Products for the Special Needs Environment
Provided below is a list of ideas for toys and potentially helpful products when working alongside a child with special needs. Many of the below products have come to me by way of special education professionals, pediatric therapists and experienced servants inside church-based disability ministries. Some website links are provided for readers to see an example and not as an endorsement of a particular company or specific product. Many products are available from multiple sources. Some aides and ideas are very generic and can be found at any super store.
**Readers: Please add your favorite products in the comments section of this post!**
Rocking Chair – children can retreat to an area away from activity and rock in order to settle down and self organize
Bean Bag – provides a physically comfortable and visually differentiated area for a child to perch and recollect
Small Trampoline – children requiring a quick fix for gross motor movement can oftentimes calm after a spell jumping on a mini-trampoline
Tent – allows a child to block out visual “noise” and recollect
Sensory Box with squeeze toys, stress balls and manipulative three-dimensional figures – see the blog post How a Slinky can Teach Creation
Puppet or stuffed animal – great for commanding attention or giving gentle correction while invoking humor (also keeps the tone of correction and redirection positive). Puppets can have a magical way of invoking a favorable response from children!
Musical Instruments – ring a bell, shake a tambourine or tap a metal triangle to signal a transition or capture students’ attention.
Guide Ropes – provides a focused guide for a child requiring assistance during physical transitions
Painter’s Tape, Placemats, Carpet Squares or Hula Hoops – can delineate visual boundaries and assist a child in defining his/her own personal space. Mark off individual space on the ground noting where a child may sit during story time. Similarly outline a child’s space at the activity or snack table with painter’s tape or placemats
Gator Skin Balls – constructed with medium density form, come in all shapes and sizes
Bumpie Koogle Balls – bounces even if partially inflated, bumps make it easier to catch and provides sensory feedback.
Puffer Balls – super soft bouncy balls with easy to grasp strands (sensory input)
Tether ball – children look to hit the ball as it swings around a pole, can play by self or with others (striking and catching skills)
Team Top Toss – players take turns trying to wrap the bolo balls on the rungs to score pints. The swinging motion helps with success in this game:
Rody Toy – made of vinyl material, different sizes for different weight, children love to hop around on this 4-legged toy. Much safer than other bouncy balls that can roll forward if the child isn’t balancing it adequately. Great for some kids to sit (or quietly bounce) on during Bible story time instead of a traditional chair.
Parachutes – children can help lift up and down or sit/lay underneath as the parachutes rises, parachute activities have a calming effect
Lauri Foam Peg Board with Plastic Stacker Pegs – provides focused play for children who may need an occupier or focused distraction (during Bible teaching, music time or otherwise restless situation). *I personally recommend this product!*
Multi-sensory Environments or Snoezelen Rooms – For churches with an interest in designing a multi-sensory environment or providing something more akin to a special needs play room, TFH USA, associated with specialneedstoys.com, may be a good resource. This company has worked with church based disabilities ministries in designing and outfitting such environments. Their staff can also guide a church looking to purchase a small handful of products. A phone conversation may be helpful because the online catalog is overwhelming!