In this article we will discuss about the special needs of autistic children and some of the best toys for an autistic 5 year old child.
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a developmental disability that is often detected in early childhood and affects an individual’s abilities to learn and interact with her surroundings.
While autism cannot be cured and autistic children require a lot of patience from parents and teachers, diligently working with autistic individuals significantly improves their learning capabilities.
Toys for an Autistic 5 year Old
The department within the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) which deals with autism is the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.
As per the ADDM, roughly 1 in every 54 children in the US suffer from ASD and boys are 4 times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with autism. Although autism is incurable as of now, treatment and therapy exist for the condition.
The objective of such treatment is to maximize your child’s learning abilities, reduce symptoms of ASD, and assisting with learning and social interactions. Autistic children have specialized and customized needs in all spheres of life, including playing methods and toys.
What is Autism and What Causes it?
Autism or ASD is a condition that is mostly diagnosed in early life and causes delayed development and sub-optimal learning abilities. Research has indicated that autism is linked to genetics in a majority of cases which leads to abnormalities in the brain structure.
Also, children born to older parents are at higher risk of being inflicted with autism.
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What are the First Signs of Autism?
As a parent, you should continuously monitor your child’s learning progress and assess her development. It is not advisable to be on a wait-and-watch mode. You should be able to trust your instincts and call for your physician’s advice.
Some of the initial symptoms which may manifest themselves are the following:
- Lack of response when being called out
- Inability to follow the path of movement of an object or follow your finger when you point at something
- Not being able to make eye contact and not being able to mirror your emotions like smiling back
- Not being able to point to things and mimic gestures in general
- Not noticing or caring if loved ones are hurt
- General apathy towards social interactions, playing alone, and not being able to interact with other children
While the above are some of the more common symptoms, the list is by no means exhaustive. If you sense delayed development in your child, you should immediately seek professional help or get your child assessed.
How Autism Can Affect the Way Your Child Plays?
Playing as a 5-year-old requires communication, motor, and cognitive skills that children with ASD may have difficulty exhibiting.
The condition can limit your child’s ability to explore the environment and generally be reserved in wanting to learn new techniques; for example, she may want to solve a puzzle the same way every time or repeatedly spin the toy car tires and watch them spin.
It may also be difficult for them to copy actions, respond to other children and take turns in a game, which are essential elements of social behavior and may limit early social life.
Group games and group activities are some areas in which they may be found lacking.
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What to look for in Toys for an Autistic 5-year-Old?
Toys in autistic 5-year-olds should broadly try to encourage building the following skills.
- Shape recognition and spatial reasoning: Shape and pattern recognition is one of the earliest skills that children develop, and jigsaw puzzles and shape fitting puzzles are excellent teachers of the same. Often, children with autism think in pictures rather than words, so jigsaw puzzles offer them a creative outlet. An idea to involve your child with a jigsaw puzzle can be playing a puzzle with an image they recognize. It can be a family image or a particular animal or toy that your child really likes. This website helps you do that.
- Concentration: At 5, autistic children should be able to concentrate for longer periods of time, as well as develop search and observation skills
- Goal setting: Goal setting, the conclusion of a game, and how to be able to reach that conclusion in a playfully competitive way are important skills to learn at this age
- Sense of achievement: The logical conclusion of a game or an activity should generate a sense of achievement in your child
- Fine motor skills: An extremely important skill that autistic children at this age should start learning is the coordination of smaller muscles and synchronization of hands and finger movements with eyes
- Hand-eye coordination: Similar to fine motor skills, children should learn hand-eye movement coordination
- Engineering: Finally, through building a tower or fitting together a toy, children slowly learn about engineering at an early age. Autistic 5-year-olds should also get exposure to learning engineering skills at this stage.
Below we have reviewed some of the best toys that can help a 5-year-old autistic child to learn a combination of some of the skills mentioned above.
#1 Lego City Great Vehicles
This 90 piece lego building blocks is a good candidate to make your autistic child develop engineering, fine motor skills, and social interactions if playing in a group. The toy comes with a detailed guide to build the figures and the toy is available in several different versions with different completed figures and vehicles.
