Posts Tagged ‘special needs toys’

Toys Your Kids Will Actually Play With

One of my posts about veteran toys was recycled on I highly encourage you to browse their fabulous, resourceful site and keep an eye out for my upcoming review of the organization later this month.

Top Ten: Toys We Got Our Money’s Worth With (And Then Some)

February 15, 2012 1 comment

With three kids, toys are not hard to come by in our apartment. However, there are only a handful of toys that entertain a special needs 11 year old, an almost-3 year old and a 16-month old in equal measure. When we see the kids playing with one of the toys on this list, my husband and I will often say to each other “we really got our money’s worth out of that one,” to which the other usually responds, “and then some.” Several of the toys on this list cost less than $10, but in order to be on the Top Ten you can be sure that they have worked some serious overtime.

All of the toys listed below meet the following criteria: 1) They are played with at least 3 times per week, 2) They entertain all 3 children, together or separately, 3) we have made the “money’s worth” comment at least once

1. Duplos: not Legos. With his limited fine motor skills, James prefers the larger sized Duplos, which works well with toddlers in the house. We have a few big duplo bases and 2 buckets of blocks. The kids play with these almost every day, and can keep busy building for an hour (a long time in mommy land). They are easy to clean and practically indestructible. And, it can be fun for adults too, so the potential for quality family time is an extra bonus. Yes, they can be a little expensive – want an expert tip? Try ebay (we have struck gold there)!

2. Discovery marble maze. I know that marbles and 16 month olds don’t generally mix, but with proper supervision this toy entertains all 3 of my kids for hours. To keep them out of each other’s hair (the baby can really “Godzilla” the marble towers) I usually build 3 separate mazes, individually tailored for ability (and height). It’s not as hard as it sounds, each maze takes less than 5 minutes to put together, and what’s 15 minutes when you’re talking about hours of fun? Again, sets can be expensive. Same tip: try ebay before purchasing new.

3. Balls. My children are not ball snobs, any ball will do. I think they might be partial to balls that bounce (especially if we’re somewhere inappropriate like the doctor’s office), but size doesn’t matter. One of our current games is taking cardboard boxes of various sizes and lobbing lots of balls across the living room into them. Kind of like a loose, giggly version of beanbag toss.

4. Leapfrog Fridge DJ. We spent $7.99 on this item 2 Christmases ago and it’s still a daily-use item. The magnetic radio sticks to the fridge and plays about 15 songs in 3 categories: numbers, letters and classics. Most of the songs are now in our daily repertoire and it isn’t uncommon to catch someone in there jamming to “Birdie, Bye Bye.” Yes, including James.

5. Hot Wheels retractable race track. Got this for less than $20 for James’s birthday 3 years ago, still going strong. The racetrack rolls in and out like a tape measure with two tracks, so no big race track all over your little Manhattan apartment. It works with most Hot Wheel type cars, doesn’t require batteries and can extend 12″ or 4 feet depending on who is playing. Best part, IMO? There are little flags at the end of each track that indicate the winner, which really cuts down on the “I won!”, “No I won!” arguments.

6. Crayola Dry Erase Crayons. These have been used and cleaned up successfully on dry erase surfaces, car and house windows, highchairs and subways (seats and windows). No joke. At less than $7 do I really need to continue?

7. Train table. After reading a lot of reviews and doing some serious price shopping, we settled on the Imaginarium brand, but there are lots of nice options out there. The Imaginarium City Train Table takes up a lot of space (around 3X5) and at $140 it was our most pricey purchase on this list, but since Christmas the kids have logged at least 100 hours on this thing (remember, I’m not exaggerating numbers this year). The set includes a bunch of cool pieces like a crane, bridge, train station, and tunnel, all with cool sound effects. It comes with a couple of trains but is also compatible with Brio, Thomas and generic wooden trains. So we’re at a cost of $1.40 per play hour so far – at this rate it won’t be long until the thing pays for itself.

