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The Best Toys and Gifts for Autistic Children

Ms. Olivares is certified in special education. She works closely to promote the academic and social development of her son, who has autism.

It is not uncommon for children with autism to create patterns with their toys.

It is not uncommon for children with autism to create patterns with their toys.

Gifts and toys should be unique and match a child's interests

Children with autism vary in how profound their respective symptoms are. Every child is different, but many children with autism share similar characteristics.

It is not uncommon for children on the autism spectrum to have fixations on certain objects. For example, as a toddler, my son's was fixated on Hot Wheels. Every day, he would line them up along the edge of the kitchen counter. This was done in a specific pattern, and he immediately knew when a particular car was missing. Great behavior would add another car to his convoy.

These fixations and actions bring children great joy and interest. So what may be an odd gift for a typical child may be a grand treasure for a child with autism. Case in point, my son's current fixation is Legos and vacuums. It is not uncommon for him to request a new vacuum for his birthday or Christmas.

Tip: Fixations can lead to stressful tantrums when a child does not get a specific item that they want. Begin to develop positive cause-and-effect outcomes by rewarding your child for good behavior and desired growth. Beware, don't make a promise you can't keep. This will cause great distress for the affected child and may hinder communication and social growth.


Puzzles make a wonderful gift for a child with autism. Characteristically, children with this condition enjoy patterns and systems. It may take a bit of research to find which particular style of puzzle best suits the recipient. Try to find a theme that the child has an interest or fixation in.

  • Theme-based puzzles (animals, airplanes, butterflies)
  • Geometric shapes
  • Blocks

Tip: Take a photo of the child or of yourself making various faces. Use exaggerated expressions for happy, angry and sad. Then, have your local photo studio make the images into a puzzle. This will help encourage greater understanding of emotions and the child will be able to make a personal connection.

An ABA Session With Blocks

Blocks and Builders

Blocks - Toys such as blocks can provide hours of entertainment. Children love to create patterns and stack various pieces into interesting creations. You can use blocks as your own personal ABA (applied behavioral analysis) tool. Have playtime fun with your child while also building focus and encouragement. Take a look at the video to get an idea of how blocks can be utilized.

Lego - Lego building bricks are another fun toy for children. The easy to connect pieces promote creativity for the avid builder and imaginative mind. As your child gets older they may prefer Lego kits of specific items. For example, at thirteen, my son currently prefers Lego kits of airplanes and spaceships.

Baby Bumble Bee Videos

Bumble Bee videos were a favorite item for my son when he was a toddler. In fact, even at thirteen I'll occasionally catch him watching one of his old videos. There is just something about Bumble Bee videos that several children with autism find appealing. The videos play beautiful classical music while flashing numerous flashcard-type photos and videos across the screen. The narrator has a mesmerizing sing-song voice that repeats the words as they flash across the screen.

A quick Google search of autism and Bumble Bee videos will provide you with numerous testimonials from parents and teachers. Many have found these videos to encourage speech and vocabulary development in children on the autism spectrum.

The video collection ranges from actions, numbers, and standard sight words.

iPod or iPad

iPods and iPads are a great option as a gift for children in the autism spectrum. There are several useful apps that will help promote their social and academic development. There are also several entertaining apps that will bring hours of pleasure and focus. Consider apps and images that focus on your child's interests; i.e., cars, dinosaurs, or in my child's case - vacuums. In fact, the new iPad 2 comes equipped with iMovie. You can utilize this great app for creating personalized videos. Below is one my son and I created. The fact that he is excited and narrating is a far cry from his early nonverbal days. Therefore, an iPad is not only a great toy, it can be an excellent tool for encouraging communication and learning.

Create personalized videos with iMovie

Custom Books

Take photos of your child performing various daily activities. Upload these images to your Power Point or Keynote program. Add clear titles and short sentences describing the actions. Save each slide as a new image and create a book. There are several online companies and local photo developers that are equipped for making custom books.

Here are a few online companies available with this service.

  • Walgreens
  • Mixbook
  • Shutterfly
  • Snapfish

How about a gift card to a child's favorite restaurant?

Tony loves eating the kid's pizza at Chili's. His Godmother enjoys giving him an occasional gift card to his favorite restaurant.

Tony loves eating the kid's pizza at Chili's. His Godmother enjoys giving him an occasional gift card to his favorite restaurant.

In the end, choose gifts and toys that promote focus and interest for the child. Find the unique elements that they may find interesting and consider it as a potential gift. However, one can usually not go wrong with puzzles, blocks, Legos, or videos. You might even want to consider an iTunes gift card as a gift. Some apps can be costly,

Enjoy the gift of giving.

