Asperger’s and Autism – 5 Best Toys of All Time

I frequently get questions about what toys are appropriate for children with Asperger’s and Autism.  That reminds me of an experience.

I was walking down a street in a small town at the bottom of the mountains near Machu Picchu in Peru.  I love to watch how the local children play.  I heard two boys giggling and laughing so I turned around to see what was happening.

Their toy was a piece of paper.  They would hold it up and then let go so the wind would catch it.  Then they would run quickly to try and catch it before it touched the ground.  That simple piece of paper kept them entertained and occupied for a long time.  Perhaps it was the only toy they had.

What does this have to do with children with Asperger’s and Autism? 

I recently found a GeekDad’s website article touting The 5 Best Toys of All Time.

This online article was featuring “toys” for all children.  It was not focusing specifically on children with Asperger’s and Autism.  But there are some things that hold the status of “universal,” meaning across cultures, across ages and across special needs.   There are some reasons that these toys are especially important for our children with Asperger’s and Autism.

Here are the 5 best toys according to GeekDad.

1.  Stick
They can be big or little, but sticks can challenge the imagination to keep kids occupied.  They become great tools for hitting, digging, reaching, touching and sword fighting.  Sticks are great for sensory input from touching and rubbing.  Sticks can also produce an opportunity for building structures and creating unique art projects.

 2.  Box
Many parents tell stories where an empty box became a better gift than the toy that came in the box.  Making a robot costume out of a box requires quite a lot of skill.  Playing inside a box can produce hours of free time fun.  Cutting a door turns that box into a house or a fort.  Having more than one box extends the possibilities.

3.  String
Long, short, fat or skinny.  String can keep kids occupied for a long time.  Use it to tie things, hang objects or wind it around things like sticks or boxes.  String can provide hours of great creative time.

4.  Cardboard tube
Wrapping paper often comes wrapped around these tubes.  Sometimes mail comes in them.  Toilet tissue is wrapped a round small ones, but the longer tubes are usually more fun, They become swords, bats to hit balls, or important parts of construction projects.

5.  Dirt
I’ll add sand to this one.  One more addition is water.  Dirt and sand can provide hours of delight for kids.  When you add water, the fun increases exponentially.  That dirt can be for planting flowers in the garden or in a puddle on the driveway.  Fill a small dishpan or a large sandbox with sand and you’ll keep a child busy for hours.  If you add a little water to increase the messy part, most kids will be delighted.  Take a child to the beach with some sand toys and they may have hours of contented play time.

Of course, safety always comes first.  These are the “classic” toys that most children grow up on.  But children with Asperger’s and Autism may require a few more protections than other children.  The adult in charge should always be aware of an individual child’s safety needs.

Now, why are these so important for children with Asperger’s and Autism?
Social skills.  Choosing activities that the play friend will enjoy is hugely important when structuring successful play dates.

Arranging a play date with another child?  Try these ”classic” toys.  Playing with them doesn’t require any specific skills for children with Asperger’s and Autism.  There are no formal rules to follow.  The few rules a child needs to know to play successfully with these toys are more related to safety. . . like “you don’t throw sand in someone’s eyes.”

Everything on this list is low budget.  It’s appropriate for a wide age range.  You get lots of “play value” out of these toys.  Combine several together and you’ll have the potential for lots of fun.  Children with Asperger’s and Autism will benefit when you make sure to use The 5 Best Toys of All Time.

Do you have a favorite toy to add to the list?  Please be sure to comment.



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  1. Dear Linda,

    first of all, thank you for the many articles in your newsletter which i find really interesting. I am writing to you to comment on the vaccine course that you wrote about. I was shocked to read that this was run by Dr. Offit who is so totally biased…. how can this be an objective course, with him running it and having so much to gain by telling people that vaccines are safe?!?!?! He is in no position to run these sort of courses as people should be presented by unbiased facts, studies, articles etc and then left to make up their own minds on the matter, not given biased facts by people who have such vested interests.
    just my opinion, kind regards and keep up your good work, you’re a marvel

  2. One of the things my children and now my grand-nieces and nephews is a bucket of water and a paint brush. At the pool they would “paint and paint”, in the driveway they could “paint” trails and roads, they even “painted” the garage doors… Plus you get to talk about evaporation and other scientific stuff….

  3. One of the toys my children and now my grand-nieces and nephews found to be a favorite is a bucket of water and a paint brush. At the pool they would “paint and paint”, in the driveway they could “paint” trails and roads, they even “painted” the garage doors… Plus you get to talk about evaporation and other scientific stuff….

  4. Linda, I love this particular article. Sometimes, we make life too complicated. Parents will do anything to help their children. Sometimes, it is the simplest things which brings the greatest joy and learning.

    Children, no matter what age, tend to enjoy the items and activities listed above. It isn’t about what we can buy. Sometimes, in an effort to help our children, we forget this valuable lesson.

    Sheets and pillow make for great tents and forts. Picnics on the porch or in our yards or neighborhoods, typically bring smiles to everyone’s faces. A walk, a bit of time “just playing” brings more than any store bought item ever could.

    Thanks for sharing and for the reminder.

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