Buying gifts for others can be overwhelming for anyone. Trying to come up with non-toy gift ideas for autistic children can be extremely difficult! I understand the want to get children presents though. To see that joy and excitement when they open the presents is worth every penny spent! But, what do you do when the child isn’t excited about it or overwhelmed by the sheer number of presents? That is a question that many parents of autistic children face.
With having four children, birthday’s and holidays seem to bring an overwhelming number of toys into our home. While the gifts themselves are well thought out, often they go unopened or played with very little. Combine that with the fact our house is small, these toys bring chaos and clutter along with them! Having toys out-of-place (or with no place to go) is not only stressful but sometimes dangerous. Have you ever stepped on a toy car? Not fun at all!
As a mom of two children with autism, I am asked many questions. One question I have been asked more often has been “What are some non-toy gift ideas for autistic children that I can get?” I never realized how hard this was (and how few articles are out there about this!) until I had my children. It’s a tough one, but I can offer some advice to help you out on this one!
Here is a list of non-toy gift ideas for autistic children to help both the giver and receivers of these gifts. Some of these may not work for every age, but you can use several of these in any age group. I’ve included links to some of my favorite versions of these, many of which I had or currently have in my home.
15 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Autistic Children
Wearable Art Therapy
Having a resource that can go with you anywhere is always a win! Wearable Art Therapy by Chalk Wild is a book bag (several options) that comes with 8 different colored chalk markers to draw on the bag. Click here to find out all about them and see it in action!
Weighted blankets are a phenomenal tool to have for children with autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and anxiety based disorders. The weight gives them the sensory input they are often seeking out. My favorite weighted blanket is from Harkla. It is the easiest to clean, and the cover provides extra sensory input.
Memberships are another great non-toy gift option. There are endless options, and you can pick something close to the child’s interests. These can be to places like the zoo, science museum, art museum, a trampoline park, or if they are old maybe even the gym.
Magazine subscriptions are a great nontoy option. It’s always fun to look forward to receiving something in the mail. There are a ton of magazines for kids out there such as Highlights, National Geographic for Kids, Chirp, Lego Kids, American Girl, Zoobooks and more. The possibilities are endless. You can easily give them a card with a note about the subscription in it for something tangible. Zoobooks Free Trial Subscription + Free Gifts = Wild Learning Fun for Kids All Year Long!
Another great item to have them receive is a subscription box. This gives them something new every month and can be personalized to the child. For sensory seekers, the Sensory Theraplay Box is a great choice. For children over 8 years old, the SuperSkills box is a really cool option too!
Books are always a great option for gift giving. If you know what they like, you can pick out books they are looking forward to receiving. You can also buy a gift card to a bookstore like Barnes & Nobles. If you are looking for something more personal, you can get them a personalized book that includes their name (as well as friends and family members names) in the story. ISeeMe books have one of the largest varieties of personalized books out there and are great quality.
Music is a huge help with a lot of children with autism. There is music for every age and musical preference out there. There are several options to purchase music these days. You can buy them a cd, a radio, an mp3 player, an iTunes gift card, or even an Amazon music subscription. I love the Amazon music subscription because as their taste changes, so can their music. Join Amazon Prime Music – The Only Music Streaming Service with Free 2-day Shipping – 30-day Free Trial
Pod Hanging Swing
Sensory swings are such amazing tools. They provide enclosure, motion, and are just a wonderful calm down spot. They are also a great place for children to read books in as well. My favorite (most durable & affordable) is the harkla pod hanging swing.
Board Games & Puzzles
Some may argue that this would be considered a toy but bear with me on this one. In most therapy sessions with younger children, board games and puzzles are used. Board games are great as they teach the child proper social skills and responses to playing with others. Puzzles provide some tactile satisfaction and work on fine motor skills. You could go with something as basic as connect four or one more advanced such as The Anger Solution Game, Smart Kids Social Skills Game Set, or The Stop, Relax & Think Card Game.
There is nothing more enlightening than seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Children with autism see things quite different from those without autism. Giving them a chance to take pictures of the things they notice and enjoy opens the opportunity to talk to others about those pictures. They can bond over talking about the things that make them happy. There are so many options out there for digital camera, even ones that are designed with toddlers in mind!
Video Game Subscription
Especially for a teenager, video games can provide a way to explore new worlds for children with autism. Picking out a video game for a child can prove very difficult though. I love that there are now subscriptions out there that they can choose the games they like, and return them when they are ready. Gamefly is the leading video game subscription out there. I love them since they have games across all genres and age levels.
GameFly™ – Try Video Games Before You Buy Them. Rent the latest Xbox 360, PS3 & Wii Games. Start For Only $5.95 or Try For Free!
Shoes & Boots
For younger children, shoes can be a fun option for a gift. My son loves sharks, so when he received a shark raincoat I knew we’d have to get him matching boots. Kids shoe and boots are so much fun. They have everything from princesses, firetrucks, sharks, and puppies. Kidorable is a great option as they have shoes for all-weather and are amazingly durable!
We’re always told not to play with our food, but fun bites change that rule up! A lot of children with autism struggle when it comes to mealtime. There are multiple different reasons (such as texture, taste, color) that can cause a struggle at mealtime. Any way that helps make mealtime more enjoyable, is a present to the child and parents! Check out Funbites Here.
No matter what their reading ability is, audio books are helpful for all ages. It can be very calming to have a book read to you, but parents struggle with finding the time to read books with everything else going on. Buying them an audiobook membership is an awesome option. Amazon’s audiobooks subscription has always worked great for us as they have a HUGE selection of books. Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks
Art & Craft Supplies
Especially for younger children, but even teens can benefit from art and craft supplies. Coloring books, drawing pads, crayons, markers, Popsicle sticks, poms, are all great options. Having art supplies give children a creative outlet, but they also help with fine motor skills and self-regulation. I love adult coloring books, even for my nine-year-old. They take more time and give more options for self-expression. When the child is done with the coloring pages, they make great gifts for the child to give too!
Weighted blankets are an awesome gift idea. Thanks for including it on your list.
Weighted blankets are awesome. We like to ask for experiences. My Eythan is a seeker on everything. So he loves to go go go. Zoo passes were our favorite gift
Zoo passes are awesome! Especially ones that include parking! lol! We love going to zoo since everyone has a different favorite animal and no two visits are exactly the same.
I’m getting ready for my son’s birthday, so I really appreciate this list. I had never thought about a subscription box- especially for therapy toys! Checking it out now!
Glad it helped! Toys always pile up around here, never to be played with. Therapy toys are great because it’s something new, but we use them a the time!