Further Reading

Here are a couple of related articles that you may also find helpful:

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


MelAyersWorkman on November 19, 2018:

My 3 year old grandson is autistic & can’t yet talk.. he’s communicating some, but he also lines things up.. he likes cars & trucks. He likes books too. I need to know more about the touchscreen lessening..

JessBraz from Canada on February 16, 2013:

Wonderful hub.

I don't have any children myself yet, but my younger brother who is 8 is autistic. He has a facination with snakes... Any toy that has anything to do with snakes, it almost certainly will be a hit... He can't stand toys with loud noises and all kinds of lights, it seems to upset him.. Books are usually a great idea as well. I like your idea about the custom books. Through therapy we came to know about 'social stories' ... They're books that his teachers and occupational therapists would put together with pictures of him in them to prepare him for certain activities.. like starting the school year. They're a wonderful tool.

Another great gift/tool we've come across is weighted pencils. A lot of autistic children seem to have a difficult time with their manual dexterity. He doesn't enjoy colouring as much as an average 8 year old beause he has a hard time holding pencils... We found some weighted pencils online, and they've greatly improved his writing skills and he's starting to find a love for colouring and drawing.

Great hub!

Voted up, useful, interesting and I'm definitely going to follow you.. I've seen that you've got quite a few hubs about autism and I look forward to reading them.


Chris Neal from Fishers, IN on January 09, 2013:

Thanks! As a parent of two autistic children, one severe and one mild, this really helps! My mildly autistic child loves LEGO's!

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on December 17, 2012:

Very useful information for parents or guardians of an autistic child especially those who have no clue yet or confused on what kind of toys to buy for them.

H Lax on December 07, 2012:

My grandsons are autistic and these are great suggestions of what I can get for them for Christmas. The 3 year old loves lining things up and he also can do wonders on my daughters cell phone. He knows how to work that thing like you wouldn't believe. I pick the thing up and I don't even have a clue how to get into it. It can play on it for hours. I wanted to get him his own cell phone because he loves it so much but then I think, Are we getting a little carried away when 3 year old have their own cell phones?" LOL Whatever works, right? Thanks for the tips. Voted++++

Mary Kelly Godley from Ireland on December 04, 2012:

Interesting Hub, I too have a child with autism but he would be at an earlier stage than your son as he is five and still pretty much non-verbal. He is getting a Special Needs Touchscreen this Christmas (pretty similar to the Ipad) with some Apps already loaded onto it, he is not into puzzles yet although I have tried many as they do at his E.I. class. My son is very sensory seeking and totally hyperactive so toys geared towards satisfying these fascinations are his favorites at the moment. I have written Hubs on this topic too although as I say I am at an earlier stage of the journey than you. Voted up.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 03, 2012:

Such an awesome hub. I think lots of people will benefit from this. Your Tony is so cute and that's so interesting the he likes vacuums. What a comprehensive, awesome hub and great gift ideas!

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on August 11, 2012:

Hi aspieadult, thanks for the LEGO correction. I did fix that. Those LEGO kits are getting more and more expensive. You are so generous. Tony does have the shuttle. Perhaps there is an organization in your local community that could use it? Maybe one of your local schools? Thank you so much for stopping by to read. I highly recommend your work for more insight into the autie and aspie mind. Take care. https://hubpages.com/@aspieadult

aspieadult on August 05, 2012:

I bought a LEGO space shuttle set recently :D ......btw the plural of a LEGO brick is LEGO bricks, not LEGOs---- Anyway, I intend on donating it to another Aspie or Autie...when I was growing up we really couldn't afford many toys and I bet there are ASD kids out there who can't afford a LEGO set either, so when the time comes (probably January 2013...if the world lasts that long haha), would you like me to contact you about the LEGO Shuttle Expedition 10231 ?

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on July 12, 2012:

Olde Cashmere - what a great comment! I'm warmed to hear about you and your nephew. He is very lucky to have an uncle like you. He sounds like a wonderful blessing in your life. It sounds like he is a bit like my Tony with puzzles and Legos. Cool! By the way, you did mention that he loves drawing. I did an interview on this great artist, Dustin Nunn. He is a cartoonist and avid gamer. He also happens to have autism. He has published a cartoon book and has several in the works. You should look up his hub sometime and introduce his work to your nephew. He is definitely inspiring. Thanks for your votes - I greatly appreciate it.

