Bag Books

Bag Books provides multi-sensory stories for people with learning disabilities, and also run storytelling sessions. They are available to buy online and sometimes subsidise the cost for parents. Watch a video showing an example of a story being told.

Toy libraries

Most toy libraries have specialist toys for people with special needs to borrow. Many projects also have stay and play opportunities. There may also be mobile home visiting services. Find your local toy library.

One-handed knitting, and how to cast on

Elisabeth Ward has made an online tutorial that explains how to cast onto a knitting needle using one hand.

Trampolines

Our family bought Janet a trampoline which has been brilliant for her and has also been great for our other kids and their friends.

Make your own film

Use your camcorder to make a 'film' of a favourite book. We did The Tiger Who Came to Tea, using a toy stuffed tiger, shots of our table set up for tea, empty food packets, and a homemade cardboard claw peeking round the front door. 

Cinema club

Turn your house into a cinema. Choose a DVD together (bought or borrowed from the local library) make tickets, posters etc. Invite friends if you've got the space and then make popcorn, close the curtains and enjoy.

Homemade slime

Make slime. Get a pack of cornflour, mix it with water so it's gloopy but not runny and then add green food colouring.

Dress yourself

Create life-size portraits. Use either a large piece of card or lining paper (joined together, if necessary). Draw around each other and cut up old clothes and cloths to dress your portraits up.

Drawing wall

Stick some blank paper on a wall somewhere and turn it into a 'graffiti wall'. You can also paint a wall with blackboard paint or put up a big white board for graffiti fun.

Catalogues/websites for toys

If you put ‘special needs toys’ in your search engine lots of good providers come up but do watch out for prices. We like Sensory Toy Warehouse and Fledglings who take care to make things affordable.

Make a photo diary

Keeping a photo diary is great for people who have poor memory or limited words to say what they have done. It keeps you in touch with their activities at school/respite/day care etc. You and other family members and friends have something to chat about.

Special library cards

Don’t forget to join your local library where you can get extra books and DVDs during the summer. In Stockport, children with ASC are eligible to borrow DVDs and videos free of charge and overdue charges are also waived. When you join, just ask the librarian to change your child's ticket status to a children or teenage special ticket. No proof of ASC is stated as necessary but it may be a good idea to bring your Disability Living Allowance letter just in case.

Family on film

We had a big family party and found to our delight Eddie loves watching the DVD we made of it. We remade it with his favourite music. He'll sit for ages enjoying watching himself and all the people he knows on TV.

Home skittles

Use guttering to make a chute to play skittles.

Clippit

Lisa likes to play with toys while she is in her wheelchair, but is in the habit of dropping them. So I have put toys you get that clip across a pram, across her wheelchair. This keeps both of us happy.

Substitute sand

You don’t need to wait for dry weather to play with sand. Moonsand, for indoor play, is made by Spin Master Ltd ™ and is available at most toy stores, including the Early Learning Centre. It’s a soft medium that trickles like normal sand, but moulds like dough. There are lots of play themes available and it comes in different colours, too. Great fun!

Trike workout

Sean’s right arm, hand and leg are weaker than his left. We bought him a trike. The trike is heavy so he was able to build up his leg strength on both sides. Also the trike gave him a safe opportunity to practise steering, which is not easy when you've got impaired co-ordination and spatial balance. After a few months he picked up a 2-wheeler without stabilisers and rode it around the garden!

Bike it

To make a change from using the buggy/wheelchair we often take Pete out on a tricycle.

Distraction bag

Gilly is extremely active and gets frustrated in a buggy/wheelchair. I put together a 'Distraction Bag' of toys that she could play with. The Distraction Bag hangs on the back of the buggy and toys can be swapped and exchanged as needed.

Activity frame for wheelchairs

The frame from a small child’s swing makes a great frame to hang stuff from to go over a wheelchair as it is stable and can be folded for easy storage.

Substitute something appropriate

Albi loves to play with people’s hair. As an alternative I got him old curtain tassles which work nicely.

Ideas book

Roma Lear has written a range of books full of ideas of activities for people with special needs, look out for Roma Lear on Amazon.

Make your own

I made my own 3-D letters, numbers and words in colours that Margy likes best to teach her to read. You can laminate or cover in plastic so they last longer.

Find the alternative

Sal finds it difficult to hold small objects, so I gave her pastry brushes instead of small paint brushes for painting.

Sensory activity pack

www.tacpac.co.uk has a sensory activity pack for using with their touch and communication programme which is a resource particularly for children with sensory needs and complex/multiple disabilities.

Sensory play things

Dog/cat toys are great as they are colourful, stretchy, weighty and - above all - strong. They are also often inexpensive, and there seems to be a wide variety of dog toys on the market in all shapes and sizes - some of them are heavily textured as well, which can be attractive. They also have puppy toys which are smaller and softer.

Your own sensory album

We use a plastic box and fill it with different things for sensory play. Sometimes dried beans, sand, shaving foam – we put different smells in like vanilla essence or curry powder to make it more interesting. Sometimes we squeeze toothpaste in is good fun when you get it all over your hands because it dries quickly. If you have the patience you can even fill it with baked beans!

Sparkly Christmas paper

For visually impaired children or those with a sensory impairment, buy lots of sparkly Christmas wrapping paper as it's very good for catching and holding their visual attention. Gold, in particular, or anything with a rainbow/prism effect seems to work well to stimulate those with visual impairment.