8. Little Tykes indoor “fold away” playground (folds up for compact storage, New Yorkers!). With a toddler sized slide and steps it is perfect for my younger two. Add in the mini basketball and soccer net and James can join in their fun. Great, amazing fun for rainy, cold days (or weeks).  Easy to put away, fits into our foyer when open. Paid around $99, worth every penny.

9. Fisher Price toy laptop – “Fun to Learn” I can’t say that the Fisher Price brand is better than any of the other toy laptops out there right now, but for the last 3 years it has captivated all of my children in one way or another. There are a variety of skill levels so that my 16 month old can play tunes, my 2 yr old can work on phonics and my 11 yr old can try out math games with a “mouse.” No, not at the same time.

10. Nintendo action figures – random, but surprisingly successful – the little characters have been carried continuously by one child or another for the last 6 months, and if they get lost we actually have to take the time and look for them. We have collected Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and Toad so far – they run around $8 for a pack of 2. Two of my children are sleeping with one in hand right now.

Hacking For The Holidays – December 3rd!

November 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Toy hacking is so much more pleasant than it sounds. Many kids with physical disabilities have trouble playing with battery-operated or electronic toys, and after reading about this opportunity (below) I am looking up cool electronic toys for James just so I can learn how to hack them!

According to

Depending on their unique abilities a toy might not be accessible.

However, if a child can move their feet, head, arm, mouth or any other part of their body it is possible to use a switch to play with the toy. Accessibility switches come in a variety of styles for different abilities.

Adding switch jacks to a toy will not affect the original quality of use, the existing buttons will operate as normal and kids who use accessibility switches will now be able to operate the toy.

Who is Invited?

Parents, Occupational Therapists & Makers

Join us on December 3rd for an afternoon of toy hacking for children with disabilities. We will cover the basics switch accessibility including taking a toy apart, identifying the electronics inside and how to solder a universal switch jack for access. Please bring a toy that you would like to switch adapt (see Ideal Toys section below).

When & Where

December 3, 2011 from 12:30pm – 3:30pm
Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU
721 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003


Ideal Toys for Hacking

Please bring a toy along to modify, we will not be providing them. Select a toy that is appropriate for your child. Below is a list of features when selecting a toy for easy hacking

  • MUST run on batteries, no AC / wall plug toys.
  • Toys with simple operation, a touch, squeeze, pinch, pull. For example, a teddy bear that sings when its foot or hand is squeezed, or its belly is poked.
  • Remote control toys are great (the inexpensive ones are actually easier to hack).
  • Electronic musical instruments & electronic whoopee cushions!
  • See a list of toys that you can modify easily

No prior soldering/toy hacking experience is needed!

Who is hosting this?

The ITPediatrics class at Interactive Telecommunications Program / NYU is hosting Hacking for the Holidays. ITPediatrics is focused on empowering a child in long term pediatric care using low and high tech assistive devices.

The Interactive Telecommunications Program is a 2 year graduate program in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University exploring art, technology and the recently possible.


Email or visit for more info.

PlayAbility Toys Discount for Foorce Readers!

June 15, 2011 1 comment

I’m very excited to be able to share a 15% discount from PlayAbility Toys with my blog readers! The best part is that you can use the code as much as you like for an entire year! I’ve already started my shopping – there are some good summer supplies and gift ideas on their site for the special needs child in your life. Even if you don’t have a special needs child in your life, I encourage you to check out their site,, to see some of the unique items they offer.

Below is a little more about the company and their products (info provided by Playability Toys):

PlayAbility Toys encourages children to learn, laugh, and play!  Our award-winning toys and games are designed specifically for children with targeted special needs.  We are dedicated to working in partnership with special needs families, therapists, teachers and supporting organizations to develop and offer the highest quality and most entertaining toys possible!  The positive impact PlayAbility toys have been making on the community is clear from the awards received for the Rib-It-Ball and See It & Sign It, as well as, Buddy Dog as a “Parent’s Choice” winner and “Best Toy” for children with autism spectrum disorders.Children of all abilities love the multiple sensory experiences they get from our toys and we are confident yours will too!

We are pleased to offer a special 15% discount on all purchases made through our website.  Please enter code “PlayToys15” at checkout.

Happy Shopping!

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