Olde Cashmere on July 10, 2012:

Thank you so much for this hub missolive. I've played a big part in raising my nephew who has autism and these are great gift ideas. He loves putting puzzles together and does so with a super focus and great speed, same thing when assembling new lego sets. I'm also encouraging him to pursue his artistic talents and we sit down together and draw with crayons, he loves creating robots and monsters. This was a great read, thank you for sharing with us. Voted up, awesome, useful, interesting, and beautiful :)

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on June 28, 2012:

mom4autism - you totally rock! I'm super happy about sharing this community with you! :)

Lisa from Northeast U.S. on June 28, 2012:

Well yes - this fires me up too! LOL! I really want him to keep up with his peers and I am not happy when I feel that his diagnosis buys him an excuse to not push....so very frustrating! And I will be back for other hubs too :)

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on June 28, 2012:

mom4autism, yes! I totally agree with you. As my son gets older I'm frustrated by people who say, we just want him to be happy and comfortable. Well, of course I want that too, but I want him to be challenged to succeed and to continue developing as well. All children and adults deserve to be the best that they can be and that takes growth and development. It is our job as parents, community members and teachers to help ensure this happens.

I'm so pleased to see you have come back by - thank you. :)

Lisa from Northeast U.S. on June 28, 2012:

I completely understand what you mean - it's such a fine line but really isn't it important that they be challenged to be the best he/she can be???

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on June 22, 2012:

mom4autism, I love your approach and perspective! Way to go mom! Building their self confidence is so important and sometimes that means challenging them a bit more than usual. I get strange looks from my son's teachers when I say I want him to be challenged and for them not to make things too easy on him. I think you understand what I mean by that. I'm looking forward to following you as well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Lisa from Northeast U.S. on June 19, 2012:

Thank you for writing an interesting article. My son is also on the spectrum and it's always nice to read others ideas or suggestions. Glad to now start following you and look forward to reading other hubs. I always try to focus on what he does so well not what he cannot do. And like you, I look for things that will, one - make him happy, and two - make himself confident. Thank you again!

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on May 07, 2012:

breathing, I think you are absolutely correct but as an autie mom and teacher I just may be a bit biased :)

Those in the autism spectrum have surprised many with their abilities. Just because they cannot do certain things in the norm does not mean they are not capable of performing wonderful tasks. Thank you for your lovely comment and support.

TANJIM ARAFAT SAJIB from Bangladesh on May 07, 2012:

Autistic Children: I think they are the wealth of our society. If they get favor they can do great work. We should think about them like you.

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on April 29, 2012:

s.wilson, you are absolutely right. Kinesthetics, or a hands on manipulative is definitely beneficial. Checking with a parent is always important. What one child may find soothing another may find uncomfortable.

Thank you for sharing your view.

s.wilson on April 26, 2012:

I find that clay, sand, and other sensory type toys are beneficial. It is important to check with parents to make sure that these items won't create stress to the child first.

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on April 13, 2012:

Thank you Saday - Have a great Friday :)

saday from India on April 09, 2012:

missolive, I totally agree with you..

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on April 09, 2012:

RealHousewife - I love you too Kelly! You rock! I love your photo album idea! Too cute! Thank you for sharing and for your support.

Stephanie Henkel - Thank you for your lovely comment and observations. I do appreciate you forwarding this hub. Pictures and videos are fun and with a bit of creativity they can be turned into teachable moments. Thanks again for reading, commenting and sharing. It is always nice to see you. :)

Lord de Cross - Hi Joseph! Yes, there are definitely more than a handful of video games out there that will interest our kiddos. There are so many now that it is hard to decipher which one will be the right fit. I'm glad you came by to read and comment.

saday - Thank you for sharing your opinion and link. Although I disagree that autism can be cured - I do agree that the symptoms can be minimized if not removed. I always wonder about the adult years that my son will live through and as to how long I'll be around to help keep him happy and safe.

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on April 09, 2012:

hectordang - Wow - thank you for doing that! I hope it helps others choose just the right gift. Thank you for sharing and thank you for the very valuable work you do. :)

cclitgirl - you are one busy teacher Cyndi! Isn't it amazing how the population of special needs students is growing. As each year passes I am seeing more and more students in the autism spectrum. I'm glad this hub has given you some insight to ideas and connections. By the way, thank you for being a teacher - I just know you are awesome!

rebeccamealey - Facial expressions and flashcards of emotions are a common tool in therapy. I figured it would be a fun connection to have them see themselves or someone they know making these faces. Plus, having your own face as a puzzle is just too cool. Thank you for all you do!

