The Giant List of Gift Ideas for Children with Autism & Sensory Needs
I created this list last year before Christmas. When I went to google to search for inspiration for my own son and the results brought up nothing useful I started curating ideas for other parents.
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 kiddos.
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.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.
Gift Ideas For Children With Autism
I’m sharing these activity cards first because they are by far the most popular items that I recommend to parents and everyone 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 develop attention and focus, and identifying and regulating emotions–by the author of Mindful Games and The Mindful Child”
There are so many benefits to swinging and rocking. It’s a natural mood lifter, provides a pile of sensory input to all of the sense which encourages the development of sensory integration, and it can be both calming and alerting.
There are tons of therapy swings out there – I chose this one because it’s small, comfortable, and affordable. Your child can kick back and relax literally anywhere.
If a swing is what you want, but this one doesn’t quite fit your needs, here is a great list of 10 therapy swings for under $100.
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.
I feel 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 with your child’s interests.
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 ear muffs 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.
This is a new subscription box that comes with 2-4 expertly selected books each month. When gifting the box you can prepay for 3, 6, or 12 months.
Reading to children is important to help them acquire and master language skills. Build your child’s vocabulary by reading aloud every day. Instill a love of books at an early age, and watch their imaginations grow!
The soft lights and calming sounds of this turtle help kids feel calm and fall asleep. The lights create a fascinating visual sensory experience that looks like being underwater. Just like the star projector, there’s something inexplicably relaxing about watching this turtle.
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 the putting 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.
There are so many different lacing activities, I couldn’t pick one. These are amazing for building fine motor skills, and for calming down. My son keeps wooden beads in his break box at school and uses them when he needs a few minutes to himself.
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.
I actually purchased these for my toddler, but they’re equally popular with him, my 4-year-old and my 7-year-old. The kids love that you can build them out sideways.
They easily interlock anyway you place them so they’re awesome for kids who struggle with lining lego up just right and end up frustrated.
The first time I saw these, my son was using them in his second grade class. All the kids and the teachers love them. They’re a great way to develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving and other executive functions.
This is a super unique sensory toy that is great for active sensory seeking kids because its design really incorporates input for all of the senses. Kids will find a hundred different ways to rock on this thing. The suction cups on the bottom keep it stable and make a popping noise that kids love.
The teeter popper helps improve core strength, balance, coordination and gross motor skills through play.
I fell in love with this DIY kit as soon as I saw it. Kids use a template to create three images on canvases.
These gel floor tiles filled with cosmic colors are great for sensory seekers of all ages. Kids can walk on them, sit on them, or touch them and watch the colors ooze and mix together which is a uniquely calming experience.
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 use their fine motor skills to pick up the pieces (letters, numbers, etc) and fit them into space on the toy. 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.
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 play times 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.
I love educational toys and kits. Children retain the most information when they are learning kinesthetically through play. This kit is perfect for preteens/teens as it covers the complex concepts of nanotechnology helping kids understand just how small a nanoparticle is. If you know a child whose special interest is nanotechnology, they definitely need this kit.
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.
I keep an eye on the newest educational toys available through my shopping app and discovered this one and it’s definitely a must-have. 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.
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 an easy cleanup.
These are fun, encourage kids to be active, and help develop balance, core strength, and coordination. They’re great for the kids who never sit still, too.
This is a sensory toy subscription box that is curated by an occupational therapist to provide the best sensory toys for kids. You can prepay for three boxes to come monthly and it makes a fabulous gift. Kids feel like it’s their birthday every month when the box arrives and they get to open it up and find their surprise toys inside.
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 to play 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.
If you’re shopping for an older child or teen, a gratitude journal is a great gift idea. They promote self-care, they are therapeutic and encourage different ways of thinking which help develop executive functions, and social skills. Writing can also help your teen develop communication skills and is a great self-regulation strategy.
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!