This year’s holiday gift guide focuses on toys for children preschool through elementary school age who have disabilities.
|Fun Gripper Soccer Ball|
|Whistlestop Train Set|
Some of these toys compensate for poor coordination and fine motor control. Others are wheelchair accessible, and still others help children learn that it’s OK to be different.
The giant 36-Inch Fun Gripper Soccer Ball ($100) is great for power soccer and other games. Saturnian 1, (800) 653-2719, www.fungripper.com.
Fun for any age, the Fun Gripper Flyer ($10) is a 9-inch soft flying disc with a durable nonslip texture that’s easy to handle.
The Fling Sock ($10) is a Fun Gripper bean bag attached to a long nylon fabric tail with a handle for easy catching and throwing.
Shoot and score with the Fun Gripper B-Ball Target Game ($40) and the ball automatically returns to you. The game comes with three 5-inch Fun Gripper Balls and a carrying case.
Little train lovers will enjoy the Whistlestop Train Set ($119), which comes with an easy-to-use controller with large buttons to move four cars around a circular track. TFH Products, (800) 467-6222, www.specialneedstoys.com.
The Incrediblocks Set ($195) includes 50 large, lightweight interlocking soft blocks that are easy to handle. They’re ideal for children with limited fine-motor control and strength who want to make something big. FlagHouse, (800) 793-7900, www.flaghouse.com.
|Lakeshore Play People|
|Sew Dolling dolls|
|Tabletop pinball machine|
Providing comfort and companionship, Spinoza Bear ($110-$167) is a large, cuddly, talking bear that tells motivating stories and sings inspiring and fun songs, thanks to a cassette tape player in his tummy. Spinoza comes with a theme tape; additional tapes are available (in English or Spanish) addressing such issues as self-esteem, creativity, feelings, grief and loss, stress management, relaxation, breathing and healthy living. The Spinoza Company, (800) 282-2327, www.spinozabear.com.
Lakeshore Block Play People with Differing Abilities ($20) is a set of six vinyl figures with different disabilities. They complement the 12-figure Lakeshore Community Block Play People ($30). Lakeshore Learning Materials, (800) 778-4456, www.lakeshorelearning.com.
Just like kids, some dolls need physical therapy. Parallel Bars ($55), Trampoline ($34) and Gym Mat & Swiss Therapy Balls with Air Pump ($15) all are available in doll sizes, as are a Wheelchair ($59), Walker ($28) and Arm Braces ($24). These are for children 8 years and up. Sew Dolling, email@example.com, www.sew-dolling.com.
Also for dolls and stuffed animals, the Just Like You Wheelchair ($30) is a realistic-looking manual chair, complete with a removable seat and back, swiveling front wheels, working brakes and a storage pocket on the side. The chair fits most 18-inch dolls. American Girl, (800) 360-1861, www.americangirl.com.
Pretend play becomes wheelchair accessible with the Patio Playhouse ($350), which features a wall that swings open, easing access for wheelchair users. Little Tikes, (800) 321-0183, www.littletikes.com.
Everyone loves pinball! The tabletop Spider Man or Scooby Doo Pinball Machine ($105) is specially designed with extra-large paddles and can be adapted for skill and speed. It includes real arcade-style lights and sounds and roll digit scoring. Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697, www.enablingdevices.com.
The tabletop Shoot & Score Basketball Game ($70) allows players to shoot a miniature basketball at a hoop by hitting a plate. The game features an electronic commentator who announces the high score and gives encouragement. Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697, www.enablingdevices.com.
The Morphibian Gator ($76) is a small, rugged remote-controlled vehicle that traverses the toughest terrain, controlled by an accessible Palm Joystick Switch (included). Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697, www.enablingdevices.com.
|Bowling Ball Pusher|
|PlayStation Control Center|
Kids have a new mechanical best friend — Robopet ($79). This black, white and gray futuristic replica of a real dog has lifelike animations and digital animal sounds. Robopet can roam freely in autonomous mode, or be directed using a remote control. Train him to perform up to 20 moves and tricks, or switch him into guard or sleep mode. He’s suitable for ages 8 and up. WowWee Robotics, (800) 310-3033, www.robopetonline.com; also available at many department and toy stores.
Kids with limited hand function who want to beat friends at cards may like the Playing Card Holder ($35). It holds up to 18 cards in two clear plastic tiers. Maddak, (973) 628-7600, www.maddak.com.
