April is National Autism Awareness Month. According the AAP, 1 in 40 children has been diagnosed with Autism—a condition we're learning new things about every single day. For all children, play is such an important part of growth and development, so I was thrilled to find that Melissa & Doug—a brand loved by parents for their engaging, well-made toys—has taken the time to create an entire page dedicated to children with different needs. In it, they highlight which toys are appropriate for children with different needs, such as sensory processing development, speech and language development, and of course those on the autism spectrum.
Within the section for Autism spectrum, you can also filter toys by age and price, a feature that really helps parents get exactly what they need for their kids. "We hear every day from parents, therapists, educators and pediatricians about how they are using our toys with various populations of kids, including those with autism, to help build their developmental skills," said a spokesperson from Melissa & Doug to Motherly. "We love how our toys can help open up channels of communication for kids, give focus to their days and help them make sense of and be comfortable with the world around them. We're committed to ensuring our toys are as inclusive as possible for all children and to connect parents to the types of toys that can help their child build essential life skills."
Here are our favorite toys from the Melissa & Doug special needs page.
The See & Spell learning toy is a 50+ piece colorful wooden puzzle with easy-to-handle letters that fit into eight two-sided cutout boards to spell three and four-letter words.
This colorful, kid-sized set looks just like the real thing and includes a wooden pretend play broom, mop, duster, brush, and organizing stand. The red dustpan conveniently clips into all handles.
The blocks are made of premium, extra-thick red cardboard that hold up to 150 pounds.
The musical instruments help children develop a musical ear. This set exposes your mini-musician to different tones, volumes, and rhythms.
This activity encourages hand-eye coordination, matching skills, and fine motor development.
The wooden train set for children includes 100 wooden track sections and supports, along with over 30 train accessories for kids. It includes easy-to-follow instructions for four different track configurations.
The suspend family game helps children develop hand-eye coordination, cognitive skills, and interpersonal skills; it's an exceptional screen-free play option.
Locks & Latches Board is an entertaining and educational wooden toy that helps kids build dexterity as they navigate opening latches and locks.
Helps teach shape recognition, fine-motor skills, and hand-eye coordination; encourages exploration and imaginative play.
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