Gift Guide for Kids with Needs

Receiving gifts is usually a joyful event. But for parents of kids with disabilities or complex needs, receiving gifts can be very emotional, and sometimes even heartbreaking.

Why, you ask? Well, sometimes when we receive a gift for our child, it’s something he or she is unable to use. Maybe it’s a toy our kid is physically unable to use due to issues with their hands, for example. Or maybe it has sounds or lights that could cause sensory overload, or, worse, a seizure. Each of these gifts serves as a reminder of our child’s disability or needs, underscoring the fact that our kid can’t “have” things that other kids can. Holidays and birthdays are meant to be filled with happiness, not sadness.

Let’s make gift-giving (and gift-receiving) fun!

The below list represents options for a variety of kids with diverse needs. If you’re not sure of the needs of the child you’d like to gift, ask the parents. A good question might be – is your kid high-sensory (needs stimulation) or low-sensory (avoids loud noises and bright lights)? Hopefully, you’re aware of the child’s physical capabilities, but if you’re not sure, ask!

If you get it wrong, don’t sweat it. The fact that you tried means the world to us.


1. Magnetic Toys

The Magnetic Mix or Match Jungle Animals set is great for kids who may have a bit of trouble with their hands or vision. The pieces magnetically link, creating an easy experience for a child to build animals of all shapes and sizes! These are also easy for parents to place into a child’s hand to play together, for kids without purposeful hand movement. And, bonus, siblings love these too! $34.97

2. Rockers

You may not know that disability-grade equipment can come with long waits and sometimes refusals from insurance companies. Parents are always on the lookout for alternatives! This seesaw rocking chair comes with a belt and offers a nice sensory experience for the vestibular system. $99.99

3. Adaptive Clothes

Many brands are getting into the adaptive clothing game, like Tommy Hilfiger. Adaptive wear represents modified clothes that serve a purpose, such as with snaps at the shoulders or along the legs, to make removal easier, like these Cat & Jack fleeces ($15) from Target’s adaptive line with snaps at the back. If you’re shopping for a kid with a g-tube, Kohl’s adaptive line has options that offer hidden slits for tube entry, like this Disney sweatshirt ($22) and Jumping Beans fleece pullover ($22).

Hearthsong Rock with It! Giant 6-Foot Inflatable Curved Rocker

4. Inflatables

Another option for calming down that vestibular system is a giant inflatable rocker! Make sure the family you’re buying this for has the space. This model from Hearthsong can be used indoors or outdoors. $79.99

MAGNA-TILES Safari Animals 25-Piece Magnetic Construction Set, The ORIGINAL Magnetic Building Brand

5. MAGNA-Tiles

Another magnetic favorite is MAGNA-Tiles, like this SAFARI Animals version! ($39.99) MAGNA-Tiles also creates a newer variety called Structures, partnering with CreateOn. And, of course, there are many brands with similar toys, which sometimes can be found at lower price points!

Baby with Chew Toy
Credit: Antonia James | Mia James

6. Chew Toys

Many children with needs love chew toys, even after teething. For kids who cannot hold toys, these LEGO-style chew toy necklaces are a big hit! If you’d like to get inventive, try looking for non-toxic chew toys in the doggie aisle—such as seen here with this hamburger toy!

Swurfer Coconut Toddler Swing

7. Egg Swing

This Swurfer Coconut Toddler Swing works great outdoors and indoors and is one of the most comfortable options available (if not THE most comfortable!). Recommended for kids ages 6m-36m, this swing works wonders for calming and can be leaned back a bit for a comfortable position for kids who need it. $39.99

8. Comfy Chairs

Beanbag chairs are much-loved because they mold to the needs of the child, and are very comfortable. Unlike many other options, kids can’t slide off. This cozy sherpa one from Pottery Barn Teen, $299.

Switches AbleNet iTalk, Learning Resources Answer Buzzers, AbleNet All-Turn-It Spinner

9. Switches

If you know a non-speaking (or non-verbal) child, they may use “switches.” Switches are used as a form of communication, such as with the gold-standard AbleNet iTalk (the iTalk2 is shown here, $215), or the more affordable Learning Resources Answer Buzzers, $15.67. A fun option is the AbleNet All-Turn-It Spinner, $145 – this dice spinner hooks up to a switch so that the user can push the button to “roll” the dice!

Neo-G Ankle Brace for Kids

10. Ankle Braces

If you have a kid in your life who wears hard ankle/foot braces, parents will be amazed at your thoughtfulness. These soft braces give kids a break in the day, which can be particularly helpful for kids with sensory issues. Recommended for children aged 4-12, $19.99*. For the adult version, recommended by ages 12+, $24.99. *Note, some parents of 11-year-olds prefer the adult version.

11. Safe Trampoline

This 6ft CalmMax trampoline is not only enclosed for safety, but it also comes with a swing! The swing can be removed, leaving behind a bar for children to hang from. This makes a great gift for children with sensory needs. $209.99

Books for Kids about Disabilities

12. Books

Family reading time is always a much-loved activity. There are a host of inclusive books available, which not only make the world more inclusive, but also remind our families they are not alone. Many are written by parents of children with disabilities and/or special needs. Characters can be found with wheelchairs, feeding tubes, vision difficulties, and using communication devices. See our Rare Parenting book lists to make choosing easy!

Color Changing Sensory Curtain Fairy Lights

13. Sensory Lights

If you know a child with a sensory tent at home, curtain fairy lights are in high demand. Some children also hang these in their windows. The ones pictured here have 16 color-changing options, 7 modes for twinkle options, and a remote. $26.99

St. Mary's Swim Therapy

14. Classes

Kids with disabilities or complex needs often benefit greatly from a variety of classes, such as music therapy, equine therapy, and swim therapy. See if you can find one locally, and purchase a gift card. Insurance doesn’t cover much beyond traditional therapy, so this is a great gift!

Riley Children's Indiana Children's Museum, Treehouse of Sports
Credit: Riley Children’s at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

15. Experiences

Likewise, if you know of a children’s museum, zoo, amusement park, bowling alley, or other play centers, this makes a great gift card. Check out their websites or give them a call to learn about their opportunities for kids with special needs. For kids with low sensory needs (too much noise can be difficult), there are some centers, like Chuck E. Cheese, that offer sensory days or hours, with reduced noises, dim lighting, and sensory-friendly arcade games.

16. Give the Gift of Help

Many parents would be very happy with the gift of lending a helping hand. Offer to do specific things, such as babysitting, so they can take a break or take a nap. Offer to fold the laundry, put the dishes away, etc. Make sure to do these things when you come by – it can be very easy to want to use the time to catch up! Stay focused on your gift.

Amazon and Target Gift Cards

17. Gift cards

If you’re stumped, get a gift card. Parents know shopping can be tricky – a gift card means they can choose something their kid will love! This Amazon e-gift card can be purchased for any amount, and it comes with this cool video! Target’s e-gift cards can be sent by email, regular mail, or text!

adult interacting with disabled young girl

18. Give the Gift of Inclusion

This is a reminder to always give the gift of inclusion. Many parents can feel their child is overlooked at gatherings. Oftentimes it’s because of a lack of knowing how to interact with a child with needs. It’s this simple – just try! Approach our child, say hello, and have a conversation, even if it’s one-sided. In the corner of the room, you may see our eyes well up with tears. This is how much this means to us!

Disclosure: Occasionally, we include links to recommended products. When you purchase a product through a link, we may earn a small percentage of the sale, at no cost to you. These sales contribute to the operation of our site, and help to keep content free to read.

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