UPDATE – Check out our 2017 Ultimate Gift Guide after you’ve looked through this one.
Christmas gift buying is something I struggle with every year which is what inspired me to do a Christmas gift guide with special needs in mind again this year.
BJ loves presents, who doesn’t right? He gets excited when he rips off the wrapping paper and as a Mum I want to give him something he will enjoy and can use. Over the years we have received or bought presents that have been frustrating and for one reason or another they haven’t worked for BJ. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to find the gift that is a winner and other times the simplest of gifts proves a hit.
BJ can’t manage to use many things which are deemed “age appropriate” so every year I scour the stores and purchase a mixture of age appropriate gifts and things which I think he will enjoy which may be aimed at a younger person. There is no point in buying things just because they are right for his age if he can’t use them.
The ideas on the list won’t suit everyone but I hope they spark an idea of what may work for the person you are buying for this year.
COOL WHEEL GUARDS
BJ has wheel guards on his wheelchair and the design has been a great conversation starter with people we meet when we are out and about. Kids comment and think it is ‘cool.’ Wheel guards would make a great gift. They come in a variety of designs including abstract graphics for older kids and characters like Spiderman and The Muppets for younger kids (or kids at heart). BJ’s bat wheels came from Mogo Wheelchairs and I spied the cool Spiderman wheel guard while at Dejay Medical. These are both Australian companies but wheel guards are not unique to Australia. If you google Wheelchair wheel guards you will find plenty of suppliers around the world.
A friend recently mentioned that one of the best buys she had made for her son was wireless headphones. Sometimes when someone has a hearing impairment it can be challenging listening to things at the volume they like, or require. These headphones keep the whole family happy and no leads are necessary.
For teens who love music there are CDs and iPods but for a unique gift, why not have a personalised song written for them? I recently met the founder of Romance Outsourced (don’t let the name put you off, they do songs for birthdays and other occasions, not just Valentine’s Day) and I think this is a terrific gift idea for teenagers, anyone who is difficult to buy for or those who love their music. All you need to do is send the guys at Romance Outsourced some information about your special person, they will come up with lyrics, record the song and then send it to you in an MP3 format. Head to their website for more information at Romance Outsourced. The cost of an acoustic song is currently AUD100. To see the guys on The Today Show doing their thing check out this video
Earlier this year we met friends at the lake. They brought their kayak to the beach and we were so impressed by how well BJ could sit in it. It has a seat which slopes slightly which seemed to really suit BJ. He had such a wonderful day hee didn’t want to give it up.
AJ received this as a birthday present and it was a huge hit. Anything that goes to school to share with friends is the sign of a winner gift. The portable speaker plugs into her iPod touch and plays her music. I don’t really know how to describe it well so I’ll use the description from a website about the speaker. It says “Use your Boombox v3 and attach it`s sticker to – well – whatever you want, to create crisp, clear amplified sound on the go. The bigger the object the louder the sound, – Pocket sized – perfect for travelling! (3.6cm x 3.6cm x 8.7cm), Featherweight – Only 125gm, Rechargeable battery – up to 5 hours, link together for louder sounds, works with almost every music device.” AJ loves it and I thought this would be a great gift idea as it is so portable.
PORTABLE DVD PLAYER
BJ was recently given a portable dvd player. This one can be used in the car, comes with a remote control and has a swivel screen. Although BJ has an iPad it is heavy (with the guard it has around it) and not that comfortable for watching dvds. The portable dvd player is much lighter and can be placed on a bedside table for him to watch dvds when we travel if he is up in the middle of the night! Hopefully this will be one gadget that doesn’t get too much use. I bought this at Good Guys but I am sure there are other stockists. We have a Panasonic portable dvd player which we travel with and the quality is far superior and has longer battery life. Unfortunately they are no longer sold in Australia but for our US friends you can find it here.
BJ gets a Simpsons calendar each year and absolutely loves it. He stops to check it out each day. When he first received it I was surprised at what a hit it was with him. Calendars come in all kinds of themes to please different interests. It is a great way of introducing a calendar and the idea of counting down to special events. I bought this at Target but for our overseas friends it is also available online here.
TURN A SPECIAL PHOTO INTO A GIFT
BJ loves his photos and his room is filled with a range of photos which he enjoys looking at each day. He loves his canvas prints that hang on the walls and he is particularly taken with this photo and frame which I bought while at Disneyland. You can buy a range of frames in store or online. If you have a great photo why not turn it into a canvas print or just a large framed photo. When I choose a photo as a gift I keep in mind what BJ will think is a great print rather than something I might choose myself. He likes action shots like the one of him in the dodgem (pictured above).
