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My Favorite Toys for Teaching Requesting & Building Play Skills

Many parents request suggestions for toys that will help their child grow and learn as well as increase their engagement with others. Check out the different toy categories below for some great options for your child’s next birthday or celebration. Click each item below for the link!

Toys that Increasing Opportunities for Requesting: Any toy or activity that comes with multiple pieces can be a great way to teach your child to request. No matter your child’s interest, there are many toy options out there from which to choose. When your child wants to play with the item, start by giving a few pieces of the activity and keep the rest of the pieces in the container or in your possession. When more pieces are needed, you can either prompt you child to ask for the items or wait for your child to ask for more, depending on his/her language ability. You can also take turns completing a puzzle or adding blocks to a tower to increase cooperative play skills. Activities like bubbles or balloons are other great ways to work on requests from your child. Blow a few bubbles; then pause expectantly. When your child requests more, provide more access. You can work on teaching item names, as well as colors with many of these activities too.

- Jigsaw puzzles (3-48-piece options)

- Trains or cars

Toys that Can Promote Turn-Taking Skills

Social skill activities, like participating in games, can often be difficult for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Turn-taking may require significant practice for children to truly master. Many games have rules that must be learned, and depending on the number of people participating, waiting can be a difficult skill to learn during turn-taking games as well. Below are some of my favorite turn-taking games that allow you to teach all of the required skills involved in successful turn-taking such as taking a turn, waiting for your next turn, following game rules, tolerating winning and losing, and displaying good sportsmanship. Start with an easy activity and as your child masters it, move on to more challenging games. Keep in mind that you might need to provide some prompts or help your child as he/she is first learning how to interact during these more structured game activities.

- Think, Fun, Roll & Play (for very early learners)

- Memory Matching: many versions available based on your child’s interests

- Simple card games like Go Fish or Rummy

Toys to Promote Learning

Many toys can be used to teach a variety of skills like letters, colors, numbers, shapes, and even reading. Select activities that are related to your child’s interests to increase the likelihood of their participation and enjoyment. For example, if you child loves Elmo, find some Sesame Street spelling games to teach that skill. Most of the items below offer various versions from which you may select. Use the items in the activities below to ask questions and teach new information within an area of interest to your child. If you have a set time to target academic skills with your children each day, don’t forget to also provide them with time to simply play with toys however they like (a play time free from formal learning, questions, or teaching demands).

- Guess in 10 (various versions available)

- Sorting activities like fruits and vegetables

Toys to Teach Pretend Play

Children with autism often display difficulties with pretend play skills. Find toy sets that fit in with your child’s current interests. Using some of the play sets below, you can begin to model and teach pretend play skills. For example, if your child loves to play with cars, using a few cars and a car garage, you can model driving the car into the garage, filling the car up with gas, driving the car down the slide, parking the car, racing other cars, and much more! Modeling play actions and pairing those with pretend play statements (e.g., “I’m going to race you!”) can be a great way to show your child how to engage in creative and imaginative pretend play.

Toys to Improve Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor activities may develop more slowly in children with a diagnosis of autism. Utilizing play activities to target improving fine motor skills can be a great way to reduce challenging behavior that often occurs when teaching those skills with academic orientated tasks like handwriting. Many children have difficulty with handwriting due to issues with low muscle strength and poor motor coordination, which can be targeted through many of the activities and toys listed below.

- Large Pop Beads (great for early learners 18 months+)

- Balls (start with a large size and short distance)

Cause and Effect Toys to Increase Appropriate Play

Cause and effect toys can help your child develop their curiosity, improve attention to their surroundings, and increase intentional play actions. It is also often the first type of play skills learned during early development. Check out the items below for some great ways to introduce cause and effect play with your child. Don’t hesitate to model all the actions that these toys can do to spark your child’s interest in them.

Toys that Provide Sensory Input

Many children diagnosed with autism love to engage with items that provide them with sensory input related to sight, touch, taste, hearing, or smell. Try out a few of the options below to see what your child might be interested in and then use those items to help motivate them to engage in less preferred activities like brushing teeth or getting dressed.

If you have additional questions regarding play skills, contact Dr. Hoppe today to request a consultation session. NTX Psychological Services, PLLC is located in McKinney, Texas.

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