It’s that time of year again. Although I love Christmas, it can be difficult to come up with gift ideas year after year when BJ’s fine motor skills haven’t develop in line with his age. But, he absolutely loves Christmas and rips open the gift wrap with great gusto, making me all the more determined to find something which will meet his joyous expectations. As I shop each year for him, I can’t help but take note of items which may be suitable for others, which I pop into a blog. Hopefully you may find inspiration in one of the ideas listed below.
Given we are a family who loves travel and experiences, I thought I’d start this year’s Christmas Guide with a few items specifically geared for day-trippers and travellers.
TRAVEL RELATED IDEAS
I love supporting Australian businesses and all of these travel related products and services are Australian born but can be purchased by anyone overseas.
So here’s a few we are loving right now.
Photos are a big deal for our family. Being non-verbal, BJ uses photos to share his experiences and daily activities with us, and when on holiday we love nothing more than capturing our travel memories.
AJ and I are heading to the US for a mother daughter trip soon and knowing it will be a once in a lifetime experience, I wanted a way to capture the special nature of this holiday. And although I am far more comfortable behind the camera, I want to ensure the memories of the trip show us enjoying it together. I saw a story on Wanderloud about a year ago and it had stuck in the back of my mind. Wanderloud provide a local photographer to take natural photos of you enjoying yourself at your holiday destination.
You can see examples of destination photo shoots and read more about Wanderloud here.
I’ll be sharing our experience on our return.
Why not get family and friends to put in for a travel experience? Or purchase a voucher for your loved one they can use of travel of their choice. Vouchers can be made in various denominations starting at $50.
It’s a great way to help someone save up for that dream holiday or even an overnight getaway. Travel with Special Needs launched earlier this year and we’ve been working hard at putting together some great accessible packages, cruises and experiences. We’re happy to help. You can call for a voucher on 1300 4041000.
TRAVEL PICTURE BOOK
BJ has always loved his books and he will often take himself off into his room and spend time entertaining himself with them. No matter a child’s ability it’s a wonderful activity to encourage or do together. There’s no shortage of fabulous children’s books but this year I wanted to highlight a book written by one of our HWWT community. Tanya Savva has written a beautiful children’s book about her travels with her daughter Kenzie. The story explores how Kenzie, who is blind, ‘saw’ and experienced their travels. I think this book should be in every preschool and school library. We bought a copy to have for ourselves and recently we purchased another to gift to the local preschool where AJ has been volunteering. If you live in Australia you can purchase a copy from Tanya here.
For our friends overseas you can buy here.
KOOSHY KIDS KOOSHION
Long haul flights are certainly one of the biggest obstacles our family face. BJ is too big now for the Kooshy Kids Kooshion but I can imagine how much it would have helped us when he was younger. Legs dangling from the edge of the airline seat isn’t comfy for anyone and for kids with additional needs stability is vital. The Kooshy Kids Kooshion has been accepted on over 50 airlines with the list updated regularly.
There are some things you need to know about the conditions around its use
- It is not used in an exit row
- It does not block the way for other passengers
- It is not inflated during take off or landing (or when seat belt sign is on)
- The child’s seatbelt is fastened at all times (you can request an infant extender belt to help with this).
The decision to permit the product’s use will be determined by the flight crew. Airline policy is subject to change and Kooshy Kids have found that an airline’s customer service may provide conflicting advice.
You can read more and purchase your Kooshion from Kooshy Kids.
Overseas friends, you can check it out here.
TESALATE BEACH TOWEL
We love the beach. It’s an outing we enjoy as a family no matter where we travel. Unless we are staying at a resort, a beach towel is something we always have to pack. In fact, we travel with four! Given we don’t travel light we need the most compact and efficient towels. We were recently sent the Tesalate Sand Free Beach Towel. Now if you’re wondering why one needs a sand free towel, just imagine sharing a towel with BJ, he’s a sand lover and has no concern about being covered in sand (as evidenced below). The rest of us are not so keen to take half the beach home with us.
