Finding appropriate toys or gifts for children that stimulate and inspire, without over-stimulating or hypnotizing, can be a hard task. If that child has special needs or is on the autism spectrum, the job is all the harder.
Liz Staples, the owner of Nature Calls, is well aware of this. “We have a lot of tactile things in the store. Kids with special needs like to have something in their hand to manipulate, something quiet to manipulate. So there are different sizes, different textures. Some are stretchy; some are just soft and manipulative. Some have sand in them so they kind of crunch a little bit but not loudly.” As kids are being asked to focus for longer periods in school, and have less outdoors time, these manipulative are more important than ever.
There’s also a new line of games in the store from Northstar Games. The company has received awards for their games designed for kids on the autism spectrum. Liz explains that the games are appealing “because there’s a lot of movement, there’s following directions, and there’s also physical contact which a lot of kids on the spectrum can’t do. Even if it’s just shaking a hand, they have a hard time with that, and these games encourage a little bit of touching.”
Another line of hugely successful products for kids with autism is Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. The product was developed by Aaron Muderick, whose son was on the autism spectrum. Aaron found that his son needed something in his hand in school so he could focus. Liz explains, “He developed this putty for his son and brought it to school and other kids in the classroom liked it and the teacher liked it because it was quiet, it didn’t smell, it didn’t make noise. So he started marketing this to the local kids, and it started to balloon into this bigger thing. And now there are probably 64 different varieties of putty, which have become collectable as well as functional.”
The putty comes in several differently sized cans. You can also buy a kit and make your own combinations, which encourages scientific experimentation. The best part about the product, notes Liz, is that “Aaron employs special needs people in his factory. They do all of the shipping and packing and a little bit of the manufacturing on the assembly lines. He gives back as much as he gets in. So he’s a really amazing guy. A really nice man.”
If you’re in the market for a cool toy or gift for a special kid in your life, check out one of these great items at Nature Calls in the Powerhouse Mall.