A favorite game becomes more accessible with the Jumbo Checkers and Floor Mat Board ($16). These checker pieces are easy to pick up for effortless fun for the entire family. Easy-to-See Puzzles ($16) have larger puzzle pieces than traditional puzzles and come in three 300-piece designs. Dynamic Living, (888)940-0605, www.dynamic-living.com.
The Bowling Ball Pusher ($189) allows bowling from a sitting or standing position. Hold the adjustable extension handle and rest the four-pronged steel and aluminum guide on the alley floor while pushing the ball. Maddak, (973) 628-7600, www.maddak.com.
The SmartNav head tracker ($200-$400) provides hands-free computer access for word processing, games and any other computer activity that uses a mouse. Minimal head movement controls the cursor of either a Mac or PC. NaturalPoint, (888) 865-5535, www.naturalpoint.com.
The PlayStation Control Center ($150) plugs into a PlayStation port to make video gaming more accessible. Push on one of four positions on each of the two yellow disks or use your own capability switch. Enabling Devices, (800) 832-8697, www.enablingdevices.com.
Looking for a good holiday gift for your child’s teacher or school? This year, give your favorite educator a way to create disability awareness in the classroom through the joy of reading. (You may have someone else on your shopping list who would enjoy these books as well!) Most can be purchased from online or local booksellers.
Rolling Along With Goldilocks and the Three Bears,by Cindy Meyers, 28 pages, $14.95, Woodbine House, 1999.
This disability-friendly version of the classic tale includes many of the same elements as the original, except Baby Bear uses a wheelchair and other equipment, and goes to physical therapy. It ends on a positive note with Baby Bear becoming friends with Goldilocks. Ages 3-7.
All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! by Ellen B. Senisi, 28 pages, $14.95, Woodbine House, 2002.
Moses, who has spina bifida, has to write about a friend for a school assignment. Moses realizes he has much in common with his neighbor’s iguana, Zaki, who has missing toes, and decides to write about their friendship. This tale of inclusion is illustrated with colorful photographs. Grades K-4.
My Grampy Can’t Walk, by Vanita Oelschlager, 40 pages, $17.95, Cleveland Clinic Press, 2006.
This story is based on the author’s husband, who has multiple sclerosis, and his relationship with his grandchildren. The book, which has beautiful color illustrations, teaches children about disabilities and that using a wheelchair doesn’t mean life can’t be fun. Grades K-3.
A Charm for Jo, by Bill and Laurie Brady, 32 pages, $15.95, Jason and Nordic Publishers (Turtle Books), 2006.
On the first day of school, Jo (who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair) is nervous about fitting in with her new classmates. With the help of her mother, some innovative teachers and friendly students, she quickly learns that she’s very similar to her new friends. Grades 1-3.
Caleb’s Birthday Wish, by David Villanueva Jr., 40 pages, $14.95, A Better Be Write Publisher, 2006.
Caleb, who uses a wheelchair, learns the importance of following his dreams. This book says children with disabilities shouldn’t let obstacles keep them from achieving their goals. Grades K-4.
Jamie: A Literacy Story, by Diane Parker, 116 pages, $15, Stenhouse Publishers, 1997.
Written by a primary school teacher in Hawaii, this book tells the true story of a girl with spinal muscular atrophy, and the ways in which her love of reading enriched her life and others’. Jamie’s story touches on a host of critical educational issues — parent involvement, inclusion, assessment, curriculum reform, equity and justice for all learners. This joyous book was written for adults, especially elementary teachers.
Heartsongs, five poetry books by Mattie J.T. Stepanek, Hyperion Books.
The late MDA National Goodwill Ambassador and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek published five books of poetry between 2002 and 2004. These simple poems, dating back to his preschool years, are at once childlike, witty and wise, investigating subjects like rainbows, play, siblings, friends, faith, loss and grief. Grade 2 through adult.
Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs, 240 pages, $16.95, Andrews McMeel, 2005.
This book presents Mattie’s previously unpublished poetry, photographs and artwork. Each section of theme-grouped poems is introduced by one of his celebrity admirers, including Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Larry King and Jimmy Carter. Grade 4 through adult.
Just Peace: A Message of Hope, by Mattie Stepanek with Jimmy Carter. 224 pages, $16.95, Andrews McMeel, 2006.
Published posthumously, this book is a collection of Mattie’s writings on peace and his correspondence with Carter on the subject. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the MDA Mattie Fund, for research on childhood neuromuscular diseases. Grade 6 through adult.