Tesalate is a revolutionary new type of beach towel that’s lightweight, super absorbent but quick drying, and totally sand-free. AbsorbLite’s engineering allows for sand to slip off easily to make sure you leave the beach at the beach. The towel holds up to 1 litre of water but is engineered to dry in half the time of a regular towel. Tesalate Beach Towels are super practical but the variety of designs is what had AJ totally dazzled. You can see all the options, read more about the towels and order here. They offer free shipping worldwide.
KOOSHY KIDS ON-THE-GO PARENT BACKPACK
We have a lot of gear to take with us whether it’s a day trip or a long haul flight. We travel with quite a bit of technology just to start with, but we always have snacks, wipes, hand sanitizer, jackets and more. It’s often hard to find a backpack which is the right size and allows me to organize everything so it’s easy to find on-the-go. I’m always on the look out for something which suits our needs and recently I was sent the Kooshy Kids on-the-go backpack. Although it’s fab for the back of the wheelchair it’s got so many compartments and is so lovely I’m taking it with me to New York.
Although designed with parents of younger children in mind, this seems good for anyone as a day pack. I have no use for the change mat but everything else is great, including many pouches and pockets to sort items and I love the inbuilt USB charger and power bank (additional charge) to charge my phone when I’m out and about.
The Kooshy Kids on-the-go backpack can be used as a regular backpack but can also hook on the back of a wheelchair. I chose black as I felt it was the most practical but I loved what I call the Tiffany blue colour.
You can see the range of colours, read more and order the Kooshy Kids On-The-Go Parent Backpack here.
Sometimes buying someone’s favourite treat food can be extra special when you personalise it with their name, nickname or funny term of endearment.
If you have a Toblerone lover in the family, why not pop their name on the box? Maybe it’s a good way to ensure no-one helps themselves to a triangle or two. This is available this year at Myer’s Giftorium.
BJ received a personalised soccer shirt for his birthday a couple of years ago and he loves it. I notice Rebel Sport is offering this service this year.
PERSONALISED BARBIE DOLL
Barbie appears to still be going strong and this year Myer’s Giftorium is offering you the opportunity to personalize your own. Using an iPad you can choose your Barbie’s outfit, name and more.
Don’t forget there’s also the opportunity to personalize a gift of a Build-a-Bear if you live outside of Australia.
TOYS & GAMES
I purposefully don’t put an age range on any of the items included in the gift guide. I learnt a long time ago not to worry about the age a toy or game is aimed for and worry more about the skill it may encourage and the enjoyment it may bring. In my opinion there’s no point in buying an ‘age appropriate’ game and it simply being frustrating. You can read my thoughts on the ‘age appropriate’ dilemma here.
HOT WHEELS AARON WHEELZ FOTHERINGHAM CHAIR
It’s always lovely to have toys or games which make you feel you belong. This Hot Wheels wheelie chair is a fabulous stocking filler for anyone, but particularly any wheelchair users. I found it in Kmart after searching several stores. Hopefully they’ll become easier to find. Our overseas friends can find it here.
My tip for finding it among the millions of Hot Wheels cars hanging in store – look at the base, on the edge of the Hot Wheels packaging you can see the name of the car. It saves going through all the packets.
This timed game requires the player to flip, slide and match for success making it more suitable for someone with good hand function. It could be frustrating if not purchased for the right person but loads of fun for those who can manage it. The game encourages matching, manipulation, and speedy work. Lights and sound make it particularly engaging. We played with this at Toys and Tales but it can also be found in Big W. Our overseas readers can find it here.
JUSTICE LEAGUE BATMAN
Action Figures are popular with many age groups. Lights and Batman’s voice are activated by squeezing Batman’s legs together. The legs are easy to squeeze, providing a good cause and effect activity. BJ loves action figures and it’s a bonus that this one is interactive. He’s thrilled to be able to work it. I found this in Kmart but I’m sure it is widely available. Our overseas friends can find it here.
