Welcome to our first ever Holiday Gift Guide. I love trying out new toys and items and sharing our feedback. I was given some of these products to review at no cost, in hopes that I would include them in this guide. All opinions are my own. When I talk about the items and say “what I liked” and “what I was unsure about” please note that I am speaking from the perspective of a parent of a child with special needs, and that none of these products was developed specifically for children with special needs. I also tried to pick items with a high “fun” value, in my opinion. Our kids spend enough time in teaching and therapeutic environments, sometimes we just want fun!
Peppa Pig: Peppa Pig is on Nickelodeon and her toys are made by Fisher-Price, which is why I wanted to try these (we love both!). While I’m not a mom who gives toys to the kids “just for so,” we got these right before Hurricane Sandy so I was glad they had something new to enjoy since we were indoors for so long. We played with the Hug & Oink Peppa and they Peek & Surprise Playhouse and watched some of the episodes on DVD. We have previously seen her on Nick TV.
What I liked: Her rich saturated colors that appeal to my son. Her British accent helps him get acquainted to different speaking. She’s on TV so he can hopefully bridge the toys to the video to online games. But she’s not such an overwhelming presence or character that being “just a pig” disappears in the mix, if that makes sense. What I mean is, I can use her to talk about pigs, the p sound and so much more–and her character doesn’t overwhelm the fact that she’s a pig. The playhouse allows for lots of role play and pretend play. She’s very pink but I didn’t find her to be too girly, nor did my two boys. It wasn’t too babyish for them, as age-appropriate toys for my son are becoming a concern for us.
What I was unsure about: I’m not sure that my son can connect the dots as far as why a pig would live in a house. Those types of ‘pretend’ connections don’t compute for him, so probably not good for that. The online games definitely need a parent’s assistance, and by the time they can do it themselves, they probably will have outgrown Peppa.
Overall, just fun, different, not something everyone has. They really liked it. I liked that it’s reasonably priced and from brands I can trust for kids. Peppa Pig is available on Amazon and at Toys R Us. She is also on Facebook.
EzyRoller: I was very anxious to try this, because my son cannot pedal a bike and we have been looking for something comparable to a bike.
What I liked: While he cannot pedal a bike, he can move this. They use their legs, but the movement is easier, because it’s more of a lean. It felt like he had success with this because he was able to learn that it was his movement causing the EzyRoller to move. That doesn’t happen when you’re pushing them on a bike–it’s harder for them to make the connection. In the right environment, he can work this easily. I plan to use it on paved paths like at the Penn Twp park. It’s for ages 4-14.
What I was unsure about: For neurotypical kids, this is a great toy. If your child has cognitive or motor planning issues, it has to be a really controlled environment. I guess that’s not much different than any other situation that we are in. But he could very easily steer himself right into traffic (same as a bike) if he got himself going. These are just issues any parent with a child with special needs will encounter.
Overall: A great toy that I would recommend. I love that it is encouraging kids to be outside and be active, and I am really happy that he is able to work it and love the smile on his face when he does. I need to learn how to watch and monitor him and a camera and get a picture of him riding it. It has won the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids award, and it’s well deserved!
MAM oral products: Oral care continues to be such a challenge for us. My son doesn’t do any rotary chewing, swallows all of his food whole. And, his sensory issues means that he’s not a huge fan of getting his teeth brushed or cleaned at the dentist. MAM has oral care products for infants and up. Oh how I wish I had been diligent with this when he was an infant!
What I liked: I love the age range that they offer. They have several varieties of pacifiers and many varieties of teeth/gum cleaning products for newborns and up. There’s even an Oral Care Rabbit for when they are itty bitty babies! The brushes are soft and small, so even though my son is beyond the age range that they are intended for, he tolerated them better than the other toothbrushes he has. Love that their stuff is all BPA free and is thoroughly tested and check out the holiday-themed pacifiers. Too cute! They are also on Facebook, where you can keep up to date with other sales codes and specials.
