Over the next few weeks, different countries around the world will be celebrating the gifted learners in their communities. Australia’s fourth annual Gifted Awareness Week will launch on March 12. Meanwhile, in America, Autism Awareness Month starts on April 1, celebrating and advocating for children and adults on the spectrum. Twice exceptional learners bring aspects of both parts of their exceptional nature – their gifted minds as well as their learning differences – into the way that they take in information and learn about new topics. In celebration of differently abled learners around the world, we wanted to share some of the excellent toys and games that you can purchase for your child.
Textured Seat Pillows
Some twice exceptional kids have conditions that can slow their learning or focus down, such as ADD/ADHD. For these kids, it can be hard to focus in on topics, and particularly hard to stay still in their seats while doing so. Textured sitting tools like the Disc’O’Sit Jr. from Gymnic can help kids pay attention to how they are sitting in their seats. The stubbly texture helps bring wiggly kids’ consciousness to where they are sitting, so that they can make more of an effort to sit still during class or dinnertime.
The Sensory University specializes in creating toys and products of all kinds for those who require more sensory stimulation. Their products can be great for twice exceptional learners, and Sam the Weighted Sensory Bear is no exception. Specially designed for helping kids stay seated while still feeling free, “Sam offers just enough weight to engage a child's spatial awareness without causing exhaustion and lack of interest.” Sam can sit on kids' laps while they’re at dinner or riding in the car, or stretch out on their backs while they fall asleep. Better than a weighted vest or blanket, kids can develop a bond with him like they would with any stuffed animal. Sensory University has a few different weighted animal toys available for purchase.
Anything Squishy or Grainy
By now, you’ve probably figured it out – learners who are on the spectrum can derive great benefit from unusual textures. Because of this, anything in the squishy, stretchy realm can be a great learning tool to help kids focus in or calm down. From Educational Insights’ famous no-mess Playfoam® to the insanely popular Kinetic Sand or Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, weird textures and malleable consistencies can help to stimulate or calm kids with alternate learning needs, all while improving fine motor skills.
Nightlights with Soothing Movement Patterns
Children on the spectrum may become overstimulated easily. National Autism Resources recommends purchasing toys or objects with soothing properties to help calm down children who may have become overexcited. Toys like these night light animals from Cloud b are a great option for soothing your child. Designed to project soothing light onto the ceiling of a room, the colored lights fill the whole room and move in slow patterns. The calming nature of this toy makes it a great choice for bedtime or just to combat that mid-day meltdown.
Magnetic Alphabet Board
Many twice exceptional learners respond positively to sensory learning. The Magnatab series by Kid O provides younger kids with great writing practice while helping to ingrain skills through kinesthetic memory. You or your child can use the magnetic pen to trace the letters or numbers on the board and pull all of the magnets to the surface. Then allow your child to push the magnets back in by tracing the letter or number patterns with their fingertips. Kids on the spectrum might like the bumpy pattern and rhythmic unlocking of the magnetic balls as they drop off the surface of the board. Additionally, by tracing the patterns with their fingertips, kids who learn better through sensory stimulation may master drawing numbers and letters sooner.
There’s really no other toy quite like Toysmith’s retro Zip Ball. A simple design, the toy features two ropes, each with a plastic handle on each end, and a plastic component through which the ropes are strung. Each kid takes a handle in each hand, and they swing their arms out, creating impulses along the ropes that send the plastic ball back and forth. This is a great game for developing gross motor skills as well as teaching very basic physics through application.
Building Toys that Snap Together
Construction toys are great for almost any type of kid. They help develop organizational and fine motor skills while allowing kids to dip into their more creative sides. For the more sensory twice exceptional learners, building toys that snap together can provide particular entertainment. Try picking up something with a prickly texture, like Battat’s popular Bristle Blocks, or of course the stippled and ever-present Lego. Your kids will love snapping the blocks into each other while they build their wild creations.
Twice exceptional learners can be difficult to buy for, both as a parent or as a relative or friend looking for presents. We’ve tried to create a list that caters generally to some of the learning needs that twice exceptional kids may have. Obviously, no two children are the same, so while some of these toys may work wonders with your child, others may not work for them at all. Feel free to comment your child’s experience with any of these products, below or on our Facebook page! For more information on resources for twice exceptional kids, visit ThinkFun’s Special Education Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/thinkfun/special-education/.