BALLIST X BLASTER
BJ loves all kinds of Nerf guns or similar activities. I think he’s going to love playing this pump action shooting game. BJ can’t manage a trigger action game but over the years has learnt how to do the pump action. Given there are two guns it’s interactive and encourages others to get involved. I found this at Big W for $20. Our overseas readers can see it here.
Little Red Lullaby is a home grown business which prides itself on providing a range of personalised and unique hand made products specialising in Busy Books. Personalised means you can get something which will suit the person you are buying for which can be handy when there is such a variety of needs and abilities.
SKWOOSHI STRETCHABLE DOUGH
No mess stretchy dough which never dries out is great for tactile play. The tools which come with the set allow a child to work their hands including rolling and cutting. This type of play encourages conversation around many concepts including colors, textures and imaginative play. It’s good for table-top or wheelchair tray top play. I found this at Big W. Our overseas readers can see similar here.
Living in Australia it’s hard to relate to the Christmas images of building snowmen. However, you can buy Floof, a soft snow-like squishy molding bucket of fun with accessories.
Great for tabletop play or wheelchair trays. It will get imaginations and fine motor skills firing.
Our overseas friends can find it here.
Stacking games have been around forever but this one is a bit special. As you load the pieces they wind themselves down in a circular motion.
Great for discussion around colours, size, movement and learning size order for stacking. Loading the pieces on to the pole also takes fine motor skills.
Our overseas can find it here.
BATTAT CAR GARAGE
BJ had a similar toy when he was younger, and it was one of his favorites. It can be played at various levels depending on your child’s ability. It’s fantastic for color matching, talking about the concepts in and out and good for fine motor skills as children work towards turning the keys and driving the cars in and out of the garage. I found this at Toys and Tales but I imagine it would be available at educational toy stores. Our overseas readers can see it here.
I SPY DIG IN
This game can be tailored to varying levels of ability. It’s a tactile version of I Spy where you match the items on your card with those you find in the bowl. If the game is too difficult with all the pieces included, you can make it easier by reducing the number of items in the bowl and forgetting the sand timer. Picking out the pieces is good for fine motor skills and matching the items to the card allows discussion around color and identifying and naming the items. I’ve seen this at Toys and Tales, Myer and Five Senses stores. Our overseas readers can see it here.
WHAT COMES FIRST
Sequencing games assist children in understanding how things will work in their own lives. First, next and last are concepts we use daily in life. These 3-piece puzzles allow children to work through these processes with colorful pictures. I found this in Toys and Tales but our overseas readers can see it here.
This fun game is a larger and easier version of the popular Kerplunk game. With thicker sticks and colorful balls, this is sure to encourage interaction with others while encouraging fine motor skills and color matching. I found this in Toys and Tales so I would look in educational toy stores for it. Our overseas readers can find it here.
ALL ABOUT ME
For children who are non-verbal or have limited communication skills, it can be difficult to share their lives with friends, family and teachers. This All About Me book allows you to add photos and anecdotes about a child or teen to assist them in communicating with others. There’s even space at the back of the book to store some treasures, allowing more opportunities for interaction and inclusion. If a child is able, it’s a good opportunity to help them share the information they’d like to with others. I found this at Toys and Tales. Our overseas friends can find it here.
BOOK AND ANIMAL SOUND TABLET
A book with a sound tablet allows children to interact with the story. The sound tablet can be held by your child or secured to a wheelchair tray, allowing them to press the corresponding sound as you read the book. This encourages matching, isolating a finger and participation.
I found this at Big W for $14. Our overseas friends can find it here.
SMARTROD MAGNETIC DISCOVERY
Building can be tricky when you don’t have good fine motor skills, but magnetic building tools can make it easier. This set is going to be popular with transport lovers as they work towards constructing vehicles and the ramps to run their vehicles on. I’ve seen this at Toys and Tales and Five Senses. Our overseas readers can find it here.
