The toys on this list is what we think are the best toys for the autistic children we have worked with. As toys can practically be enjoyed by anyone, this list was created more to emphasize the client’s preferences and opportunities it provides to teach new skills that may be challenging for autistic children.
Based on our personal experiences, these toys are the ultimate fan favourite for all our clients of different interests and abilities. Somehow they just never get bored of them and you can find out why!
1. Domino Train Set
This toy is not only fun but also educational. If your child is a train lover, then that’s a bonus! This train set is a two in one goodie as it makes dominos more fun by incorporating a train set that is interactive (it makes trains sounds and flashes lights as it drives). Additionally, It provides development in areas of colour recognition, cognitive abilities, spatial relationships, and teamwork.
In our sessions, we like to take turns with our clients loading up the dominos, starting the train up, pushing the dominos down, and gathering the pieces to do it all over again!
One thing I wish this train set had was a volume adjustor as it initially may be too loud for some kiddos who are sensitive to sounds. However, one of my clients overcame this (by wearing headphones at first) and eventually loved it!
The Domino Train Set is a wonderful toy for all kids, one that offers a great blend of fun, learning, and quality. It’s a toy that will likely get plenty of use and bring joy to children and their families.
2. Marble Run
Marble Run is a great choice for parents looking for a STEM educational toy that will engage children’s creativity, logical thinking, fine motor skills (especially focusing on finger dexterity) and problem-solving skills. With many pieces including some colourful, translucent plastic pieces and glass marbles, the set provides endless fun as kids watch the marbles navigate the tracks they’ve constructed.
This toy is versatile as kids can build the structure however they like to their current ability. Some kids can build structures so complex and interactive that we would not be able to build on our own. Some other kids just like to build it high up and simply watch the marbles drop! Lots of laughter and excitement no matter how you play with this toy.
However, when playing with young children, make sure parents let them know beforehand that marbles must be held delicately as we won’t want to lose them or ingest them!
3. Various Play-doh Set and Tools
Play-doh works wonders in keeping kids busy while at the same time working on fine motor skills, imaginative skills, and imitation skills. There are various play-doh sets with tools of specific themes such as a pizza set, ice cream set, pasta making set, dentist set, dinosaur set. Try to purchase sets with tools such as rolling pins, molds, cutters, stamps, extruders, scissors, and more.
Play-doh sets are designed not only to provide endless fun but also to stimulate your child’s creativity and imagination. Parents can also role play creative scenarios while playing together. It’s an excellent way for your child to develop their hands-on skills and learn through play. we like to incorporate verbal communication skills while playing such as making comments, asking questions, answering questions, role play a specific scenario (customer and shop owner interaction) to further work on more skills while playing!
We have noticed, some kids may need time to adjust to the texture of play doh but I’m sure as they spend more time watching you play, they will overtime this! The majority of our clients have loved these sets. Kids can also play independently with its great variety of tools as well.
4. Doctor’s set
This doctor set is perfect for children who especially love to play pretend, with a variety of pretend medical tools and role-play items for an immersive and educational play experience. The stethoscope mimics a heartbeat, some tools glow, and the dentist tools teach kids about oral health. This toy provides additional opportunities to work on communication skills, imaginative play, and role play.
In addition, a doctor’s set can allow kids who are afraid of going to the doctor’s feel not so bad or scared about it. This is done by role playing situations at the dentist’s or doctor’s so it becomes more familiar to kids who are particularly nervous about seeing heath care professionals.
5. Chutes and Ladders Board Game
The Chutes and Ladders board game is a classic choice for children, promoting counting and number recognition through a simple, fun game. It can also work on social skills such as following instructions, taking turns, making comments, and losing gracefully. We don’t like a poor sport in games so this easy and fun game helps our competitive learners work on these social skills! Chutes and Ladders is known for its straightforward gameplay, this game requires no reading skills, making it perfect for preschoolers or kids who haven’t yet learned to read.
This is also a game that is played at school so getting a head start on learning the rules and instructions will help kiddos who are still working on their social and joint attention skills.
