Last week, Camden’s teacher emailed me to say how much he loved a certain toy. The Track Racer. It made me smile because it reminded me of Camden’s first big ABA reinforcer. The Penguin Race. Seriously interesting (to his mama) how much delight he got from this contraption. It was so noisy and annoying. I’ve shared before about Camden’s visual stim and how he loves when things move across his line of sight. If you read the Amazon reviews, you’ll see how many other kids on the spectrum gravitated toward this as well.
Then I just started thinking about the toys that Camden has really enjoyed. I recall early on, a friend insisting that I get him a water table. The boy hated playing in water. My mom and brother bought him a sand and water table for his 2nd birthday. Through OT, we worked on sensory issues, and were delighted when Camden would touch the sand or play in the water. Over time, we found ourselves getting a bit perturbed when other kids would come over and make an absolute mess mixing the sand and water. Camden kept it so tidy. Why didn’t the other children? When our little guy, Carson, was old enough to play at the sand/water table, we realized it was a very normal thing for neuro-typical kids to want to do. Who knew?! *If you are still tracking with me at this point, I am essentially strolling down memory lane with this post.
Okay, so here are a few of Camden’s favorite toys/playthings. And I would LOVE to hear about your kiddo’s favorite toys. And for this post, I will focus mainly on “appropriate” toys instead of the untraditional items Camden’s has fixated on in the past, like the tv remote, my hair, keys, coins, etc. As you probably know, “appropriate play” is a challenge for many kids with autism. We’ve observed Camden stimming over rolling cars back and forth just to watch the wheels spin. Seeing him play appropriately at our construction site table is a joy! And in case any of you are thinking, “Well, that’s not uncommon. Lots of kids like to play with things that aren’t really toys.” We’ve all heard people remark on how oftentimes it seems that a child is more interested in the box or packaging than the actual toy. What I am referring to is quite different.
In no particular order: These Leap Frog alphabet flash cards. We love and learned a lot from the Leap Frog movies. These sturdy flashcards combined his love of Leap Frog and the alphabet. A beautiful mix.
Camden’s first love of trains came from the GeoTrax. He got them for Christmas one year. Then we found a big ole set of them on Craigslist and expanded our Trax.
Right before Carson was born, we got Camden a wooden train table. We still have it and he plays with it almost daily.
I am not entirely sure when Camden’s fondness for Thomas the Train started. It seemed to happen so gradually, that it just kind of sneaked up on us. Since he can sometimes be a bit challenging to buy gifts for, Thomas is an easy go-to. He has no shortage of the wooden Thomas trains and the Take-n-Play metal ones.
We found this 3-lane slip-n-slide at Costco a couple of years ago, and it’s been a big hit. Camden is still a bit cautious to run down it, so Brian either pushes him (lovely on the back) or he sits on one of the inflatable pillow-things that came with it. We tie a bungee cord to it and pull him through the water.
We’ve got a lot of memories around this bead maze table. My little guy held on to it as he cruised around the living room. Camden still shows a lot of interest in these bead mazes when he sees them out and about.
Have you seen or heard of the Chevron cars? We have a kid friend that loved them and played with them, and I remember thinking how cute they were. I bought someone’s Chevron car lot off of Craigslist when I was pregnant with Camden. He actually had several of them in his 1-year pictures, but I can’t seem to find them now.
He played with the Fisher Price school bus for a long time. School buses were actually Camden’s first big interest. We live near the school bus depot, and since we went for walks so much, he’d get super excited to see them all whoosh by.
Early on, books were just about Camden’s favorite. Not sure if he actually enjoyed the stories, but he loved having the pages turn and has always gravitated to letters. Here we are reading some of his favorites when I was pregnant with Carson.
Another HUGE ABA motivator was the bubble machine. We’ve been through several of them over the years. We’d take the machine outside and Camden would chase them and watch them float. He still enjoys the bubble song when we go to Gymboree.
One of his other early faves was the Fisher Price farm. We held on to that for a long time.
We got so much joy out of the Step 2 Up and Down Coaster. A friend let us borrow theirs to see if the boys would like it. Then we found one on Craigslist. It was HUGE for Camden’s gross motor development.
For as long as I can remember, Camden has bounced as his primary means of sensory-seeking. I recall when he was just a year old, seeing him in the baby monitor and how stunned we were with how high he could bounce. My dear friend, Danielle, got this Galt trampoline for Camden. We went through three of the replacement bungees before it was all said and done. That thing had some awesome bounce!
Other than the trampoline, the swing has always been a favorite for Camden. Great for sensory for him, and very calming. I’d pay good money to know how many swing pushes I’ve done with that boy. We started out with the Little Tykes Secure Swing, and then moved to this half bucket swing. Camden had/has low muscle tone, so the bucket swing was perfect to give him support that he needed.
We have a couple other favorites, but can’t find pictures of the boys playing with them. Camden uses his Fisher Price tough player every day. I download his favorite songs and rotate them from time to time.
I always love it when I can find things that my boys can play with together. They love vehicles and I wanted to get them a racetrack one year for Christmas, but wanted one that wasn’t incredibly frustrating. We really like the Scaleextric set. It’s uses cars that fit into the slots on the track. You can adjust the speed too.
SO wish I had a picture of the boys playing with the Stomp Rocket Jr. It’s another toy that has been great for Camden’s gross motor skills. We use it to work on his jumping. Brian and I even have fun playing with it as we compete to see who can catch the most launched rockets.
My sister-in-law got Camden a ball pit tent when he was 1 or 2. We have a lot of memories with that little tent and cleaning up balls all over the house. My boys finally outgrew it and we passed it along to our baby cousins since I couldn’t bare to part with it. My sister-in-law also got Camden a 6-foot parachute for Christmas early on. We’ve had tons of fun with it and still have it to pull out on occasion. When we go to Gymboree and Camden lays under the parachute while it floats up and down, the look on his face is priceless. It makes my heart swell! I need to get a picture and video so I never forget.
I love this picture of Camden from our camping trip last fall. Completely on his own, he grabbed the remote controlled vehicle and got to playing. I think this picture is part of what is making this post SO long (in addition to the fact that it’s just fun to reminisce about the good times) are pictures like this. We’ve really tried (and still do) to get Camden to work on appropriate play. We know that he loves vehicles, so to see him using the remote to drive it around, as opposed to lying on the ground and rolling it back and forth in his line of sight is SUPER EXCITING!!!
I am continually on the lookout for toys that Camden will like. Feel free to share suggestions!