Gerald eventually understands and enjoys pretending to be something he’s not. This is a great book for literal thinkers. Available at Target and Amazon.

Trampoline ($43-$200) Whether it’s a one-person indoor
trampoline or a large outdoor trampoline, this gift will surely be a hit. We suggest trampolines with a hand rail for younger children. The proprioceptive input a child receives from jumping can be extremely helpful to many individuals with special needs. Jumping on a trampoline can allow a child to get some energy out in a safe way and, when done jumping, children tend to maintain focus on an activity for longer periods of time. While bouncing on a trampoline, children are also building motor skills, balance and coordination. Available at Toys R Us and Walmart.

Joki Swing ($73-$110)
 These swings hold up to 175 lbs and can be used inside or outside and in a variety of ways. Children can escape and relax while swinging and receiving sensory input. Swings are a great way to allow children an opportunity to organize their vestibular input or their sensory system. Available at La Siesta and Amazon.

Wikki Stix ($4-$32) This product can be used in a ton of different ways. Move and bend the stix to use them as a fidget toy. Push the stix together or on paper to create beautiful and unique crafts. Or, stick them to paper to make a physical boundary while practicing handwriting or coloring in the lines. Available at Wikki Stix and Jo-Ann Fabrics.

EarlyVention Subscription Activity Boxes ($39-$75)

Give a gift that delivers a month’s worth of activities for you and your child to enjoy together. The six activities include sensory and interactive components, along with lots of visual support, to help promote communication and fuel parent-child play. EarlyVention includes all that is needed to create a craft, enjoy a themed sensory bin and more! This is a great, stress-free way to boost your connection with your child. See the box in action in this parent's video review. Available here

Twilight Turtle (~$30)
This toy provides a calming nightlight effect by projecting stars onto the ceiling and walls of your child’s room. The turtle has a built-in timer that will turn off the light after 45 minutes. There are also light color options for your child to choose. This is a great gift for children that are afraid or sensitive to the dark. The Twilight Turtle can also be placed inside your child’s new tent/safe space. Available at cloud b and Target.

The Gentle Giraffe on the Go (~$45) This smaller version of cloud b’s The Gentle Giraffe is great for traveling. The soothing animal toy has a sound box that plays white noise and other soothing sounds and can be set to a timer at whatever volume level your child prefers. Just remove the sound box when the giraffe needs to be washed! You may be able to add a weight inside for children that benefit from weighted blankets and vests. Bonus: A storybook, adoption certificate and batteries are all included. Available at Amazon.

Bubble Machine ($15-$32) Let’s face it...KIDS LOVE BUBBLES!! They love to pop them, dance through them and even stomp on them. Bubbles can add life to a dull day or calm an upset child. The reality of playing with bubbles, however, is that YOU lose your breath and can’t always join in on the fun. So, get your child a bubble machine that will take the work out of blowing bubbles and allows you to play WITH your child. Promote language while playing by having your child request “more,” “all done,” “go/stop,” “my turn/your turn,” etc. You can also incorporate direction-following into the fun. Read this if you’d like to learn more about the importance of teaching turn-taking. Available at Amazon and Toys R Us.



Latches Board ($22-$25) Children are naturally drawn to manipulating latches and locks. Latch boards are the perfect toy to allow children to get their fix. They also help children build fine motor, problem-solving and visual motor skills. It is easy to teach colors, numbers and counting while playing with the board. Available at Melissa & Doug and Amazon.

Need some more ideas? Check out our 2015 Gift Guide for 5 more gifts that your little one will love!

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How to Choose Clothes for a Child with SPD

Choosing clothes that are acceptable to a child with Sensory Processing Disorder can be a challenge for any parent, including those with experience navigating SPD and those that are new to its nuances. Every child, with or without SPD, is different and handles day to day encounters differently, which means there are no hard-set rules to finding the right solution. But, most children with SPD are challenged with irritations that make wearing certain clothing uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are several things parents can keep in mind when selecting their child’s wardrobe to help them navigate SPD and their child to cope. The following tips are great ways to help children feel comfortable and avoid common clothing irritations.

1. Allow Your Child’s Preferences to Dictate Your Choices: Take your child shopping with you. Let him or her select outfits that feel good and are comfortable. He may choose clothes that are loose fitting or baggy. Or, she may prefer things to fit more snuggly. Your child may prefer certain fabrics or fasteners. Resist the urge to select outfits of your choosing. As long as the clothes are appropriate, your child will be more likely to wear them if he has selected them himself.

