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For Children with Special Needs

Toys chosen by experts to help build the following skills:

Fine Motor Gross Motor Language & Speech Social Skills & Self-Esteem

Visual & Spatial Perception Cognitive Sensory Processing Oral Motor

Fine Motor Skills: Fine motor skills involve using the small muscles of the body (fingers, hands, and arms) for functions such as writing, drawing, cutting, gripping, building, and fastening clothing. Look for toys that involve manipulating small objects and using tools.

OUR PICK: PlushCraft Initial Pillow Kit

Your child can create a unique plush pillow with his or her favorite letter by punching colored fabric squares into the pre-made holes using a stylus. Matching colors to the number pattern builds cognitive skills. It’s perfect fine motor practice, and the finished plush feel is great for tactile sensory processing. Ages 5+ $16.99

Gross Motor: Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body, including the arms, legs, and torso. Sitting, crawling, walking, skipping, and jumping are gross motor movements. Look for toys that promote balance coordination and full-body movement.

OUR PICK: PlasmaCar

The PlasmaCar is operated by a simple back-and-forth motion of the steering wheel. As kids maneuver the PlasmaCar, they are working to improve their gross motor skills by strengthening their coordination. This builds self-esteem and independence for kids who’ve not mastered the balance required to ride a bike. Ages 3+ $69.99

Language & Speech: Language skills include understanding others and putting words together to communicate ideas, whereas speech skills are the ability to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently. Look for toys that encourage children to practice the alphabet and vocabulary.

OUR PICK: Zingo!

Zingo! is a bingo-like game promoting letter and symbol recognition. Your child will match tiles to Zingo! cards, call out the words and get three in a row to win! Taking turns builds social skills, and challenging short-term memory works on cognitive skills. Ages 4+ $19.99

Social Skills & Self Esteem: Social skills allow children to grow relationships, express their feelings, and understand others’ emotions. Self-esteem helps children handle conflict, resist negative pressure, and make friends. Look for toys that promote self-reflection, group play, and role playing.

OUR PICK: Make a Face Sticker Pad

This creative activity pad features 20 unique faces and five sticker sheets. Children can work on cognitive, social and visual perception skills by exploring faces, emotions and fashions! Peeling and arranging the stickers builds fine motor skills. Ages 4+


Visual & Spatial Perception: Visual and spatial perception is the ability to make sense of what is seen. Judging heights, distances, and directions are among these skills, as are distinguishing shapes and symbols. Look for toys that involve matching, mazes or copying a picture.

OUR PICK: Spot It! Game

Who will be first to spot the matching picture between two cards? This fast-paced, portable game keeps kids engaged for hours as they improve their reflexes as well as visual and spatial skills. Your child will build social skills and self-esteem while playing with peers. Flipping the cards helps improve fine motor skills. Ages 7+ $12.99

Cognitive: Cognitive skills are the mental capabilities one needs in order to think, prioritize, understand, plan, remember, and solve problems. Look for toys that promote creativity, mathematics, memory, and reading.

OUR PICK: Teaching Cash Register

This interactive talking register features four levels of play with increasing levels of difficulty. Your child will practice math and money skills as he or she learns to make change. Role-playing as customer and cashier builds social skills and self-esteem, and manipulating the buttons and money promotes fine motor skills. Ages 3+ $49.99

Sensory Processing: Sensory processing skills involve absorbing and interpreting information based on the senses (touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight). Look for toys that offer sensory input such as texture, flashing lights, vibration or sounds.

OUR PICK: Playfoam Classic Eight-Pack

Playfoam is perfect for building, shaping, squishing, and squeezing! This play substance never dries out and doesn’t stick to surfaces. With the classic eight-pack, your child can mix colors or use them individually. Playfoam provides kids with a strong tactile experience and builds fine motor skills. Ages 3+ $9.99

Oral Motor: Oral motor skills are needed to coordinate the muscles and movement of the mouth, allowing one to suck, swallow, eat, and speak. Look for toys that involve teething, chewing, sucking a straw, and blowing bubbles.

OUR PICK: Drinking Straws Construction Set Your child can make drinking juice into a maze! This drinking straw maze construction kit features over 100 colorful straws and connectors for oral motor fun. Designing and assembling the maze uses cognitive and fine motor skills. Ages 8+


Purposeful Play:

Choosing a Skill Building Toy It can be overwhelming to choose a toy for a child with special needs. If you’re a parent working with a new diagnosis, or a family friend or relative, you may be navigating through unfamiliar territory. Even if you’re a seasoned parent of a child with special needs, you may be seeking fresh ideas as your child develops.

Keep these six factors in mind to find the perfect skill building toy. Look for a toy that:

• Aligns with their interests. Does your child love dolls or outer space? • Matches their developmental age. Does the number on the box match your child’s skill level? • Has sensory appeal. Does the toy provide tactile, visual, or auditory feedback? • Provides a challenge. Does the toy have multiple skill levels? • Encourages inclusive play. Can your child enjoy the toy with peers? • Is open-ended and adaptable. Can you use the toy in several ways?

For more skill-building toy suggestions, articles, and tips, see our full Skill Building Toy Guide at Say Happy Birthday in a unique way!

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Skill Builders for Children with Special Needs  
Skill Builders for Children with Special Needs