It’s not just Woody and Buzz that take on a life of their own – when it comes to toys and neurodiversity, there’s a whole ‘nother Toy Story to consider.

So, for Day 11 of #MyKindofChristmas, it’s all about TOYS!

This may only apply to some of us – but it’s useful to know what others have to think through, or if we need to purchase gifts for our neurodivergent friends and family members.


Toys are quite literally part and parcel of Christmas festivities, bringing joy – but also stress – for families and young people alike. Here are our top tips to keep Christmas happy and healthy.


Consider your child’s developmental age, not chronological age

Some toys may not be suitable or safe for your child or young person despite packaging and suggested ages.

Think about the number of toys you are buying and giving

It’s not necessarily about limiting gifts, but more about limiting how many are given at one time. Too many toys – or any new things -can be very overwhelming. It may also be good to prepare for new gifts arriving by clearing some space well in advance of Christmas day so your family member is able to get used to impending change.

Think about your child’s sensory needs

Is the person hypo or hyper sensitive (with regard to any sense), or both? We know there are lots of big impressive toys on sale at this time of year, but they can be very noisy or have flashing lights. It may be useful to see the toy in action first before purchasing.

Have a stock of batteries!!!

Having to wait for batteries – or for a toy to be built - may cause added stress. Be prepared.

Think about elements of surprise!

Some types of toys, like pop-ups or ones designed to surprise -  may cause too much anxiety for your child. Similarly, not knowing what toys they are going to receive on Christmas day can cause huge anxiety. If that applies, then allowing some control over choosing toys may be useful. Consider looking at catalogues, shopping together or looking online. And if you can’t get what was wanted work on preparing them for that too.

Consider the learning outcome/purpose of the toy

There are toys available that can aid development in the areas of communication, maths, and imaginative play. Do you have an aim in mind for what the toy could support with? Is it realistic? Will your child still enjoy the toy? Be clear on what the gift is for to manage your own expectations.

Choose toys that stimulate and challenge – or bring peace and calm – for your child

Mechanical toys or ‘cause and effect’ toys can be stimulating and can, in turn, help develop a sense of achievement when mastered. But it may be that toys designed for use at the end of the day when they need to relax, would be equally well received. Toys that play lullabies or have additional sensory elements can help with decompression at the end of the day.

Consider special interests

When buying toys- working with your child’s special interest can enhance other areas of learning. For example, if your child is interested in trains you could use these to teach numbers, or even use them to meet sensory needs. Gently running a toy train over skin can be hugely enjoyable for some children. Although this is person specific and not a general rule.

Does the toy require another player?

Consider this when purchasing gifts. This would allow someone else to become involved with your child’s play and have important interaction time. Toys that involve more than one person can also help teach turn-taking skills, listening and observing skills.

Don’t succumb to social pressures

At this time of year there will always be that ‘must have’ toy, however what might be one child’s ‘must have’ may not be suitable for your child.

Have a back-up plan

New toys on Christmas day might just be too much for your child; have toys familiar to your child on hand, just in case.

And finally…

If you know what works for your child – or if giving your child control of how they spend their time is something you want to encourage - then download our ‘Toy Time Vouchers’ today.

You can use them to gift your child extra time with something they enjoy, or to encourage a different type of play. Your young people can also use them to ask for some time doing something they love, offering them an element of control.

Click here to download