What I was unsure about: I felt the pacifiers were a bit too spendy for my taste, I remember how often we lost them! However, they are having a special right now. From December 3 – December 7, moms can use coupon code MAMHOLIDAY to buy one set of MAM Personalized Pacifiers and receive one of equal or lesser value for free. One coupon per customer; redeemable exclusively at www.mambabypersonalized.com. Offer expires December 7, 2012, 11:59 PM EST.
Overall: I wish I had known about these products when K was an infant. If you get a prenatal diagnosis or a very early one, I highly recommend these products. While we should be doing oral care for all of our infants, getting our kids with sensory issues accustomed to this is hard! And harder if we don’t do it regularly starting when they are babies. If your kids are older, I still recommend it if you are having issues, because these items are smaller and softer and maybe better tolerated.
Locals~ Season Passes
I think that if you are local, you should consider season passes to either Longwood Gardens, Sesame Place or the Philadelphia Zoo. Very different atmospheres, but all are very family friendly. All are open year-round (Sesame actually closes from Jan-April) and do terrific displays and activities for various holidays. Longwood does a bunch of children’s activities and last year they even had Laurie Berkner in concert. I love having season passes with any kid, but especially one with special needs. I don’t feel the pressure to “do it all” in one day and stay at a venue from open to close. If he has a meltdown and we have to leave, that’s ok, we’ll be back. It’s very cost-effective and a great way to find activities when they don’t have school. It’s also a great way for me to have some quiet time alone or with my hubby. I can just hop over to Longwood by myself for an hour or two. I love a gift of an activity rather than another piece of equipment or therapeutic toy sometimes, it’s a welcome change! For the zoo and Sesame, I bring my own food in to accommodate our feeding issues. (I don’t know if Longwood allows that!) Having a pass means you can go on off days, like late Sunday afternoons, to avoid crowds.
Don’t forget, even if fun is your goal, there is much therapeutic and educational value in these places, such as:
- Applying already acquired skills across all environments
- Speech-mimicking sounds, trying new vocalizations in pronouncing new words
- Literacy-reading program brochures, flyers, maps, signs, as appropriate
- Math-as appropriate-money involved, counting, matching
- Sensory & Textures-touching new things, tasting new things
- Joint attention-viewing things or exhibits together
- Social skills-waiting in line, waiting your turn, respecting personal space of others
- PT-walking across uneven surfaces, inclines & declines, stairs, increasing endurance, unfamiliar environments
- OT-fine motor can be done just about anywhere, many places have fun activities for kids
- Executive Functioning-incorporate higher level thinking and planning into your trip: “how long do you think it will take us to get there?” “what do you think we should pack in our lunches?” and you can even create projects around the trip, which can be chunked down (or let child do chunking) and applied as appropriate
Clothing: I am in love with two clothing brands for my boys~Gymboree and 77Kids. I am able to find great deals on both, both in-stores and online. Both have great return policies (for online shopping!) which is important because we know how hard it can be to get them to try things on. Both brands offer a variety of items that are made from soft materials and either with no tags at all or ones that are not obtrusive. Both brands have fun things that are youthful without being babyish. I love the Gymboree jeans and pants, because they have elastic waist bands even in the larger sizes but they don’t look therapeutic. This way, it’s still easier for Kevin’s teachers and me to work on potty training, but he is dressed just like any other kid. Kevin was invited to participate in a fashion last year for 77Kids at the King of Prussia mall, and they truly exemplified inclusion which made me really want to promote them. I’ve been purchasing their clothes ever since. If you need a gift idea, consider a gift certificate to either of these stores or have fun choosing an outfit for the child you have to buy for.
Putumayo Kids Music: If you’re looking for a fun musical gift, consider something from Putumayo Kids. Through the end of the year, they are having a good sale. I love the beats, the rhythms, and both of my kids love the music. I love exposing them to different sounds and different cultures. We have 20 or 25 of these CDs and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. They are also available on Amazon for download.
Well, I hope I’ve given you some ideas for gift giving this season. Feel free to leave a comment and share with us some of your favorite items for a child with special needs.