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Recalled Toys

Children with Special Needs

Opening Up to Children with Disabilities

When specialty toy retailers have even a rudimentary knowledge of the conditions that affect special-needs kids, a new market opens up to them. Although reports vary, most studies show that the number of U.S. children with special needs ranks in the millions.

Special needs kids don’t necessarily require “special” toys, experts told TDmonthly Magazine. They just need to be directed to toys that will help them grow and learn.

Click here to read complete article on TDmonthly Magazine

A Growing Needs Niche

According to the number of people served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, approximately seven million children have special needs, representing more than $3.5 billion each year in toy purchases. Current data shows those numbers are growing.

The Arc, a non-profit organization advocating for persons with disabilities, has plenty to say to retailers and manufacturers, according to director of communications, Chris Privett. “We remind retailers that children with special needs is an audience that cannot be ignored. These families have an impact.” Privett reports that it is estimated that more than 20% of Americans have some special need or disability. “Just from a pure dollars and cents standpoint, it makes sense. Beyond that, it is the right thing to do.”

Click here to read complete article on TDmonthly Magazine

Recommended books

Toys for Kids with Special Needs

"Exploring developmentally engaging play activities for Children with Special Needs"
An on-line newsletter of Toy
Written by Aubrey Lande, MS, OTR and Lois Hickman, MS, OTR

Ask the OT

Encouraging eye hand coordination

"My 8 year-old is really struggling in PE class. He has some motor coordination delays and doesn’t have great eye-hand coordination. Can you suggest some toys or games that I could play with him to help him improve in his eye-hand coordination?" Erik Southard, Boulder, Colorado

Occupational Therapy Associates, (OTA) Watertown, PC is one of the nation’s leading clinics in the assessment and treatment of dysfunction in sensory integration. Each year in December they compile a recommended toy list to helping to identify great toys for parents and caregivers of children with special needs. This past year’s list included the following games noted for their ability to encourage eye hand coordination:

  • Battleship
  • Blues Clues Partytime
  • Booby Trap
  • Clue Junior/Clue
  • Connect Four
  • Cookie Cop
  • Don’t Break the Ice
  • Elefun
  • Farm Families
  • Gator Golf
  • Guess Who
  • Hoppin Poppin Spaceballs
  • Hot Shot Basketball
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos
  • In the Works (Discovery Toys)
  • Jenga
  • Jumpin Monkeys
  • Kerplunk
  • Magnet Maze
  • Manacala
  • Mastermind for Kids
  • Mousetrap
  • Mr. Bucket
  • Mr. Mouth
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Operation
  • Perfection
  • Rebound
  • Rummikub
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Silly Faces
  • Simon
  • Snafu (learning Express)
  • The Amazing Labyrinth
  • Tilt N’ Tumble
  • Topple
  • Twister
  • © 1999 OTA-Watertown, PC. Used with permission.

    Toys We Love


    A sure play-promoter for many children, whether "typical" or "special needs", is a tunnel. It can become a private place, a pretend house, and a "time machine" to a magic land! Put a few favorite toys inside and your little person will delight in creative play. They’ll also be building strength in trunk and abdominal muscles and developing spatial awareness! It’s a big toy when open, but it’s flat and easy to store when playtime is over.

    What to put inside that tunnel? For the hands-and-knees crowd, who may be just brave enough to venture part way into the mysterious space: a favorite stuffed animal, soft and with legs and maybe ears and a tail long enough to grab onto, maybe even chew.

    For the toddler who’s beginning to imitate the grown-up world or who may need encouragement to use his or her voice, a toy microphone that buzzes a little when spoken or hummed into. A toy telephone is useful too, and when the child speaks or sings inside the tunnel, there is more awareness of his own voice within the confined space.

    For the 3-4 year old, or the child who needs to work on creeping and to have the experience of shifting weight from one side of the body to the other, place soft bean-bag chairs or couch cushions under the tunnel to create small hills, and curve the tunnel to encourage lateral trunk movement. If the tunnels’ coils are a little hard on knees, a favorite blanket or different textured materials can be used as the tunnels’ floor. This extra "incidental" tactile experience is important for children who may be defensive to touch. When these children are doing the heavy work of creeping, they are more apt to tolerate a variety of textures on hands and knees. Weight bearing on hands and arms has another benefit; it prepares children for fine motor play.

    Good Free Fun!

    Winter Fun!

    It’s wintertime, and in many parts of the country that means more indoor time. It’s a good time to

    • Sing and tell nursery rhymes. The singsong rhythms are important in developing speech, and if you "dance" with children, either while holding them if they need support or with two or more of the family holding hands to dance, speech and coordination can be improved.
    • Make cars and houses and all sorts of things out of cardboard boxes. It’s great to create something special out of something ordinary.
    • Dilute food coloring with water, and then put in eyedropper bottles for kitchen-sink experiments. Children who are working on fine-motor control have fun with the pinch/release it takes to get the colors into the water in the sink. Try squirting shaving cream islands on the water, then turning them colors!
    • Make cookies or play-dough. Just think of the tactile, olfactory, strengthening, and tasting benefits! It also helps children follow picture or word directions if they are ready for this challenge.
    • Here’s a surefire recipe for fun:

    Chocolate Play-dough

    1 1/4 c. flour
    1/2 c. cocoa powder
    1/2 c. salt
    1/2 T cream of tartar
    1 1/2 T. cooking oil
    1 c. boiling water

    Mix the dry ingredients and add the oil and boiling water. Stir quickly,Mixing well. When cool, knead with your hands until mixed. Store in an airtight container.

    As this recipe requires the use of boiling water in preparation, adults need to exercise proper judgement on the proximity and participation of children. This is not an eating activity, the dough is just for rolling and shaping. For kids with chocolate allergies, substituting powdered milk and orange flavoring will do the trick, keeping the dough wonderfully fragrant.

    Strategies for Growth


    Kids develop skill by exploring new activities, then rehearsing and refining their level of skill. If your child is going through a stage where he or she loves puzzles, then let them indulge. Give them lots of time and opportunity to explore, rehearse and refine the visual-spatial and visual-motor skills inherent in puzzle play.

    Not only will their base of motor skills improve, but also so will their concentration and their ability to focus on a task.

    News of the Day

    Public School Requirements

    20% of all school age children have a learning disability that interferes with learning. Learning disabilities can be completely invisible, or there may be obvious speech/language/hearing or motor components. Public schools are required by law to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Amendment of 1997, PL 105-1720.

    Teachers, often without extensive specialized training, are legally bound to finding teaching methods that are both the most effective and the least restrictive. Studies show that children with learning differences often respond to active-learning strategies and dramatic, expressive play-acting. Using the ‘teachable moment’ in a game of chess can help a dyslexic child learning about systematic scanning. Using the card game war to learn about counting can spin circles around traditional rote learning for these kids. For more information on learning disabilities visit the website

    Caregivers Corner

    Music to Soothe!

    Music, on CD or audiotape, can be a well-deserved gift to yourself, to play while you’re driving to work, or as a soothing way to end the day. Try tapes of environmental sounds - waterfalls or rain or the sound of ocean surf. Nourishing the Caregiver (from Belle Curve Records, Inc.), is another suggestion, luxurious music and companion inspirational text created specifically for those who care for others.

    About the OTs

    Aubrey Lande MS, OTR and Lois Hickman MS, OTR are pediatric occupational therapists long associated with the family-centered care movement. They provide training to parents, teachers and caregivers of children with special needs as a part of their on-going efforts to provide innovative ways to help kids with special needs. For more information on the authors see the Belle Curve website at

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