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10 Questions to ask when buying toys for children with special needs
Here are some questions parents or guardians or gift givers should be asking before they buy toys for children with special needs.

Choosing a toy and preparing play time is difficult for any parent but if you have a child with special needs you have to be even more conscientious of what your child is playing with, how they are relating to it and the benefits it has for your child.

There are so many more factors to consider when buying toys for your child, other than their age such as your child’s interests, what they are capable of and how they might enjoy the toy. When first choosing toys, speak to your child’s specialist, therapist (occupational, physical or speech) or pediatrician and ask them what activities they recommend to help your child’s development, while still allowing them to have fun.

Here are some questions parents or guardians or gift givers should be asking before they buy toys for children with special needs:

1. Does the toy have multi-sensory appeal?

Lights, sounds and movement can be helpful in engaging the child’s senses. Contrasting colours, a scent, or textures that your child can feel, all help to make the toy more interactive.

2. What is the method of activation?

Pay special attention to how the toy is activated so that your child might be able to use it without unnecessary frustration. Consider what force is required as well as the amount of steps that are required to activate the toy. It is important to challenge your child with their play but not so much that it causes them to have a negative experience or give up.

3. Where will the toys be used?

Make sure that the toy will be easy to store and clear away when needed, and take into account whether the toy can be played in various positions with possible restricted movement as is applicable for your child – such as lying on their side, or in a wheelchair.

4. What are the opportunities for success?

Does the toy allow for indefinite playtime or continuous play? Is there a right or wrong way to play with the toy? Does the toy adapt to the child’s individuality and can it change as the child grows?     

5. What is the current popularity of the toy?

It is important to make sure that the toy does not isolate your child from other children and should feel similar enough to the toys that the other children are playing with. It also helps if the toy ties in with other activities such as books and art sets, which helps to make your child feel included or part of something.

6. Does the toy allow for your child to express emotion?
Make sure that the toy allows your child to make choices or react to something, creating an environment that allows the child to develop their emotions and come to terms with it.

7. Is the toy adjustable?

Every child is different, some might prefer louder noises to others, others may respond better to colour. The toy should be able to appeal and adjust to the changing natures of your child and as they develop and grow.

8. Does the toy reflect the child’s individuality?

The toy should provide activities that represent the child’s developmental and chronological age. There is no point getting a toy that is too advanced for any child or something that does not interest them.

9. Is the toy safe?

Your child’s safety is your most important factor, so before giving a toy to your child to play with, inspect it yourself to make sure that it is safe for them to play with. Make sure that that it is age appropriate and that it has no small part that can be swallowed by your child.

10. Does the toy have the potential for interaction?

One of the greatest advantages of toys is often that they prompt your child to socialise with others – when they collaborating, when they are sharing – and you should consider whether the toy allows for your child to engage with others and to be an active participant while they use it.

There are plenty toys that tick these boxes, such as building blocks and construction toys, and Leapfrog’s products that cater to different developmental ages and are adjustable as the children age or develop. Find all these toys and more on Prima ToysPrima Toys is one of Southern Africa’s leading importers and distributors of toys and games; bring the world’s most famous toy brands to children across various African countries.

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