Space blanket

For children who love audio feedback, try buying a space blanket (like tin foil but softer). Catches light and crinkles. Used for any age and any ability from newborns that can't move much to over active teenagers.

Smelly socks game

Use up some old small socks or go to a charity shop. Then scent some cotton wool balls with different smells like tea, coffee, lemon, apple or tomato ketchup. Try a variety of smells, taking care not to use anything to which your child may be allergic. When the cotton balls are dry and all the ingredients are placed in the socks, tie the socks up with a ribbon, and play a game of Guess the smell.

Son-rise games

My son has autism and we play lots of Son-rise games with him which are great for any age, special need or neurotypical child.  

Autism Buddy

We really love www.autismbuddy.com because it has tons of specialist resources that you can use at home or at school. What's really clever is that you either buy them or instantly download them for a cheaper price.

Playing with bricks

Magdalena, who has Down's syndrome, started to get bored of her bricks, so we chose a toy animal and hid it in the bricks then chose another animal to find it.

No-mess sand tray

TFH Special Needs Toys sell a no-mess sand tray. Very clever design.

DIY sand table

Instead of spending nearly £200 on a wheelchair-accessible sand and water play table for our daughter, we made one ourselves. We cut 2 holes in a folding camping table and put a shallow tray on one side so her legs would fit underneath and a deeper bowl on the other side. She absolutely loves it!

Word games

We've been using words on the back of paper-clipped paper fish with a magnetic fishing rod to make a game out of reading.

Cheerio necklace

Try threading cheerios with the person you are supporting to make an edible necklace.

Homemade simple jigsaw puzzle

I found a good cheap way to promote self-occupying for my daughter who likes 'cutting and sticking'. She chooses a picture from a magazine, I cut it up, she reassembles the picture, gluing it onto paper. You can make it as simple or complicated as you want. I use simple ones to help calm her down and more complicated ones when she needs a new distraction.

Electronic sounds

Electronic instruments are great for people who like making a lot of sound (banging furniture etc). They can make as much noise as they like with the head phones on and no one else has to hear it! You can get drum kits /keyboards etc.

Make some thunder!

"Thunder makers" are brilliant. I got mine at Hawkins Bazaar for around £8, you just give it a shake and it sounds like a low rumble of thunder, the harder you shake the louder it gets. (Be warned though they are addictive!)

Wii Fit

Wii Fit can be used to improve co-ordination and balance as well as providing inclusive fun and entertainment for the family. If you're unable to stand or have poor balance, place a pillow over the Wii Fit board and sit down to do the games/exercises.

Retail therapy

A great free activity for a rainy day... pick up the Argos catalogue! Harris and I poured over the pictures. Lots of opportunity for conversation, it was a bit like retail therapy except, since Harris doesn't understand the concept of shopping, no money was spent!

Matching pairs game

Use a digital camera to make your own cards for this game. You can photograph your own matching pairs such as your dog, your home, family, etc. You'll need two of each.

Feeling art

For visually impaired people, try adding things like sand or beads to enable them to feel their artwork. Be consistent and stick to the same textures for colours: sand for yellow, smalls beads are green etc.

A real catch!

A Velcro ball and catch mitt set has been fantastic for my son who is unable to catch a regular ball. Great for fun, cause and effect and coordination. Ours was under £5 from eBay - check out 'Spordas No Miss'.

Doing sport differently

Doing sport differently features loads of great ideas for getting more physically active and having fun. 

Make a den

My daughter loves it if we put a sheet over the dining table and make a den. I bring some of her sensory lights in and we all sit underneath. Her NT brothers think it’s great too!

Tropical fish tank

We love watching tropical fish tanks, they are a great way to chill out. Amazon sell DVDs that make your TV look like a fish tank - no cleaning needed!

Rubbish instruments

Raid the recycling and make some musical instruments. Fill jars and plastic containers with rice to make shakers, elastic bands over a box can make a great guitar and balloons stretched over tubs for some bangin' drums!

Knitacise!

Knitting is great to exercise handwriting motor skills.

Glitter party

Poppy has very little fine motor skills and struggles with most art and craft activities. So I stuck some wrapping paper to the wall and we made hand prints on it. Then we covered in glue and threw glitter at them. Messy but great fun!

Listening books

Listening Books is a charity that works with people who have an illness or disability which makes it difficult for them to read the printed word. They have a library of over 7,000 audiobooks for people to download, stream or borrow. 

Frozen marbles

In wintry temperatures, fill balloons with water and food colouring. When the water has frozen, remove the balloon and you have giant marbles!

Savvy sledging

Poppy has cerebral palsy. We use a drill and some old luggage straps to secure her in her sledge! Team with a quilted pillow case to keep her legs warm - just the right size!

Snow play inside

My daughter cannot really play outside in the snow due to severe physical disabilities and poor health. We have had fun playing with containers of snow; making miniature snowmen as well as pouring on water and salt to make it melt. She also enjoyed adding food colourings and glitter!

Treasure hunt

I enjoy taking the disabled and non-disabled children I care for on a treasure hunt. The other day we collected sticks to make a pretend camp fire. Other times the 'treasure' has been stones or daisies. It’s a good, inclusive activity they all enjoy.

Paint pens

Paint pens, like Squeeze 'n Brush pens, are brilliant for people who find painting difficult, and make very little mess.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.