Christmas presents for Autistic, Special Needs and Developmentally Delayed children, on a budget

Updated on May 7, 2016
Christmas presents for Special Needs children
Christmas presents for Special Needs children

Autistic, Developmentally Delayed and Sensory Seeking children. What do I buy them for Christmas?

Yes folks it is now officially less than 60 days to the holiday season. Much as I hate to admit it too I will soon have to start my Christmas gift buying which I will have to keep to a minimum this year due to our seemingly never ending recessionary times.

Anyway the reason I am writing this article is because as the parent of a five year old Autistic son I know how hard it can be to find a present for a child with Autism as well as any child with Developmental Delay or other special needs. Experience has warned me that my own son is often much more likely to be fascinated by the cardboard box or the bubble wrap that the present is wrapped in rather than the actual gift itself so finding toys that interest him is a never ending quest.

I have been through many of on-line sites that recommend this toy or that and to be honest I know at this stage that many of them just won’t appeal to him. Every child with Autism is just as individual as any other and although I understand that in theory he should be really into puzzles or a sandbox or a specific present for a child with Autism but in reality my son just doesn’t run with the flock (he’s just my boy completely I think!) and many such toys are often completely ignored by him.

So as I will soon have nana’s and other family members enquiring as to what my son would like for Christmas this year (aagggh how do I know?) I have decided that this year it is time to take stock and compose a guideline list that I can then hopefully keep close by and hand to all when requested.

Now of course there are many specialist sites you can visit that will promise that their toys for children with Autism are what you need and while that may be true in many instances if like me you are on a strict budget this Christmas then here are some suggestions for Christmas gifts for children with Autism that won’t require a bank loan or remortgaging your house.

Spinning Top

Today you can get spinning tops that light up also for added effect
Today you can get spinning tops that light up also for added effect

Spinning top on Ebay

This toy never fails to interest my son. Yes just any good old fashioned spinning top will do. In fact in many cases it does not even need to be a real spinning top at all. The more spinning objects there are the merrier for him. The one I have chosen here at this link has the added bonus of lighting up as well so we get two of my son’s favorite activities at once i.e. spinning and flashing lights.

He also tends to prefer the more substantial ones rather than the little wooden painted ones but that’s just his personal choice. In the past I have picked Spinning Tops up on Ebay but I have also gotten them in Educational Toys stores, Bargain shops and on market stalls so you can spend as little or as much on them as you like. The choice is yours.

A Mini-Trampoline

Mini-trampolines are great in-door entertainment
Mini-trampolines are great in-door entertainment

Trampoline on Ebay

I would be lost without my son’s trampoline. It is his number one favourite way of working off frustration and pent up melt downs. He has an outdoor trampoline already that he has to go on when he gets up, when he comes home from school. It’s a big part of his daily routine and he always has to have a good bounce on his trampoline after his walkabout in the back garden as soon as he gets home from school.

However now that these dark, blustery winter days have set in here in Ireland it is now not always possible to let him go outside and of course he doesn’t agree. So what if there is a gale force wind doesn’t that just make it all the more exciting he protests? It is also being suggested that this Christmas we could be snowed and boy it’d be a long holiday season without a back up plan. So here’s a mini in-door trampoline that I saw on Ebay that’s under $40.00. It is just ideal for the Christmas holiday season and it may even save your sanity too. It is thankfully also versatile enough to pop into the trunk of the car and carry with you during your Christmas visiting trips.

Ball Pits

Ball pits are also a great Sensory aid
Ball pits are also a great Sensory aid

Wonder Play Tent

Play tents with balls also act as a quite area where your child can go to wind down
Play tents with balls also act as a quite area where your child can go to wind down

Ball Pools

Ball pits provide hours of endless fascination. I have chosen two images of Ball Pit and a Ball tent here as both are ideal depending on your child's age and their level of Sensory Difficulty. If your child has Autism you might prefer the tent because this can also be a useful place for your child to go to when they are feeling overloaded or in meltdown mode too.

I have yet to meet an autistic child who is not fascinated or at least moderately interested in a Ball pit. It’s a great entertainment for them as well as well as helping to relieve stress by providing sensory input towards part of your child’s daily Sensory Diet. It’s also an added bonus that they can play with the Ball Pit themselves or with others depending on what’s needed at any particular time.

Also once again they are easily portable for transportation over the holiday season.

Lava Lamps and Ooze Tubes

Lava Lamps come in many different shapes and sizes
Lava Lamps come in many different shapes and sizes

Lava Lamps and Ooze Tubes

I was amazed when I realized that Lava Lamps and Ooze tubes were considered to be Sensory toys for Autistic children. Back in my own childhood I had no idea at the time that I was the typical Aspergers child. Yet I too was always extremely fascinated with all of the above. So when I realized that Lava Lamps and Ooze Tubes were classed as the perfect toys for my son I quickly suggested last Christmas that a Lava Lamp would be a perfect Christmas gift for him. However in hindsight I have to admit that I was much more enamoured by the lamp at the time than my son was.

That’s another important aspect to remember when buying toys for children with Autism especially those who also have developmental delay or multiple sensory issues. The suggested age on toys isn’t always appropriate for them. I find these days that my son is taking out toys that he got two years ago and starting to play with them now i.e. his toy age is about two to three years even though he has just turned five.

Ooze Tubes

Ooze Tubes are a very popular toy
Ooze Tubes are a very popular toy

Ooze Tubes described

Description provided at above ink:

Watch the liquid slowly flow down the Ooze Tube to calm and relax. A visually interesting way to watch the passage of time, approximately fifteen minutes depending on the temperature. The ooze tube is sure to be a classroom favorite! The ooze tube is 5 inches with a two inch diameter. Color choice based on availability.

Educational and Vocabulary Building DVD's

There is a large choice of different sets to choose from
There is a large choice of different sets to choose from

Bumble Bee Vocabulary Building DVD's

While there are a few DVD’s my son likes (just delighted though that he got over the phase of repeating the same first two minutes of certain DVD’s over and over again e.g. Bob The Builder is still in my nightmares most nights as is every teddy bear like character from the BBC Series, In the Night Garden), DVD’s of your child’s particular chosen program of current fascination will undoubtedly give you some solace over the Christmas break. It may also have the added bonus of saving your sanity at times when you just need downtime yourself. But if you think you might want to comfort yourself even more by actually having a DVD that your son might actually love to watch that is also teaching him something beneficial then I have found that the collection of Bumble Bee DVD’s was just great for this purpose. Link here.

There are a load of different sets to choose from within the Bumble Bee collection depending on what level your child is at also some come with picture cards also if you want them. Many of them have won awards for helping pre-verbal children gain some skills. Some of the sets come with Picture cards too or not depending on what you need.

It is best to have a look through the whole collection first and then pick a set that best suits your child’s stage of communication.


These are all gift ideas that I personally have bought and I still have many more to come in future hubs, so watch this space.

Enjoy your gift buying and as we say here in Ireland, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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    • Scott A Oswald profile image

      Scott A Oswald 16 months ago

      I Love this list. It's just as good as or!