6. Microwave Play set
Who would have thought a household appliance would make it onto the top 10 list! A Microwave Play Set is a type of cause and effect toy. You put food inside the microwave, press some buttons, and wait for the ding! It includes a play microwave that features realistic light and sound effects, emulating a real-life cooking experience for your child. Younger kids can work on their waiting skills as they wait for the “ding” sound or follow simple 1 to 2 step instructions. Other kids can use the microwave as a role play opportunity to work on conversational, imaginative, and life skills goals. This particular set also comes with an assortment of plastic toy foods such as a hot dog, roast chicken, croissant, and a cheeseburger with pickles and tomato. The microwave is easy to use, allowing your child to place the food inside, press the illustrated button of their choice, and watch as the food spins until the timer goes off, just like a real microwave. This interactive play set encourages imaginative play, enabling your child to practice their cooking, cleaning, and hosting skills, stimulating their creativity and critical thinking.
7. Wind up cars
Pull back/wind up cars and trucks are friction-powered model cars for children. This is another kind of cause and effect toys that kids enjoy as something they did resulted in a fun effect (in this case, their cars zooming past the room!). Cause and effect toys can be simple or complex but any kind can grasp the interest in many kids. This particular set includes various vehicles like a fire engine, police car, and transport truck, designed with bright colours and real functions. They’re safe, durable, and can withstand rough play. Kids can play race with their chosen car or build tracks with everyday materials to elevate the experience. Imagination can take wind up cars to the next level!
These friction-powered toys don’t require batteries—simply pull them back and they’ll move forward. Wind up cars can also aid in a child’s vocabulary development, hand-eye coordination, and motor skills. If your child loves cars to begin with, wait till they see what a simple wind up car can do with just a little more imagination!
8. Bizzy Bear books
The “Bizzy Bear” series (with over 25 books) by Benji Davies offers an engaging reading experience for active toddlers. We love using this book series to introduce reading to our younger learners. Constructed as robust board books, they come with chunky sliders designed for small hands to push and pull, inviting interaction and improving fine motor skills. The books are rich in visual detail, providing plenty of objects and scenes for children to identify and talk about.
Early learners can learn to identify various elements on the pages while our more advanced young learners can read and interact with the book accordingly. They also incorporate elements of humour, making the reading experience enjoyable for both children and adults. Given their engaging content and durable design, we have kids ask to read these over and over again!
Puzzles play a significant role in children’s development and learning. Puzzles are one of the most versatile toys as they come in different difficulty levels, themes, and colours. They are more than just fun activities; they provide an opportunity for children to develop a variety of skills. Puzzles can help enhance fine motor skills as children grasp and fit pieces together. The physical manipulation of these pieces also promotes hand-eye coordination. Puzzles can also help develop cognitive skills such as problem-solving and logical thinking. Children learn to strategize and experiment with different ways to fit pieces together. Such as rotating pieces, changing pieces, looking for edges/corners to help them more (in jigsaw puzzles).
Additionally, puzzles help improve visual-spatial reasoning, which is essential in reading and understanding maps. Lastly, completing a puzzle can give a child a sense of achievement, boosting their confidence and self-esteem. In summary, puzzles offer a fun, educational, and engaging way for children to learn and grow.
10. Pop Up Pirate
The Pop Up Pirate Game is a thrilling and engaging game that promises to bring an exciting and good time for kids. Suitable for ages 4 years and up, this game invites 2-4 players to test their luck by sliding colourful plastic swords into slots in a barrel housing a pirate. The suspense builds with each turn, as players never know which slot will trigger the pirate to pop out, signalling the end of the round for the player who triggered it. Classic games like this promotes social skills such as a turn taking, making comments, following instructions, and learning game rules. The suspense in Pop Up Pirate makes learning these skills easier as it is so much fun!
The game features a whimsical pirate character, complete with a big black moustache, eye patch, and a purple scarf. His large, cautious grin seems to suggest he doesn’t mind the excitement of being launched from the barrel. Despite its simplicity, the Pop Up Pirate Game offers an entertaining mix of chance, suspense, and hilarity, ensuring hours of fun for kids and adults!
Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.