BJ doesn’t really get excited over clothes as a gift, BUT he does like his graphic t-shirts. He takes great pleasure each morning choosing his clothes for the day and his range of graphic t-shirts makes it fun. He also doesn’t mind character PJ’s like Mickey, Simpsons etc. These can be found in the men’s section of Target so obviously he isn’t the only teen/adult who embraces them
CONVERSE DOUBLE ZIP SHOES and design your own (US only)
Thanks to Lozza for sending me this great suggestion. Lozza says “my 18 yo nephew with CP is hard to fit due to the stiffness in his feet and I am always looking out for shoes that don’t look like “grandpa” shoes – ie the velcro ones that I can get for him. I stumbled across these last night – twin zips so hugely easy to get on and off. He will love them because he does like to look a bit groovy – there are some if you google “converse” and “twin zip” or you can design your own. I am going to let Jack pick his style and colour. They only post the customs to USA but if you know someone there you could have them delivered there then forwarded, otherwise the other ones are available. http://www.converse.com/dyo/design-your-own-chuck-taylor-double-zip/146729Ce.html“
BJ loves opening a present but as he has grown up we have also found that experiences are a great gift. Look in your city for some unusual experiences or even something the person wouldn’t normally do. Being a tourist in your own town can be lots of fun. Photos above – BJ doing the wheelchair experience at Sydney Tower Eye. You can read more about this experience here. BJ loved visiting Sea Life in Melbourne which is wonderfully accessible. For more information check their website. The Edge experience at the Eureka Skydeck 88 was fun and accessible. For more information head to their website.
We have had some fantastic experiences but it is all about finding what is close and suitable for the person you are buying for. Photos above – BJ received a gift voucher to do a Wild Ride. Tahune Airwalk’s Eagle cable hang-gliding is still one of our most memorable moments of 2013 and it is under $20 per person. For more information head to their website. We had a lot of fun in the Scenic Dune Buggies at Hill End. BJ loved it. For more information head to their website.
BJ loves kicking a ball around but of course that requires one of us to ‘go fetch’. I thought this might be a good alternative as the ball is tethered to a post. We found it tricky with BJ in a wheelchair as the ball is so low but it may suit a child using a walking frame. It is available in Australia at Kmart.
Kinetic sand is definitely a ‘thing’ at the moment. AJ wanted some and I couldn’t really see the attraction until she got it. It is really cool. It doesn’t make the same mess as usual sand and the texture is much nicer. I bought some for my nephews for Christmas and put together a little kit for them to use it. I have since noted some of the kinetic sand brands have kits that come with it with mini sandcastle moulds etc but I didn’t see those and put together my own. I think getting a container will make it easy to use on a table top or wheelchair tray. I collected a range of things for the boys to use with it. I think they will enjoy making up scenes with the lizards, dinosaurs, a plastic mirror for a water hole, a magnifer, tongs, little buckets and I found some lolly scoops for digging. I was very happy with this present when I finished finding all the bits and pieces and hope the boys have loads of fun with it.
There are lots of different brands of the kinetic sand and it now comes in different colours which may be helpful for children with a vision impairment. So far I have found pink, purple and blue sand. I saw the coloured Kinetic sand at Kmart and there is a variety of choices online.
When BJ was younger he had lots of fun at the lake each summer in this inflatable boat. A friend who has a son who cannot sit also uses an inflatable boat for beach fun. Usually an adult sits behind her son to give him support.
COLOURING IN FABRIC
When I was wandering the aisles of Ikea this caught my eye. It would never have appealed to BJ as he couldn’t have coloured it in but for a child with good hand function I think this is really novel. You can buy the material by the meter/foot and then sew it into whatever you like. I thought these would make great library bags and children could take pride in showing off their work. Shame I don’t sew!
BJ has good strength in his feet so with assistance can manage these pop up rockets. It is a great reward for managing to stomp your foot. It requires him to look, focus and then target the pump with his foot. In Australia I seen these in Big W and Kmart but for online shoppers worldwide you can buy it here.
TIC TAC TOSS
We bought BJ tic tac toss years ago. It was second hand at a school fair but the other day I saw it at Kmart. BJ loves this game as it is just a matter of dropping a bean bag on the yellow pieces and they flip displaying either a nought or a cross. It is good for children who can’t throw as it doesn’t require great accuracy. The bean bags in the game we have are a good size for holding and it a child only needs release the bag over the game. The Kmart game is in a box so I couldn’t check it out but it looks the same. It is also available online for our readers overseas. You can check it out here. Online there is also a cute table top version.
When BJ was younger we found it hard to play games which came with lots of components ie game pieces or cards. His extra movement from his Cerebral Palsy meant things were constantly being knocked off the table or out of place. This Melissa and Doug memory game is a great alternative because the cards are the only removable part of the game and once inserted they do not come out easily. The tiles can be opened to play and when a match is found they stay attached to the board. Speciality toy stores sell it in Australia. Worldwide you can buy it here.
