Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Batteries not included

I just put together this information for our monthly ladies' newsletter at church and decided to share it here as well. And while batteries will be required for many of the toys recommended at the website down below, remember that most of the time what they love the best is the box it comes in!!

Although I initially gathered this month’s article information to help those who parent fantastically special kids, it reminded me of how complicated children’s toys and games have truly become over the years. If it does not light up, make noise, or have some cool gadget feature, then our children quickly become bored. Almost extinct are the days of simplistic toys; toys that held endless possibilities requiring our minds, our senses, our imaginations, our fingers, and maybe even our toes! I hope that this holiday season, while we share with our children the true REASON we celebrate, we also consider sharing with them toys and activities that allow them to stretch, grow, and learn. The simple way!

Mine will be getting a rope, a stick, and a box. But it’s a secret-don’t tell them!

Merry Christmas!

Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys
Prepared by the National Lekotek Center
Selecting a toy for a child with disabilities? Here are the questions that the play experts at the National Lekotek Center ask when choosing developmentally appropriate toys for differently-abled kids. Use these questions to guide you in making the right match between the child for whom you’re buying and the toys in the Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids.

Does the toy respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child?
Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?
Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required to activate?
Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home? Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?
Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child’s individual style, ability and pace?
Is it a toy that will help the child with disabilities feel like “any other kid”?
Does it tie in with other activities like books and art sets that promote other forms of play?
Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness and making choices? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?
Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed and level of difficulty?
Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages? Does it reflect the child’s interests and age?
Does the toy fit with the child’s size and strength? Does it have moisture resistance? Are the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Can it be washed and cleaned?
Will the child be an active participant during use? Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?

The toys included in the Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids have been selected and evaluated by the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible for children with disabilities. For assistance in selecting toys or play activities for a child with disabilities, please visit the Lekotek website at: lekotek® Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys


What are all the symbols for?
Because all kids are unique regardless of ability, toys are not rated by disability or disorder. Instead, symbols are assigned to each toy so parents can find toys that promote different skills—such as auditory, language, social skills, creativity and more. In this way, the Guide helps parents of all children choose toys that help build or reinforce a variety of skills. All toys in the Guide have been designated with at least two or more symbols. New for this edition, we have introduced an easy-to-use skill-builder toy finder index that lists toys according to the skills they help develop. Now, parents can quickly find exactly which toys are most beneficial to their child’s development and learning.

How are toys selected?
Toys “R” Us works with the National Lekotek Center, which evaluates approximately 200toys based on specific criteria during therapeutic play sessions to determine the toys that best contribute to the development of children with physical and cognitive disabilities. The National Lekotek Center carefully evaluates all the products, selects those with exceptional qualities and writes descriptive copy highlighting the special features that make the items suitable for children with special needs. Over the last 26 years, the National Lekotek Center has provided therapeutic play services to thousands of children in 37 centers across the U.S. As a result of this expertise, the National Lekotek Center has become the leader in determining appropriate toys for children with disabilities.
You can learn more about the National Lekotek Center and their expertise in toy evaluation by visiting

Where can I buy the toys in the Guide?
All the toys in the Guide are available at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide and online at Toys featured in the Guide are everyday toys suitable for children of all skills and abilities.

Where can I get a copy of the Guide?
Copies of the Guide are available at all Toys “R” Us locations nationwide.
A digital version can also be found online at

Does Toys “R” Us partner with any other special needs organizations for the creation of the Guide?
Toys “R” Us is also working with some of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to special needs families to educate the communities they serve about the Guide. In 2007, Toys “R” Us is proud to partner with the following groups:

Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of the disorder.

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
Founded in 1987, CHADD provides education, advocacy and support for individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Muscular Dystrophy Association
Founded in 1950, the Muscular Dystrophy Association is a voluntary health agency working to defeat more than 40 neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, and professional and public health education.

National Association of Special Education Teachers(
National Association of Special Education Teachers is a national membership organization meeting the needs of special education teachers and those preparing for the field of special education teaching.

National Down Syndrome Society(
Founded in 1979 the National Down Syndrome Society is a national leader in supporting and enhancing the quality of life and realizing the potential of all people with Down syndrome through education, research and advocacy. Down syndrome is one of the most frequently occurring chromosomal abnormalities.

Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.


