As well as being fun in general play, one can have fun with toys in many ways. They can be educational, including teaching us about socialising. In addition, they can be used to develop creativity, problem solving, and other useful skills besides. In essence, they can help with brain development.
Below I talk about examples and my experiences of toys and sensory play, and how they benefited me. You can use these for your own ideas to support children with autism if you’re a parent or in a teaching capacity. Or they may even inspire new ideas of your own.
Magnetic letters and numbers
I once had access to these, and would sometimes use these to do sums by placing them on the fridge door. This can be useful for getting practice with numbers and sums.
This is a computer game where the objective is to make complete lines using objects of different shapes which descend into the playing area. The game is over when the objects have reached the top. It shows the shapes of the objects to come, helping one with planning their next move, so I can see how somebody into logic may become addicted to it.
As you move up the levels, the objects move faster, meaning you have to obviously react and plan more quickly in order to put pieces in desirable places in order to build more lines. This can aid concentration, and develop good hand-eye coordination, which can be beneficial when doing other things like sporting events. In my case, it may be good for when I play the piano, especially when I have to read the music and play at the same time. It can be good for brain development.
Lego and other toy building blocks
With Lego, one can put their creative mind to work. I used to like building tall Lego houses with long gardens, as I had an interest in extreme dimensions. I’d imagine living there surrounded by my favourite things, including telescopes and being excited about seeing captivating views of faraway space objects.
I’d imagine inviting Lego friends round to have peeps through the telescopes into space themselves, giving them each a turn with the telescopes. This can be an example of how to teach the importance of sharing.
In addition, I’d imagine going out with my Lego friends on bike rides in the long garden and surrounding areas. This could be seen as a chance to develop social skills where one may think about how they’d behave appropriately with others when out and about with friends.
Here is a separate blog post of mine where you can find an example of how the toy Lego can get one into reading and writing.
At infant school, I had access to building blocks, and liked to build bridges and tunnels. Looking back, this gave me an insight into how things balanced.
Art and crafts
You don’t have to be the most gifted artist around. I’ve never been a particularly gifted artist myself. However, when I was young and growing up, I had access to plenty of card and coloured paper at home. I once chose to make a garden out of card.
It was simply a matter of cutting out a rectangle shape of card to make the garden. Green card was obviously used for the lawn, with some blue for a pond, and used the other coloured pieces of paper for the flowers. I took my design into school the next day, inspiring the rest of the class to produce their own garden designs.
Fun with science
When the weather is cold in winter, you may see patches of ice on the ground which may be frozen puddles. This can happen when you have clear skies on winter nights.
If you’re going to have clear skies at night during winter, this will cause the temperature to drop to at least a point where water freezes.
If you have a bucket, or any other object which can be filled, fill it up with cool water in the evening, leave it outside in a safe place.
The next morning, if you come out it should be iced over. And if it’s a sunny day, leave it out and see later if it’s melted in the sun.
I once used an empty can of coke to see changes of state in action. I filled the can with water, left it outside in the freezing cold for the night. That enabled the liquid water to turn into ice overnight. The following day, I applied the heat of a hairdryer to the can to melt the ice back into liquid water.
As you may have read above, I have described how toys and other similar items can be seen in some ways as creative, educational as well as fun and how they benefited me.
Feel free to mention any experiences of how toys have helped you to support one with autism in the comments section below. I’d also be interested in the views of those of you who may have an autism spectrum disorder, and how certain toys may have benefited your development.