What’s inside this article: A list of gift ideas for children with autism, updated for 2020. A lot of these gift ideas are sensory-related, or educational (but fun) so kids will love them and also benefit from them in some way.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.
I created this list a couple of years ago, before Christmas. When I went to google to search for inspiration for my own son and the results brought up nothing useful so I started curating ideas for other parents.
Now I update and add to this list every year so it’s always a relevant list of gift ideas for autistic children.
It feels like the older my son gets, the harder it is to choose gifts for him. Plus, a lot of children with autism have narrow areas of interest which can add to the challenge of finding gift ideas for autistic children.
No matter what the special occasion is, or what your budget is – there will be something on this list for everyone. It will be updated occasionally when I discover new products that I think others will love.
This list also includes some of the most popular items among all my readers because I know that these are gifts myself and many others can recommend.
Gift Ideas For Autistic Children
The first time I saw one of these toys was in the learning center at my children’s school and it was one of those toys that I knew I had to buy right away.
So all the toys in the set come apart and go back together with a toy drill. This makes it an excellent toy for developing fine motor skills.
It also invites children to use their curiosity to learn about how things work and go together, keeping them occupied and entertained.
You can see my three-year-old intensely focused in the photo.
These are one of the most popular items that I recommend to parents and everyone I know who has tried them loves them.
These cards are beautifully illustrated and include simple instructions so it’s easy for parents and children to use these activity cards together.
“A deck of 55 mindfulness games for kids that takes a playful approach to developing attention and focus, and identifying and regulating emotions–by the author of Mindful Games and The Mindful Child”
Julia Cooke is an award-winning children’s author. However, her books are more than just children’s stories.
She’s published over 100 books, all with the same goal: to create fun, memorable stories, to aid children’s social development.
We’ve read dozens of her books and I can honestly say they’re engaging and the concepts of the story stick with my children.
After reading one of her books about anger coping, called Soda Pop Head, my 8-year-old drew a picture of Soda Pop Head on his schoolwork next to a question he didn’t understand, to indicate his frustration.
She covers all topics for kids – from grief to peer-relationships, to understanding autism. Her books are fantastic.
If you’re considering purchasing a tablet for your child, this is the one you want to get.
It comes with Amazon Kids pre-installed which gives your more parental control and monitoring than any other parental control app out there.
You decide which apps they can and cannot use, and you can even set time limits for educational apps vs games and videos.
The Kids Fire HD comes with a kid-proof case and if your child does manage to break the tablet (my youngest did) there’s a 2 year warranty. You just call and let them know the screen is cracked and they’ll ship out a new one.
I’ve seen variations of this projector all over the place and for different prices.
The first one I bought was actually $2.50 at a Dollar store. It wasn’t very good quality but we had the chance to use it a few times so I knew my son enjoyed it.
I fell in love with these star projectors because they’re amazingly calming. They can end a meltdown in seconds
. I do recommend a high-quality projector like this one from Amazon simply because of the added durability.
I burnt through a few of the cheapies and finally ordered one that would last.
I’m officially in love with these things. You use the small colored beads to create your image on the tray and then mist the beads with water – and voila! They stick together.
This activity is relatively mess-free, it’s a great fine motor game, it’s a quiet game that encourages kids to sit and focus. There are different sets available to match your child’s interests.
They’re also a lot safer than Perler beads which require a hot iron to stick the beads together so your child can safely use aqua beads independently.
If your kiddo is sensitive to loud noises they need these earplugs. If you’ve used the noise-reducing headphones, you know they’re big and bulky and the muffle out noises.
Vibes earplugs reduce the volume by 22 decibels without muffling sounds so they don’t affect the sound quality, only the volume.
They’re also very discreet which is great because some kids do feel embarrassed by the big bulky earmuffs in places like school.
There are three different size silicone pieces for inserting into the ears so anyone can find a good fit with these.
These are perfect for younger children. The puzzle pieces are thick making them easy for small hands to manipulate.
Each animal has a textured piece for touch & feel to introduce your little one to different textures. Building these basic three-piece puzzles introduces early problem-solving skills to toddlers and young children.
This is the exact tent I purchased for my son for Christmas 2017. He likes to hide or be covered up, which was my reason for buying it for him. He even sleeps in it sometimes. You can see photos of it in his bedroom here.
I also ordered these star-shaped lights which are battery operated and strung them through the poles in the ceiling of the tent.
Regulation putty has nine little characters hiding inside who express different emotions with their facial expressions. Playing with putty encourages stress reduction and focus.
The putty is medium resistance making it a good choice as a proprioceptive input activity.
This is an educational fidget toy for young children. It encourages the development of fine motor coordination and visual perception. It will keep your kiddo occupied for quite a period of time as they search for every letter of the alphabet hiding in the pellets.
If I ever have the space to create the sensory room of my dreams, this will be a must-have. My kids love to spin, roll and go upside down. The barrel roll does all that while encouraging sensory integration, balance, and gross motor planning.
Weighted blankets are proven to reduce anxiety and provide a grounding experience. The weight is also a great source of proprioceptive input, which is calming for sensory seekers.
