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Cool Toys for Kids with Special Needs: Summer 2014 Preview
by Ellen Metrick, National Lekotek Center   |   March 24   |   0 Comments
Summer is finally coming and consumers will be looking for new products on the shelves while kids will be searching for new play experiences. This pack of new summer toys has lots of play potential that kids with special needs will benefit from. Here are a few that are sure to please!

BeginAgain has two terrific pretend play toys that give a kid’s imagination a lift. The Lemonade Set is always a child pleaser and ideal to work on cooperative skills when playing with a partner. The Scented Scoops Ice Cream Set will delight the senses with a whiff of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry scoop toppers. When playing with a partner, one child can close his eyes while the other player puts the cone under his nose for a delicious game of guess the flavor.

BeginAgain also has another favorite we like for the summer: their Alphabites A to Z puzzle and food serving play set. This colorful set contains a wooden tray perfect for serving up each of the pretend food pieces including corn, apples, watermelon, etc. Each puzzle piece is a different food shape corresponding with the letter of the alphabet and spells out the word on the puzzle piece. The tray is illustrated like a place setting and the flip side looks like a stove top. Parents can sneak in some letter recognition and literacy skills during the summer as kids cook up a serving of make-believe play.

Hedstrom Specialty, a company known for conquering the play ball market, now has a way cool sensory line featuring a variety of balls each with their own special talents. Kids with sensory preferences can explore Sensory Light Up Balls with auditory abilities complete with bells and beads sounds. Balls are also brightened with the visual delights of glitter, confetti and lights.  There’s even a ball that smells like yummy grapes! Kids can use them all to play ball while entertaining the senses.

Tegu’s Magnetic Wooden Cars are perfect for kids crazy about both cars and construction toys.  These magnetic car pieces attract each other—ideal for kids who need to develop small motor skills or who love the push and pull stimulation when putting together or taking apart. Once assembled, cars are ready to zoom across the floor racing and reeling around.

Thinkfun’s Robot Turtles teaches technology with a game that cleverly reveals the basic steps in computer programming. This cognitive play experience combines the old fashion fun of board games with the futuristic world of technology, creating an entertaining time for all.  Invented by a science geek Dad, this game has embedded some learning into leisure-time family fun.  

La Siesta Kids & Baby Hammocks makes a Hanging Crow’s Nest so irresistible, parents might be tempted to climb into this colorful cocoon. Embraced in the fabric folds, kids find a little oasis to escape to for reading, relaxing or just swinging. This calming sensory sensation both soothes and de-stresses. Plus this comfortable child cave can be hung inside or out. The Baby Hammock version snuggles little ones in a soft cradle and has a stand accessory that makes this little nest mobile. 

Miniland Educational’s Pair Game takes memory and matching to a whole new level.  Cleverly designed, this new twist on a traditional memory games features realistic and really cool images hidden under pull-out parts. Kids pick up a puzzle piece to reveal an image, and then get a chance to match with another—all the time training their brain to remember where pairs are hidden. What makes this toy unique is that the images can be changed by slipping in a new card. The included cards offer lots of matching subjects from cartoons to colors, numbers, letters and languages ranging from beginner to advanced skills. Great cognitive workout for kids of all abilities!

Peaceable Kingdom’s Stack Up! is all about teaching cooperation because everyone wins or loses against the Stack Smasher together. This colorful game engages young and old, and all abilities. Little kids learn color matching and balance skills as all players conquer the game together. This play experience is all about the collective efforts to problem-solve through creativity and team work.

Plan Toys has a whole line of play products devoted to children with special needs. Their Braille Number 1-10 makes learning braille numbers simple and fun. Hand Sign Alphabet A-Z is a clever way to learn to sign words and the My Mood Memo set helps kids identify and understand emotions in an entertaining memory game format. These cleverly designed sets are all made of safe, smart and sustainable materials.  

Tangle Creations’ Tangle NightBall puts a new spin on its new football-shaped balls. Send the ball sailing and the force of the spin powers lights that grow brighter and brighter with each spiral. These balls come in two sizes and are great for kids to work on eye-tracking during summer evening antics because now the ball game can go nocturnal. Night games are not the only option; these versatile balls are great for water games, too. Waterproof and the ability to float makes this NightBall an awesome addition to outdoor sports on land or sea and encourages inclusion and exercise—both ideal for kids with special needs.

This article was written by Ellen Metrick, Director of Industry Relations & Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit for a complete listing of toys for children with special needs and follow us on Facebook! Find these cool toys at a neighborhood toy store near you.

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