While visiting my friend Sue she brought out a few of her children’s toys which she thought I may like for the gift guide. I think this Cord Draw is really unique. BJ would not have been able to manage this one and would have found it frustrating but for a child with good hand function or a child who is working on particular skills this may be a fun variation on pen and paper. The cord loads into the pen (see box picture) and the child then uses a drawing motion. The cord sticks to the black surface. There are pattern samples to follow or you can free-style. I haven’t seen it in stores but it is available online.
I love the quality and range of Melissa and Doug products and think this farm puzzle is perfect for little ones (or even older children who are struggling with hand function). The pieces do not come out of the puzzle but the aim is to get all the animals to their homes. The animal pieces slide around the maze and there is no risk of frustration with kids dropping puzzle pieces. There are a variety of themes in this type of puzzle. Good quality toy stores like Toys and Tales sell this range in Australia and for our readers elsewhere you can buy it online here.
Playing ball games in a wheelchair indoors can be a little tricky but I have found this Bloon Ball which seems to be one of the new ‘must haves’ this Christmas. I’ve seen it in several stores and I’m quite taken with it because it looks like it would be great fun for play in a wheelchair and particularly if there was more than one child. The ball is made of a soft fabric which seems perfect for indoor use. I did laugh that the instructions which are only readable once you have opened the package have as the first line “open package carefully and avoid using blades” This would be handy info to have on the outside of the packet. It also needs a sports needle valve adaptor for inflation which I tell you to avoid any disappointment on Christmas morning if you don’t have one. They come in a variety of sizes so don’t be put off by the 40cm one pictured. They also have very feminine coloured ones for the girly girls. I have seen it in educational toy stores like Toys and Tales and also Big W. For our overseas friends, it is available online. For more information head to the Bloon Ball website.
Mr potato head
BJ used to love Mr Potato Head and it was fantastic for his fine motor control. He used to work so hard to pull out all the face pieces and try his hardest to put the pieces into the right spots. Usually I had to help him finish it off but he had fun choosing which pieces. I think this large Mr Potato Head is good because the pieces are so much larger and it comes with a good variety of options. It works in nicely with speech therapy too.
LARGE TEN PIN BOWLING
The large ten pin bowling set (pictured right) has been a big hit with BJ. It is something we can take when we visit friends and to family gatherings. The original set is still available but I also noticed this cute penguin set which is made of the same material and is also large. These are available at Australian Geographic Stores in Australia. For our overseas friends I have checked online and see that Pottery Barn Kids have a similar set
Anyone who has been following the page for a while will know that I am a bit obsessed by anything that will improve a child’s hand function. When I look at sound books I see a good opportunity for a child to be motivated to isolate their pointer. BJ got this book years ago and it worked very well for him. It took him a while to master it but he did.
WOODEN MAGNETIC DRESS UP DOLLS
I was recently shopping in a Bobble Art store and came across these dolls. I’ve never seen them before and thought they could be a good alternative for a child who finds it hard to dress a ‘regular’ doll. These are magnetic dress up wooden dolls. There are a range of outfits to buy individually and you can choose your doll. The wooden dolls come in a stand but it may be easier for a child with fine motor difficulties to lie the doll down on a table top or wheelchair tray and dress the doll before standing it up. Given that BJ is older I can’t tell you how these work from personal experience but they caught my eye and I thought I’d pass it on. For our friends overseas these are available online here.
CRAYOLA GLOW STATION
AJ heard that I was finishing off the gift guide and declared, “I have something for you to include”. She came out with her Crayola Glow Station and did a good job of convincing me it would be suitable for some children with special needs. I was dubious as it has a pen light which needs to be handled but as she pointed out it is a large pen light and it doesn’t need accuracy. Even the cut outs only need the pen light waved over them to make a pattern (see above on the right). I think it is a great variation on other art and craft but a child would still need to have reasonable hand control to have success with this toy. In Australia this is available at Kmart, Big W and Myer. For our overseas friends you can buy it online here.
I love anything to do with imaginative play and I can just see a little person in their walker either being the postman collecting letters, or someone posting letters. What a good motivator and also another opportunity to improve hand function. Yes, I admit I am totally obsessed but I can tell you that all the different activities have made a big difference to BJ. I haven’t seen this in any stores but I have seen it online. The brand is Santoys.
RIDE IN VEHICLE
BJ got this little ride in car when he was younger and although he had limited success with driving it himself he was more than happy for his pals to jump in and take him for a spin. It was very good for encouraging interaction with other children. We would take it to the park when we met friends and instead of BJ being left behind while the kids ran off to play on equipment, he went too. Have car will travel!
If you are still looking for ideas check out the blogs I wrote last year with other tried and tested games and gift ideas –
2013 Gift guide part one
2013 Gift guide part two
Also check out our 2017 Ultimate Gift Guide.
I hope that you have found something to make gift buying easier or at least that the blog has sparked a few ideas. I always welcome other gift suggestions so please leave any in the comments section below so we can all share and benefit.
This is not a sponsored post. All the products mentioned above are things we have either purchased or that I saw in store while putting together this blog.
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