Here are some examples of toys, books and play equipment that many parents have found to be popular with young children on the autism spectrum.
Sensory toys and activities
Physical activities and sensory toys can provide valuable sensory feedback for people on the autism spectrum.
- bubble machine
- bubble tube
- fibre optic plume
- colour torch
- drawing, colouring and painting
- music or musical instrument
- rocking horse
- climbing frame
- bicycle, toy tractor etc
- paddling pool and water play toys
- sand pit
- basketball net.
Sorting, matching and construction
- shape and colour matching, or sorting, toys
- formboards and jigsaws
- Duplo, Lego and other construction toys
- marble runs
- trains and train track toys.
Rather than just a book with plain text, try looking at:
- board books
- books with flaps
- books that encourage readers to touch and feel different textures and fabrics in them
- word books (often with pictures or photos of familiar objects)
- Usborne's First 100 words and First 1,000 words books
- Dr Seuss books
- factual books
- puzzle books.
Games to play with other people
These can help to develop skills in listening, observing and turn-taking.
- CDs of singing and dancing games
- picture lotto games
- Connect 4
- Guess who?
- snakes and ladders
- The Socially Speaking Game.
Using technology – computers, gamers and other devices - is a popular leisure time activity for people with autism. Some suggestions are:
- character software such as Pingu, Dr Seuss or Disney Magic Artist
- factual software such as Microsoft's Magic School Bus or the online encyclopaedia Encarta
- software to develop vocabulary such as the Talking animated alphabet
- software for young children such as Jump Ahead Toddler
- communication apps and games.
Please note: the organisations above are not connected with The National Autistic Society in any way. We cannot recommend any of the above organisations.
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The lists of toys were compiled by Dr Jane Shields from the NAS EarlyBird team. EarlyBird is a three-month programme for parents and carers of young children with an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Last reviewed 5 October 2015.