Lego is a globally renowned brand and the products are made of premium quality plastic which is BPA-free and safe for children. Building blocks also help your child to recognize shapes by looking at the pictures in the instruction book and then identifying those lego parts.
It is one of the best toys to expose your autistic child to miniatures of common engineering structures, vehicles, buildings, and common social ecosystems. It also invokes creativity in your child and helps to broaden her imagination.
One advantage of lego and duplo sets are that multiple sets are compatible with each other and you can use different sets to mix and match and help expand your child’s thinking capabilities.
- Made of high-quality plastic, safe for children
- Very durable and can withstand rough use
- Develops fine motor skills, engineering and social skills; develops imagination
- Easy to build as per attached instructions
- The lego box also warns against choking hazard and the toy should be played with under adult supervision
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#2 Aitey Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles
The 9 piece educational wooden jigsaw puzzles are a good buy for developing shape recognition, spatial reasoning and goal setting. It also helps builds concentration and helps children to learn to complete small activities starting with these.
It comes with 6 similar jigsaw puzzles of different wild animals. Since the puzzles are made of wood, they are durable, and can withstand rough handling from children, and can be re-used multiple times to complete the puzzle, without worrying about frayed ends like cardboard jigsaw puzzles.
The puzzles are easy to solve and in case your autistic child is prone to getting frustrated easily, this will help to keep your child engaged by providing easily achievable goals and improve her temperament as well.
However, since the pieces are wooden and chunky, they have a lot of friction between the sides and may not fit together as easily as a cardboard jigsaw puzzle and your child may require a bit of guidance while playing with this set.
After some use, however, the pieces start fitting together more easily. The vibrant colors on the pieces are a great mood uplifter for your child.
The video below shows the ten benefits of solving a jigsaw puzzle for people with special needs.
- Apart from shape recognition and goal setting, the toy helps you take first steps into spatial reasoning and problem solving as well
- More durable than cardboard jigsaw puzzle sets
- Brightly colored to attract the interest of specially-abled children
- After first use, may not engage children for long as each puzzle may be a 5-minute activity
#3 NextX Kid’s Easel
The adjustable double-sided easel – chalkboard and magnetic dry erase board are good buys for helping children understand letters and take their first steps towards understanding languages and arts.
This is one of the most utility toys for your child and there is no limit on what and how much she can learn by leveraging the erasable writing boards. The product is something that you can use for a long time, beginning at 2 – 3 years, extending up to 10 years.
However, both boards will have to be kept at the same height and since there is no locking system on the boards (they rotate 360 degrees), they cannot be used simultaneously by two children.
The activity board is easy to fold and set up and can be carried around easily for taking along for picnics and trips. It comes fully equipped with markers, chalk, magnetic eraser and dusters and is a great tool to recreate classroom learning style at home.
Interactive at-board learning style is found to be very effective and the product will go a long way to counter your child’s learning disabilities.
- Encourages creativity and there is no limit of what you can learn using the easel and boards
- Lets your child learn about concentration and fine motor skills
- Easy to assemble and set up
- Sufficient storage for all accessories
- Height adjustable and can grow along with your child
- On the expensive side
- May topple over if accidentally leaned upon by children
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#4 Rainforest Search & Find Puzzle
The 64 piece puzzle helps children to build concentration, search and observation skills, shape recognition, goal setting and a sense of achievement. This is a jigsaw puzzle, which when completed, forms more than 40 animals and insects that live in the rainforests.
This product can be a great knowledge builder for your child, particularly if you want to invest in the other puzzle variations, which teach about wild animals in other habitats.
The vibrant colors and sharp print do a great job of engaging your child and comes with a guide that helps you and your child to recognize each of the animals formed in the puzzle.
It offers an exciting adventure for your child, being able to identify wild animals on the fully formed jigsaw board. The variety in animals ensures that the puzzle holds your child’s attention for repeat plays.
The toy is a good candidate to pique interest in and imbibe a love for the wildlife in early life and encourages self-learning in your children.
- Available in 5 varieties to enrich your children’s learning process
- Encourages individual as well as group play
- Colorful to engage and attract small children
- Good value for money
- Jigsaw pieces may become frail on using the toy multiple times
#5 Melissa and Doug 100 Piece Wood Block Set
The 100 pieces wooden block set from the prominent toy brand Melissa & Doug, can act as a great teacher for fine motor skills, shape recognition, concentration, and engineering.
