How to choose educational toys that integrate children with special capacities

Toys are basic in the training and development of children, since they stimulate their learning in the first years of their lives, while allowing them to discover the world around them and learn to relate to it. However, for children with different abilities, finding a suitable toy for their needs can be very difficult.

Currently, there are about 60,000 children between 0 and 6 years old, with some type of functional diversity in Spain. For these children, toys are a fundamental pillar in their development, however, almost half of families with children with different abilities find it very difficult to find a toy that suits the needs of their little ones. 

After a study carried out by the AIJU (Technological Institute of Children’s Products and Leisure), in collaboration with ONCE and CEAPAT, they found that only 21% of toys were designed with the needs of children with motor disabilities in mind, 86% were for children with hearing problems and 44% were suitable for children with visual impairments. The most alarming thing is that only 5% of the toys studied were valid for the three groups simultaneously.

Designing and producing educational and integrating toys, designed for children with all kinds of different needs and abilities, continues to be the pending task of many toy manufacturers. Some initiatives, such as the Integrative Toy, seek to adapt the toys on the market so that they can be used by all types of children, regardless of their abilities or needs. 

This type of project identifies four large groups of special abilities and each of them requires toys that meet specific characteristics.

What are the best toys to integrate children with different abilities?

When choosing the best educational toy for children with special abilities, you should take into account several things. The first that they are normal toys, but adapted to meet their particular needs. And the second is that these toys must be designed to respond to special needs, whether they are ergonomic or functional.

Toys for children with auditory functional diversity

Toys for children with auditory functional diversity must be adapted to their needs. For example, toys that talk and teach colors or basic concepts should have a transcript. These graphic explanations should be easy for a child to understand. They must also have mechanisms for volume control, so that children can adjust the volume of the toy to their needs or have a headphone jack.

They should also have some system that translates sounds into another stimulus that is perceptible to the child, such as lights, vibrations or images. At the same time, it would be ideal to introduce them to sign language, looking for adapted children’s stories.

For these children, the best toy would be a puzzle, balls, dolls that do not emit sounds, costumes, plasticine or remote control games.

Toys for children with visual functional diversity

The biggest problem of children with problems or lack of vision, may be the lack of stimuli. These children often have a motivational deficit, as most toys are designed to offer visual stimuli such as bright and attractive shapes and colors. To motivate and stimulate these children, the toys must have realistic sensory stimuli that are easy for the child to recognize. For children with a simple visual deficit, very bright colors that do not cause problems should be used, while for children with severe diversity, stimuli that are easily recognizable by touch should be used.

You should also choose toys that introduce the child to the Braille system, with raised illustrations. In toys that have text, this must be replaced by some type of recording.

Choose toys like radios, computers, talking dolls, books with textures, or balls that make noise when they move.

Toys for children with functional motor diversity

The biggest problem for children with functional motor diversity is usually concentrated in fine motor skills and in toys that contemplate some type of movement or movement. For children with mild to moderate cases, toys should be easy to handle, with large, rounded pieces that allow them to easily grasp, squeeze, and interact with the toy. These toys should be light or padded to avoid bumps or painful impacts. 

In the case of toys with buttons, these must have some response control system and must not require speed, nor require that they be pressed more than once in a row.

For children with severe motor diversity, toys must have a compact structure that does not fall or break easily. At the same time, they should have large holding areas and designs that offer multiple holding areas and are easy for the child to reach.

For these children, the most suitable are toys such as stuffed animals, large and easy-to-handle stories, puzzles with magnets, construction toys with large and simple pieces.

Toys for children with intellectual functional diversity

For these children, the most appropriate toys will be those that stimulate their cognitive or intellectual abilities. Toys should stimulate their attention, memory and reinforce habits of personal autonomy, always seeking to reinforce self-esteem and the correct development of their skills.

These children need toys with realistic designs and as simple as possible, since otherwise they will not be attractive to them. They must also be easy to use, without complex mechanisms and, if they are interactive toys, they must offer long response times. For table-type games or rules, the rules should be kept as short as possible and as easy to understand as possible.

The most suitable toys for children with intellectual functional diversity are stuffed animals, short and simple stories, multifunction toys with geometric shapes, mazes and abacuses, modeling clay, coloring books, simple puzzles and all kinds of toys with music and sounds.

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