With the holidays coming up, grandparents and friends are naturally asking for ideas for gifts for the kids, but when you are shopping for toys for kids with cognitive disabilities, it can make the gifting a little more challenging.

For my daughter, play time is also therapy time. With every interaction, she is learning so much.Toys are more than just toys!

So, if you’re shopping for kids with disabilities this holiday season too (or, any time of year), I wanted to share just a few favorite toys that we’ve been loving lately  — and maybe you’ll share them with your kids’ grandparents, aunts and uncles, too.

Of course, I recognize that the disability spectrum is so wide, from physical to cognitive to emotional Not every toy is right for every kid. But I’ve found these to be great options for my own daughter, who has fine motor, gross motor, and cognitive delays.

The bonus is, these are just “regular” toys that her friends and siblings enjoy playing with too. Yay for positive reinforcers!

(If, in fact, playing with other kids is a reinforcer for your kid.)

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Related: The beautifully curated toy box subscription for every developmental stage


A toy to develop sorting and matching skills

Great toys for kids with special needs: Work on sorting skills with this Banana Panda puzzles | Photo © Kate Etue for Cool Mom Picks

Great toys for kids with special needs: Banana Panda puzzles for sorting skills

For kids who struggle to match concepts together, I’ve found that the new Match the Buddies puzzle is a great toy and a great tool. It’s helping my daughter sort items that are similar but not the same.

Each card has two animals that go together, but they’re not identical photos, making this a next-step developmental milestone for sorting. It’s challenging, but subtle clues like matching background colors and patterns are helping my daughter make these connections.

There are so many other great variations of this game from toymaker, Banana Panda, if your child has any specific motivators that you want to use.


A toy to develop fine motor skills

Great toys for kids with special needs: Toy wok set | Photo © Kate Etue for Cool Mom Picks

Great toys for kids with special needs: This toy wok set helps develop fine motor skills.

I’m loving this play stir fry toy set from Learning Resources for my daughter, because we can talk about colors, shapes, and concepts (like in and out), all while working on fine motor skills too.

The tongs help her develop her hand strength and pinching skills, while the toy wok gives her a large target area to drop in the play food.

For more of a challenge, she can try getting the food into the to-go box that comes with the set. Plus, the curved knobs on the broccoli and the ridges on the peas and carrots all offer terrific sensory stimulators.

Related: Cool handmade toys for kids, for a back-to-basics holiday


A toy to teach object functions and relationship

Toys for kids with special needs: Learn symbol meaning with quiet books at Baby Book Shop

I love interactive quiet books, which allow my daughter to move pieces around to learn functions and relationships. You can find absolutely gorgeous handmade soft books on Etsy (with a well-deserved price tag to match), like the one above from  Baby Book Shop which features the pair of arms.

Toys for kids with special needs: Learn object function with My Big Day book

We’ve also found decent quiet books on Amazon. My Big Day is my current favorite for cognitive development, because the pages feature tasks like taking clothes out of the dresser and putting them on the person (in the right places), or putting food on a dinner plate. It also provides fine-motor challenges, like snaps and shoelaces.

Toys for kids with special needs: Learn complex object matching with Right at Home quiet book.

If your child loves animals, though, the Right at Home soft book is a good one; it allows kids to match animals to their habitats with a simple in-and-out pop-out function.


A toy to develop spatial awareness

Toys for kids with special needs: MontiKids developmental toys

I received a press sample box of the gorgeous Monti Kids subscription box for babies and toddlers, and I was so impressed with the quality of the toys inside. But the simplicity lf the selection also happens to be perfect for my daughter.

The ring slide toy in their Level 7 collection helps her predict outcomes — if she slides a ring too hard, it will go too far. To gentle, and it won’t go far enough.

We can also work on colors with this toy, as well as in/out and on/off concepts, as she puts the rings through the tunnel or directly onto the posts.

These sets are a splurge, but they’re also beautifully crafted and designed to last forever.