Go Grippers are, as the name suggests, easy to grip. I like this particular set because it has such a large easy press launcher which would add to the fun and skill element. I found this at Toys and Tales. Our overseas friends can find it here.
LITTLE HANDS CARD HOLDER
We love card games but one of us has to hold BJ’s cards for him when we play. Although he wouldn’t be able to manage the card holder by itself, he could manage it if it was secured. It would allow him to play a game solo. I found this at Toys and Tales. Our overseas friends can find it here.
LOCK & LATCH BOARD
I’m a big fan of working hard on fine motor skills because of the opportunities any improvement can offer. With that in mind I think this activity puzzle is great for anyone working on improving their fine motor. I’ve shared easier versions in previous guides but this one takes it up a level. I found this at Toys and Tales but all good educational toy stores should stock it or be able to order it. Our overseas friends can find it at a significantly cheaper price here.
FIZZ ‘N’ SURPRISE
This is a great stocking filler or token gift for someone. Drop the dinosaur egg (this also comes with mermaids inside) in water and watch the dinosaur hatch.
Our overseas friends can find a selection here.
Being the parent of a son with ADHD the owner of this business says “any activity/craft packs we’ve bought before that have instructions always end in frustration for both of us, so I’ve deliberately made them without instructions and without a goal of what the end result “should” look like to take away that pressure. And they are all $5, so handy as a stocking filler or little presents for friends.”
I love the idea that a person’s creativity and ideas determine the end result. There’s a variety of Busy Lab activity packs available and you can read more here.
Letting your kiddo play in dirt not your thing? Well, here’s a clean way of letting them have some playing in dirt fun. Get those fingers working through this dirt, similar to kinetic sand in texture, or let them use the tools. Themed playsets make this more fun, with a farm set or a monster trucks set available. Suitable for table top play this is good for fine motor skills and imaginative play. I found this at Toys and Tales but I’m sure other educational stores also stock it. Our overseas readers can find it here.
Another magnetic building toy option. This build-a-boat allows the builder to be creative with several mix and match options for making their boat. I found this at Professor Plum at Crows Nest but I’m sure it is available at other educational toy stores. Our overseas friends can find it here.
I’ve found a variety of fun lights which will brighten up bedrooms and can be tailored to a person’s interest. I found these Illuminate T-Rex Led Lights at Myer.
Big W has a range of lights including Star Wars, Paw Patrol, My Little Pony and Superman. Prices vary according to character and size of light but start from $39.
A BOOK ADDRESSING ANXIETY
This book was inspired by the author’s daughter who went through a phase of daily rituals to help fight anxiety. In the book it’s Charlie, an anxious dachshund dog, who worries something terrible may happen if he doesn’t keep to his daily rituals. This story is described as light-hearted and reassuring in its approach to exploring the topic of anxiety.
You can read more about this book and others here.
In the last few years BJ has become fashion conscious. He loves graphic t-shirts and themed clothing. His current favourite is a Simpsons long sleeve polo shirt with the characters all up the sleeve. Not only does he fancy himself in the top, but it’s a fantastic ‘talking point’ with other people commenting on his clothing. It also gives him the opportunity to have choice and to take an interest in his clothing each day when he gets to choose the outfit. Although people may feel buying clothing is a boring gift, if well picked, it can be a winner.
BJ has some Where’s Wally tshirts I’ve bought for him in the past. This year I spotted a Where’s Wally cap in Myer. I don’t think he’ll be giving up his Akubra hat any time soon but I thought I’d share this fun find on the list of suggestions.