The shapes can be rearranged and put on top of others to make structures resembling towers, houses, cars, and even whole towns. It encourages creative thinking and helps to ignite the power of imagination in your child.
They are vibrantly colored to hold a child’s attention for a reasonable period of time. The toy is a good candidate to encourage self-play and self-learning and there is no end to structures and shapes that your child can build with the 100 piece set.
You should encourage her to try out new patterns and structures. The pieces come in a durable box with a handle which makes it easy to carry along with you on trips. The wooden pieces are large and durable and can withstand rough use.
Some users have however reported that the blocks have broken in half and have left sharp edges that risk injury in children. For children who have the habit of putting things in their mouth, it is advisable to supervise your child while she is playing with it.
- Durable blocks which is last for many years
- Brightly colored to attract and engage young children
- Encourages your children to be creative and make structures outside the ones that are in the guidebook
- Engages children for longer use and a great toy for playing together in a group
- Some blocks may chip on rough handling and may cause small injuries if not handled carefully
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#6 Magblock Magnetic Building Blocks
These magnetic building blocks are great for learning basic engineering, concentration, goal setting and fine motor skills. The toy includes 103 magnetic pieces which can be combined in different ways to make 16 patterns and shapes.
The product is a good candidate to boost your child’s creative thinking and imagination power. It will take a bit of time for your child to get bored with this toy as there are innumerable outcomes and structures that can be built with these pieces.
It is difficult to beat Lego when it comes to building blocks and connectors, but the Magblock magnetic building blocks comes close to that. We would even go on to say that they are better than Legos in the versatility department, given the flexibility they offer in terms of building different structures.
Also, the Magblock pieces are flat and don’t hurt children when they accidentally step on them, unlike Legos.
However, since the magnet is not that strong, it is often the case that if you try and lift one of the structures that you have built, some of the lesser supported pieces from the bottom may fall off which may upset your young one.
- Made of non-toxic plastic which is durable
- Includes detailed guidebook for children to see and follow instructions and learn
- Hones engineering, goal setting, and fine motor skills
- Excellent engager for children for longer period of time
- The magnets may lose force after some period of use
#7 Ball Play Pit Ball From Click N’ Play
Let your autistic child have fun with the 200 phthalate-free balls in the ball pit. The ball pit is perfect for the kid to have a gala time between the vibrant balls. Do not worry about crushing the balls, these are crush-proof balls in 6 bright colors. The phthalate-free, lead-free, non-PVC plastic balls are perfectly safe for your kids.
Made of 100% plastic, the balls are 2.3 inches in diameter. The size is perfect for a child’s hands. If you want your child to have fun in a ball pit, the balls can be a great filler.
The strong mesh bag is enough to hold and carry around the balls. The durable mesh bag with a zipper makes it convenient for the parents too. You will find these balls in blue, pink, red, yellow, orange, and green colors. With these balls, you can create a perfect arena for your autistic child and allow them to have a great time in the ball pit.
- These are crush-proof balls that last you for a long time. You need not worry about crushing and damaging the balls due to any mechanical pressure. The balls can bear a weight of up to 90 pounds.
- The set of 200 balls are enough to fill a medium-sized ball pit.
- It does not contain chemicals such as phthalate.
- The 2.4-inch diameter makes these balls a perfect fit for your kid’s hands.
- The strong mesh bag with a zipper allows you to carry around the balls without messing up the room. This bag is strong and can be reused.
- The only issue about the kid’s pit balls is the plastic. Many parents are unwilling to expose their kids to plastic materials at that early age.
Finally, it is essential for you as a parent to spend as much time with your child as possible, playing with the toys that you end up buying for her. Do not forget to always reward your child in small ways by applauding the smallest of the steps that she takes in the right direction.
While the toys will teach her some basic but important physical and cognitive skills, playing with you will also teach her the social skills of sharing, interacting, and cooperating.
The proverb that your parents are your first teachers holds more significance in the case of children with special needs or ASD.