All we want for Christmas is... Sensory toys!

All we want for Christmas is... Sensory toys!

It’s the festive season and for any child that has to mean TOYS!

For parents, grandparents and anyone else involved in meeting the child’s ‘Santa’ expectations, filling a stocking isn’t always that simple.  High hopes and the latest ‘must-haves’ must be balanced with budget and any number of other factors, such as suitability for the child’s age, development and home environment.

In that respect, choosing the right gift for a baby/child with cerebral palsy is no different. It can be more difficult, though, to find the perfect and most appropriate toy when shopping at the usual high street stores.

Some of the most popular toys require physical strength, coordination and dexterity, which children with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities may not have. It can be frustrating for the child if, for example, the toy is far outside the child’s physical ability.

Parental Santas may find it helpful to begin their festive shopping by considering brands such as Excitim Special Needs Toys, Learning Space UK or a visit to the Special Needs Toys website who specialise in fun sensory toys that are suited to a range of development levels and disabilities. 

Cerebra, a charity for children with brain conditions, have a library of sensory toys which can be borrowed for free allowing a child to try out the toy first.

What to look for when choosing a toy?

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has produced a guide on choosing toys which may be helpful for children with any kind of disability.

When choosing toys look out for:

  • Good colour and tone contrast
  • Lettering that is bold and clear
  • Good reflection of light or fluorescent elements
  • Toys which encourage children to use their eyes to follow an object
  • Toys which encourage development of hand-eye co‑ordination and/or fine motor control, using small finger movements
  • Interesting textures and tactile variety – some toys which look like they offer different textures, actually feel similar, like felt and velvet – test for yourself to see if the textures really feel different
  • A scented feature
  • Switches that are recognisable by touch such as on or off and click when operated
  • Toys which encourage awareness of cause and effect through touch – “when I press here, something happens”
  • Toys which make a sound or other cue to an action having occurred
  • Equipment and toys which encourage physical movement, running or jumping, or reaching.”

Most importantly, we would also hope that the toy should be fun. Play is so important for children. A child with cerebral palsy or any physical or cognitive disability is, first and foremost, a child. Toys should be fun and stimulating and it is Christmas, after all.

Aside from all that fun, toys are also useful tools for a child’s learning and development. The benefits can be far reaching and include:

  • Developing motor skills
  • Learning social skills
  • Reaching milestones
  • Helping coordination
  • Increasing strength
  • Improving language skills

With that in mind, we asked the Boyes Turner medical negligence team to nominate their favourite toys:

Our top toys were:

1. Rainbow wrist bells to inspire inclusive music making without needing to grip

2. Sensory Glitter Storm Cylinder Toy encouraging quiet focus time

3. The swirl ball to encourage social play and visual stimulation

4. Magnetic building blocks, a fun way to build using magnetic shapes

5. The Dream-racer helping children with limited upper body mobility to play with radio controlled racing cars, trucks or boats

5. Fully supportive swing

RNIB’s ‘Let’s Play” guide has lots of other ideas to help parents with their festive shopping.

Boyes Turner’s clinical negligence team wish you all a very merry festive season/Christmas.

I try to assist lawyers by explaining, in clear and comprehensible terms, what the relevant issues are and where the strengths and weaknesses of the case lie.

DR PETER DEAR

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