Peter Alexander has a range of themed pyjamas this year including The Grinch and Mickey Mouse. BJ received Toy Story themed Peter Alexander PJ’s last year and being cotton they are super cool for summer and he loves the Toy Story design. You can see the full range on the Peter Alexander website
We’ve just bought BJ a pack of 6 Talking Tiles. We plan to put them around the house so if BJ is at one end of the house he can use it to ask a question or comment on something. With a clear cover over the tile, a picture or word can be displayed but kept in place and clean. Each tile has 80 seconds of message which can be recorded on it. These tiles are great for encouraging communication, choice making and empowering someone with limited or no speech.
We bought the tiles from Communicate AT. Check their website for more information.
Therapy is never far from my mind and the same is true for my friend Sue who happens to be an occupational therapist. Sue spied this scoot board in Kmart for $15. Great for building core and upper body strength and hopefully a bit of fun if combined with another activity.
I shared it in our Gift Buying Facebook group and several of our community said they’ve seen similar in Bunnings Hardware stores and they are able to take a greater weight load.
YES/NO RECORDABLE BUTTONS
At $10 these are a bargain of a low tech communication device. Recordable yes/no buttons will help with basic communication questions. Thanks to Toni for the suggestion.
You can check it out online here and in store in Kmart.
I’ve gone to great lengths over the years to find lunch boxes which assist BJ in his independence at school and now his day program. This lunchbox looks great for assisting with fine motor and encouraging independence. The Yumbox lunchbox is designed to be easy to open and use and the company has had great feedback from OT’s who have used this in sessions to prepare kids for school independence.
Image credit Mini Hippo.
You can read more about this lunchbox and other products here.
Tying up shoelaces can be a huge problem. Although we tie BJ’s shoes up in the morning, the majority of time they are undone by the afternoon which becomes a trip risk when we walk him. I’m thinking of investing in these to see if they could be a solution to the problem.
Image credit Glydez.
The GLYDEZ no tie lacing system allows you to turn your favourite shoes into fashionable and functional slip-ons. The website describes the way they work as “using a specialised responsive Memory Elastomer, these adaptive singular laces snap together to create a customisable fit, delivering superior comfort, durability and support.”
You can read more about the Glydez here.
Diversely Human produces products with positive messages about kindness, diversity, inclusion, mental health and disability. Mugs, t-shirts, bags and socks are just a few of the items they decorate with positive messages. The business was started by the parent of a child with Downs Syndrome.
Image credit Diversely Human.
Diversely Human is “A small business trying to change big stigmas”
You can see the full range of products here.
DIY BEACH WHEELCHAIR KIT – MANUAL CHAIR TO BEACH CHAIR
In summer we spend a lot of time exploring beaches with BJ’s beach wheelchair. The beach chairs are awesome but are a big ticket item. Therefore, I was excited to hear about this kit because I knew that it would be ideal for so many of our readers. The DIY All-Terrain Chair Kit is sold by Beachwheels Australia and provides everything you need to transform a manual wheelchair frame into a chair which can tackle the soft sand at the beach. It can be shipped worldwide.
Image credit – Wonsie Australia
Wonsie bodysuits assist with deterring inappropriate undressing, keeping curious fingers out of feeding buttons/PEG tubes, prevents eczema sufferers from scratching their tummy and maintains a warm layer in winter from top to bottom. The Tummy Access Wonsie offers children and teens the dignity of a discreet opening which can be left opened or closed. The range is available in a variety of colours, styles and caters for children size 2 to size 18. Wonsie looks like a regular piece of clothing while giving parents all the elements they need to make life easier. Take a look at the full range here. Wonsie is a registered NDIS provider. Shipping is available worldwide.
HARVEST COLLECTION – SUPPORT A BUSINESS SUPPORTING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY
If you’re looking for a gift for family, teachers, support workers or aides, then consider supporting this business. I love their motto “We believe everyone has gifts to bring to the world, including those with disability, whose gifts are often missed due to their limitations.”
Image credit – Harvest Collection.
This post contains some affiliate links, this just means I receive a small commission if you buy something using the links. This is at no additional cost to you and anything earned helps with the costs associated with the blog.