2. Choose Items that Don’t Have Extras: Most experienced sensory parents will recommend seamless and tagless clothes, those with no zippers,
buttons, or buckles, and those that are extra soft. This especially goes for things like undergarments. Many children find SmartKnitKIDS seamless bralettes, undies for girls and boxer briefs for boys to be more comfortable than traditional undergarments. They are all made with super soft materials and are knitted with no seams.

3. Give Your Child Time to Get Used to the New Clothes: Some clothes and shoes need to be “broken in” before they are comfortable. Let your child wear her new clothes for short periods of time before making them regular wardrobe rotations. You’ll learn if there are things that make certain outfits annoying or uncomfortable.

4. Stock Up on Tried and True Things: You know your kiddo. If you’ve found that a certain brand of t-shirt gets the most wear, buy several in different colors and even different sizes. You may get sick of seeing the same thing on your kid, but if your child is dressed and comfortable, you’ve really scaled quite a mountain.

5. Choose an Irritant-Free Laundry Detergent: This is something that can often-times be overlooked, but some people have sensitivities to certain dyes and perfumes in laundry detergent. For most people with this sensitivity, it can cause skin rash or irritation, but could also cause an itchy sensation. Most major detergent brands make a dye- and perfume-free version that will help cut down on the sensitivity and irritation. Also, avoid dryer sheets. Choose dye- and perfume-free fabric softener instead.

6. Practice Dressing: Some children find comfort in a routine and this can be especially true when dressing. If your child fits this description, help him or her come up with a comfortable routine of dressing in the morning. It will make your days go smoother. Another reason to practice dressing is that you will find there are some things that your child has difficulty with – like buttons or difficult snaps. You can help them work through these difficulties, or determine that a certain article of clothing may be better for home wear when you’re around to help them navigate the difficulties.

7. Choose Weighted Clothing or Compression Shirts: Many children with Sensory Processing Disorder find comfort in heavy garments. They might be most comfortable completely covered, or may want to wear fleece or other heavier fabrics. Some have described this as putting a protective layer between them and the outside world. Weighted vests tend to offer a solution for some, but many of these options are not ideal in warm environments or warmer months. A compression shirt like the Compresso-T from SmartKnitKIDS gives children a sense of protection and calming without bulky or unnecessary fabrics. The Compresso-T is lightweight and moisture wicking – the perfect solution for hot weather, or as a layer underneath other clothing.

8. Get Rid of Regular Socks, the Biggest Irritant of All: We hear from parents everyday who tell us that socks are the biggest irritating issue for their child. Lumps, bumps and seams bunch and rub making wearing them very uncomfortable for them. All of our SmartKnitKIDS socks are made with super soft and stretchy materials that are very comfortable for kids. And better yet, they are knitted cocoon-style meaning that there are absolutely no seams throughout. Your kids can rest easy knowing that there will be no irritating lumps or bumps to bug them during the day.

Remember, every child is different so things that work for one child may not necessary work for the next. It may take some trial and error to find what works for your child. The best thing you can do is to keep calm and patient and help your child work through his or her unique challenges.

About Our Guest Blogger: In 2003, SmartKnitKIDS, a brand of Knit-Rite, Inc., started receiving requests from parents for a completely seamless sock. It seemed that all the seamless socks available had a flat or handlinked seam across the toes. To a sensitive child, this was still a bother; there was still a toe seam. With over 90 years of medical textile expertise, Knit-Rite used parent feedback to create a patented 100% seamless sock with added comfort features for sensitive feet. This first seamless innovation has led to a line of seamless sensitivity products including seamless socks for big kids, undies for kids, a bralette and the popular Compresso-T. 


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DIY Lap Weight Video

EarlyVention's quick tutorial shows how to make your own calming lap weight / lap pad for under $15! It's super easy and saves you 70% of the cost of animal lap pads currently on the market! Lap weights provide deep pressure, help improve body awareness and can help children regulate their own body and emotions. Make sure to include up to 10% of your child's body weight (e.g. 4 lbs for a 40 pound child) to create the most benefit! 

For EarlyVention’s DIY Lap Weight, you will need:

  • Sandwich size Ziploc bags (we used 6 bags)
  • River pebbles (we used two 32 oz bags from the Dollar Tree to accommodate a child who weighs 40 pounds) or other type of stuffing (e.g. sand, beans, rice, lentils). Did you already fill the toy, but need to increase the weight? Consider adding fishing weights / sinkers!
  • Duct tape
  • Clean dish towel
  • Calming essential oils (optional – we used Lavender)
  • Ethical Pets Skineeez JUMBO Bite Dog Toy, 24 inch (various styles available through Amazon and Chewy).
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