It’s recommended that your weighted blanket weigh about 8-12% of the user’s body weight. However, the most important thing is that your child can lift the blanket off of them without help if they want to take it off.
This is a classic Melissa & Doug toy and helps kids with all kinds of tasks that many with ASD struggle with. Kids can practice zippers, buttons, snaps, buckles, etc on the bear.
For many kids, it’s easier to learn in a play-based environment where there is no performance expectations and pressure.
I don’t know about everyone else’s, but my sensory kiddo will do everything in his power to avoid the nail clippers. His nails get long and dirty. His toenails are even worse.
He freaks out even when I gently trim them with the small baby nail clippers.
So this is amazing. This quiet and gentle nail file, which can be used even on borns, files down delicate nails .. and nails on delicate kiddos.
The first time I saw these, my son was using them in his second grade class. All the kids and the teachers love them.
You can also find mental blox junior, which has a bit easier puzzles if this one is too challenging.
This is a set of 10 discs you place on the floor, and they all have different textures on them.
These can help with language development by encouraging kids to describe how they feel, how they’re all different, etc.
They go great in sensory rooms or any multi-sensory environment.
Plus they help with motor development, posture, balance, and proprioception.
We purchased one of these for my youngest son’s first birthday. He’s two now, and he and his four-year-old sister love using this toy. Everything is magnetic, we stick all the pieces on the door of the fridge.
Kids practice fine motor skills by picking up the pieces (letters, numbers, etc) and fit them into place on the toy. Plus, it plays catchy music to teach children about phonics and counting.
Picking up the letter or number and pushing it into the spot reinforces the information they are learning. My two-year-old can identify several letters from playing with this toy.
You can purchase these on Amazon .
Everyone knows how important physical activity is for your health. But research shows it also has a significant impact on emotional regulation and learning abilities. This is why the Leap Band made my list.
The Leap Band is a kids fitness tracker that has 50 different active challenges for kids to encourage physical activity. The parental controls let you set up playtimes and manage the challenges.
Kids get to pick a virtual pet that thrives when they are active. More points are rewarded the more kids move.
Temple Grandin is a world-renowned Autism spokesperson, scientist, and author.
This book contains facts and information about famous inventors, how things work, the science behind famous inventions and practical advice for children to use their imagination.
But, it also contains tons of great, easy tutorials for different science experiments that you can do at home with your child.
I bought two sets of these for my 7-year-old just so he would have more pieces to build with.
The flexible tracks click together and can be manipulated into different twists and turns. There are LED lights in every track piece and also in the car.
The lights are so calming to my son he would build his track and simply watch the car drive around. He will play with these with the light off or build tracks so they go under his bed or under the sofa so he can watch the lights under a dark area.
You can purchase replacement bulbs and extra vehicles on Amazon.
Do you remember using a kaleidoscope as a child?
Not only are these great for visually oriented children but they also introduce early physics and geometry concepts to kids.
We keep a kaleidoscope in our calm down corner, the visual input helps with self-regulation.
Kid love kinetic and – its a blast. It stays wet, can be molded, doesn’t stick to your hands, and its easier to clean than regular sand.
This playset comes with an inflatable bin to play with it in. If you are concerned about the mess (I am!) a great solution is to purchase some disposable plastic tablecloths from the dollar store. When your kids are done playing you can fold it up and throw it away for easy cleanup.
Kids learn best through play, and not just early learning concepts but social skills as well. One of the best ways to prepare your child for school is by playing school. It will benefit your child to learn what to expect at school by playing in a familiar environment and with no performance expectations.
You can take turns being the student and the teacher, which will help your child learn basic social interactions that they will need in school – like raising your hand for a question or asking to use the washroom.
This playset is another great way to teach your child social skills and expectations in a shopping environment. You can also work on real-life math skills with the play money.
Practice social interactions you can expect to have with a cashier. Such as saying hello, the cashier giving you the total and you passing them your payment and accepting change, etc.
Read here about the developmental milestones of children’s pretend play skills. This can help you get a feel for where your child is currently, how much prompting and guidance you should be doing, and how to encourage pretend play development.
You’ve probably heard of play foam or “floam” before. It’s definitely a unique tactile sensory play item on its own. This set comes with alphabet cards and foam so kids can practice their letter formation by using the foam to shape the letters on the cards.
The hands-on sensory experience helps kids solidify learning concepts and better commit the information to their long-term memory so this is a great way to teach letter formation and recognition.
I love Alex toys. They’re unique, quality toys that are affordable and designed to benefit the children who play with them. This one – the Active Monkey Balance Board – is a perfect choice for a child with sensory needs.
It promotes the development of balance, coordination, bilateral coordination, gross motor planning, and sensory integration.
I hope you found the perfect gift for the child with autism that is on your shopping list!
you are Christmas shopping don’t leave without visiting my list of Stocking Stuffers for Kids with Autism and Sensory Needs.
Christmas Tradition that Teaches Empathy & Gratitude
If you’re looking for a new Christmas tradition to try with your children this year, you really ought to check out the kindness elves.
These little guys encourage children to partake in random acts of kindness throughout the holiday season, allowing children to experience the joys of giving.