Teresa Coppens - Thank you! My son was so excited when I told him he was going to make his own vacuum video! He really opened up and connected with the process. We were amazed to hear how much his voice has changed since that video. Awww - they grow up so fast! Thanks for the votes and support. I value your opinion and the knowledge you share with us. Thanks again. :)

ramurray3 - Thank you for reading and commenting. Best wishes to you and your step son.

Marisa Hammond Olivares (author) from Texas on April 09, 2012:

sholland10 - Thank you Susan! Gifts and toys should be unique for the recipient. Knowing a child's fixation and interests certainly helps. I appreciate the votes and the shares. :)

Sinea Pies - Hi Sinea! I'm glad to see you. Puzzle and blocks are almost always a hit with these lovely kiddos. Plus, I think it is ok to ask a parent what their child is in to. I'm glad you liked my dividers. :)

Emma Harvey - Thank you for reading and commenting. As you well now - each child is unique. Plus, their interests change as they grow and develop. The Keepon sounds like a neat gift - thank you for sharing.

saday from India on April 02, 2012:

Visiy http://www.aidforautism.com/

saday from India on April 02, 2012:

Some of the hidden facts about Autism are like Autism is a hidden disability, Autism is a serious illness with lifelong and disabling condition. It can be cured by right support and treatment. A child suffered from Autism grows up to be adults with Austin. Parents from CA, U.S.A should visit at least once at "Aid for Autism" a CA, U.S.A based non profitable organization which always looks after to children as well as adults were suffering from Autism.

Joseph De Cross from New York on April 01, 2012:

This is another awesome hub for parents with autistic children. Fixation, patterns, repetitioning and color interests can make a difference in choosing a game or a toy for your kid. There are several cartridge games and educational PSP games that can attract their attention. Glad you put this out Miss Olive!


Stephanie Henkel from USA on April 01, 2012:

In the little contact I've had with autistic children I've seen two of the behaviors you mentioned: obsession with certain items and patterns. I like the gift ideas you presented of making a puzzle out of a picture of the child and yourself and of making a personalized video. You always have such creative ideas! I'm going to forward this to my friend who has an autistic grandchild as it is sure to give her some useful gift ideas.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on April 01, 2012:

Fabulous ideas! I love you Miss O! I bet you hear that at school so much:). You are so smart! All these ideas for fun and learning can be used for any child! When my kids were little - they chewed on their books (I'm talking toddlers) I made them a little photo album to take to daycare with my picture in one, dads, her sisters, and just funny stuff:) lol. That way - if she missed us - we were right there:) lol

ramurray3 from New York City on April 01, 2012:

Very helpful and interesting article. I have a stepson with autism.

Teresa Coppens from Ontario, Canada on March 31, 2012:

Awesome hub. You bring a wealth of knowledge to all those with kids or relatives or friends with kids on the spectrum. I loved the Hoover video. Voted up and so very useful and practical!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on March 31, 2012:

This is great for parents and teachers as well on what toys to get for autistic kids,and I just love the facial expression puzzle. That is just awesome!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on March 31, 2012:

This is such valuable information with teachers. I have 13 classes that I teach in grades 2-5 and almost every class has a child with autism - with all the ranges and spectra. This is actually very helpful to me as I learn to relate better to my students with autism. :)

hectordang from New York on March 31, 2012:

I teach many children with special needs. Some our autistic. I printed our your list to give me ideas on how I can better serve them!

Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on March 31, 2012:

Great hub Marisa. My son is mildly autistic and my nephew is a little further on the spectrum. These puzzles would really suit a child like my son and he loved lego bricks when he was smaller.

My nephew was given a Keepon for Christmas, which is a dancing robot squidgy toy, that reacts to touch and sound - designed for ASD kids. He is an older child and loses interest with puzzles and building bricks. He's more creative which is unusual.

Good ideas and help for Mothers and carers out there who need to amuse their children.

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on March 31, 2012:

Unless a person has been close to an autistic child, they would be clueless on what types of toys that they would like. This is such a great hub for us to follow. Voted up and useful. (Love the puzzle piece dividers!)

Susan Holland from Southwest Missouri on March 31, 2012:

Marisa, this is a fantastic list of gifts for autistic children. Those of us who do not have autistic children but who have friends who do have have children with autism will find this hub very useful. You also gave characteristics to look for so parents of autistic children can better identify with their children - wonderful. A GREAT HUB! Votes and Shared! :-)

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