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A Mother’s Journey: Toys for children with developmental disabilities

By Ana Niculae February 05, 2021

This article is about how toys for children with developmental disabilities are either helpful or not. 

Being a parent you learn new things everyday, but being a parent of a child who deals with developmental disabilities, that is a whole other level of learning. In this new blog post, we will try to explain how toys can help with the development of children. 

One of the struggles that children with developmental disabilities struggle with are emotions. One of the toys that are very helpful for this are mobile robotic toys. Think of robotic dog plushies, or babies who can cry, any toy that can show or do certain things. What is very helpful is that these robotic toys display emotions that keep repeating itself. Thus, these repeating emotions are helpful to understand what kind of emotions there are and slowly get to know how to identify them. In return, understanding emotions from a toy can reflect on a real person. For example, when the toy is laughing or smiling they connect that with positive emotions. In real life this can follow up with people, resulting in developing their knowledge about knowledge. Furthermore, these robotic toys are very simple in use as well. Which makes it easier for the child to use the toy. 


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Another example of helpful toys are adaptive toys. Research has shown that when children with developmental disabilities play with these toys, they are interacting more and are more responsive as well. This is because the toy shows what it can do, giving the child a better response to it, instead of figuring out themselves what to do. 

Children with developmental disabilities respond well to toys that are very predictable. Studies have shown that toys that are interactive and social do well. The reason behind this, toys that are predictable are easy for children to navigate and interact with the toy. However, when in interaction with nonsocial toys, children with developmental disabilities do not know what to do. The behaviour of the toy is unpredictable and thus, the child will be confused as well. This will eventually lead to disruptive behaviour. 

Toys are great for creating social skills as well, and thus educational at the same time. When playing with toys, you can either do this by yourself or play with other children. For this example, we are going to look at toys that can be played with more children. The interaction of children between each other will help both the children understand how people interact with each other. This can be about communication, how you should talk to each other, emotions as well. For example, learning how to react in a certain situation. This can be when an argument is happening, or something joyful. Any situation that can occur is an educational moment as well. 

Furthermore, it is important to know that children with developmental disabilities use the same toys over and over again. However, they might use these toys differently than their peers. Additionally, once you know your child has a developmental disability, it is recommended to ask for help choosing toys with your caregiver or someone professional who is involved with your child. Examples of these toys can be, toys that can easily be activated, or has sound effects, light effects, any toys that are recommended by the professional. 

In conclusion, toys can be very helpful when you have the right one for your child’s needs. However, when you do not have the right toy, it can also go in a very different direction. 


Characteristics of mobile robotic toys for children with pervasive developmental disorders by F. Michaud, A. Duquette, I. Nadeau

Effects of ordinary and adaptive toys on pre-school children with developmental disabilities by Hsieh-Chun Hsieh

Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era by Aleeya Healey, Alan Mendelsohn and COUNCIL ON EARLY CHILDHOOD

The responsiveness of autistic children to the predictability of social and nonsocial toys by Cindy Ferrara and Suzanne D. Hill

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