Special-Needs Kids and Special Occasions
Terri Mauro

Making family gatherings good, not ghastly
Family get-togethers are the worst. Too many people. Too much noise. Too much food. Too many opinions on the ways you're raising your children. Never mind the fact that kids with special needs often go crazy during big family events -- they're often not exactly a shining hour for us as parents, either. How can you make it through the meal without chewing someone out, putting your foot in your mouth, or eating your words? If a quiet dinner at McDonald's is out of the question, here are some ways to get through these gatherings without going crazy.

Make an escape plan.
Better to leave before things go bad than stick it out and live to regret it. If you're spending the holiday at a home other than your own, arrange a time limit or a signal ahead of time and observe it -- even if it means missing the pumpkin pie. If your child seems to be coping better than expected, you can always extend the deadline, but be ready to split at a moment's notice. If at all possible, when your holiday travels involve such a distance that you'll have to stay overnight, get a hotel room. Your child (and you) will need someplace quiet and chaos-free to decompress after so much family exposure. Then again, if everybody's coming over to your house for dinner, make your child's room off-limits to everybody but him or her, and encourage your child to use it as a refuge when things get overwhelming.

Clothes don't make the kid.
If your child has sensitivities to certain types of clothes, or just stubbornly insists on wearing something you (or, you suspect, your mother) will find inappropriate, don't pick a battle today. Eyebrows may raise if your kid's in sweats while every other little cousin is dressed to the nines, but you want to start your child out with as low a stress level as possible. Fussing over clothes, or putting him or her in clothes that you know will cause anxiety, is a bad way to start. And this way, when the inevitable spills occur, you'll be the only parent at the table who's not worrying about ruined outfits.

Augment the menu.
Whether you're bringing a little something to somebody else's party or planning your own repast, make sure there's something your child will enjoy eating. And then don't comment if that's all he or she will eat. The goal of the day isn't cleaning your plate or trying new foods or pleasing the cook. It's getting through the meal with a minimum of trauma. And, more importantly, it's about giving thanks for the good things in our lives. If your child only wants to give thanks for macaroni and cheese, so be it.

Be the one who watches the kids.
Keeping a close personal eye on your little one has a number of benefits. You can intervene in inter-child squabbles. You can assess your child's level of over stimulation and act accordingly. You can play with your child if no one else will, or lead the other children in a game your child can participate in. And, perhaps most importantly during these events when you feel every judgmental eye is on you and your family, you can avoid conversations with grown-ups. You'd sure like to discuss your child-rearing flaws with Aunt Gertrude, but -- oh, honey, do you need some help with that? Why don't we sit down here on the floor and do it together.

Bring supplies.
Fill a backpack with things your child finds reliably comforting or fun to play with -- toy cars, a stuffed animal, a tape and tape player, a few books. Having them available, even if he or she doesn't actually play with them much, may give your child a sense of familiarity that will be relaxing. If he or she gets over stimulated, find a quiet corner or a back room in which to spend a little time with the toys. If nothing else, toting the toy bag around and making it available when necessary gives you something to do that does not involve long conversations with unpleasant relatives.

Beware of bribes.
You may be tempted to offer some big reward for your child's good behavior at a family get-together, but that can backfire. The fear of losing that much-wanted thing may add to your child's stress overload and actually bring on even worse behavior. Some kids may talk themselves out of wanting the reward because they feel so incapable of providing the required self-discipline. And once you've lost that incentive, things can go downhill very quickly. Small spontaneous rewards during the course of the event are often more effective, because they reduce stress and improve mood. Then, if your child does pull it off, you can always give the big reward later with much praise and encouragement.

Don't apologize for being a good parent

Remain calm.
Memorize this phrase, and repeat it over and over in your head whenever you feel yourself losing your cool: I do not have to apologize for being a good parent to my child. We may struggle under the weight of "advice" or disapproval from family members, but our kids don't care about that: They need what they need. You know best what your child needs, and providing it is your most important responsibility, no arguments. Since most children with special needs react badly to stress in their environment, particularly stressed-out parents, staying relaxed and low-key is one of the best things you can do to keep your child's behavior in line. You can always throw a tantrum when you get home.

Don't overbook.
Hold the festivities down to one event per holiday.
Don't hop from house to house, or plan a big outing the night before a family event. Give your child (and yourself) the maximum amount of de-stressing time surrounding the minimum amount of stressful activity. This may be a disappointment to friends and family members who feel you are sheltering your child too much or rewarding difficult behavior, but you know best -- better one successful foray into the outside world than three or four really miserable ones.

* The following sites were resources for this post's information:


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