If your home is anything like ours, the last thing your child needs is another plastic toy. That’s not to say that some of those type of gifts won’t make it under the tree, but I’m always on the look out for thoughtful gifts that teach empathy, confidence, and cooperation.
I’m leery of gift lists that are only for children with Down syndrome. My son, Troy, plays with everything his typical twin brother plays with, but there are some things he really gravitates towards. I wanted to share an all inclusive gift list. So, I gathered up all of Troy’s favorites, but these are also toys that his 2-year-old sister and 5-year-old typical twin play with often. I tried to choose gifts that teach an important skill like empowerment, empathy, cooperation, STEM, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, etc.
Without further ado, a list of my favorite gifts sure to empower any preschooler in your life:
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Does your child with a little something extra love music? Mine is obsessed. We’ve run the gamut of speech related music CDs, and some are better than others. Troy’s favorite is “Kids’ Express: Imitation Station.” He knows every word to this CD. You can find it here. My favorite is “Kids in Action,” because it gets all my kids up and moving.
There’s also Apraxia specific CDs like “Time to Sing,” which slows down all the well-known nursery rhymes and children’s songs so Troy can sing them along with the beat. It’s amazing how clear Troy can talk when he sings. Has anyone else found this to be true? I really think music is the key to better speech for Troy. We even make up our own songs to get dressed, wash our hands, brush our teeth, or learn our address and my phone number. Message me if you want any other music CD recommendations. We have a ton!
Related: Adult Self-Advocate with Down Syndrome and Apraxia Gives Hope that the Seemingly Impossible Can Be Reached with the Right Motivation
STEM, as well as sensory activities are all the rage these days and this “Marble Genius Marble Run” combines both in a perfect toy (albeit plastic). All three of my kids LOVE this toy, and use it EVERY day.
My neuro-typical 5-year-old has impressed me countless times as he’s created a unique and challenging new marble run. Troy hasn’t mastered the mechanics of how to put the marble run together, but he loves helping Hunter physically put the pieces together (great fine motor task). All three kids are almost in a zen-like state as they watch the marbles run down the maze of tubes. This is definitely my favorite toy, because I don’t have to feel guilty about taking a mini-mental break from the kids while they play with it.
Troy’s teacher is always commenting on how well he takes turns and waits during game time at school. I credit this in part to his love of board games at home. Stack Up! board game is just one example of a game that really teaches it all: balance, counting, fine-motor skills, hand eye coordination, cooperation, and patience.
It’s not easy or fun to always sit down with your kids and play these type of board games, but it really does pay off. What I like about Stack Up! is that all three of my kids (age 2 to 5, typical and not) can enjoy the game because it scaffolds the directions to reach each age player. Troy and his siblings sat with me a few times to play, and now they enjoy playing without me.
Books are always a timeless gift. There are so many great children’s books to choose from. Troy especially loves any book that rhymes or can be sung like the “Pete the Cat” series or anything by Dr. Seuss. When we read the book, “What Are Your Superpowers?” by Marget Wincent together they were eager to name their own superpowers.
Troy could relate to the book’s character whose superpower is dancing alone when no one is looking. Hunter, my typical twin son, was a bit more skeptical. He couldn’t understand how every day actions could count as superpowers, which led to a great discussion on importance of valuing everyone’s gifts, big or small.
If you’re looking for something a little more high-tech, Osmo is a fantastic interactive learning game preschoolers can use on any iPad. Troy is obsessed with Osmo Monster, Mo, who asks the kids to draw objects that he then pulls into the iPad screen and uses in hilarious ways. All three kids are laughing nonstop with this game.
Other Osmo games my kids enjoy are Tangram an interactive wooden puzzle, Numbers where the kids can practice one-to-one correspondence and counting, and Words where they use letters to build sight words.
What would the holidays be without one fantastic gross motor gift. This year Troy is getting “Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter.” His typical twin is getting a Razor scooter, but Troy struggles with balance and coordination so I’m hoping this wider-based scooter helps.
Right now Troy uses a specially fitted Amtryke bike that he’s close to mastering. You can learn more here. I’d really like to get him on a “Strider Bike,” which he already has but doesn’t like because it takes a lot of core strength and balance. The Strider bike company is always at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention, and I think it is a great beginning bike for our loved ones with an extra chromosome.