Many toys are designed to challenge a child’s motor skills. They are meant to be held, assembled, pushed and prodded, as well as twisted this way and that. While this feature makes the toy a healthy challenge for the typical child, it might make playtime frustrating for a child with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a congenital condition that affects movement, balance and coordination. In many cases, cerebral palsy also results to perceptual problems and learning disabilities. At present, there is no known cure for cerebral palsy; but many children live meaningful lives despite the condition with physical therapy and specialized equipment.

Children with cerebral palsy find simple functions like standing still, grasping objects and catching a moving toy difficult to do. They may also have problems in a function called sensory integration: the ability to process the things one perceives e.g. textures, smells and appearance.

When buying toys for children with cerebral palsy, you want to be able to do two things:

  1. challenge your child in the areas that they’re having difficulty with, and
  2. maximize their enjoyment of the toys while minimizing the potential for frustration.

Here are a few tips to consider when buying toys for children with cerebral palsy:

First off, the good news: most toys in the market can be enjoyed by children with cerebral palsy with a few adjustments. Manipulatives, like building blocks to be arranged and organized, puzzles with large puzzle pieces, and balls of all shapes and sizes are good choices. Toys like these can help train children with cerebral palsy on how to hold things firmly with two hands.

While grasping and gripping objects may be something that they would likely struggle with initially, consistent practice and parental support can help them make some progress. Here’s something that can help: why not attach a grasping aid to these toys? A grasping aid can simply be a piece of string tied to a kid’s wrist on one end and to the kid’s wrist on another. This will help the toy from bouncing off the reach of the child whenever he drops them.

Infants in particular can be helped by parents hanging toys over their cribs. Reaching out for a ball in front of them, for example, can encourage a toddler with cerebral palsy to reach up with their back erect, and thus helping develop their coordination.

To assist with their cognitive impairment, it’s also be a good idea to buy them large picture sets which they can study for colors and forms. You can find toys that stimulate the senses anywhere; just look for great textures, sounds, colors and shapes. In fact, household stuff like sand, wooden blocks and even water can be therapeutic for kids with cerebral palsy. If you want something more sophisticated, there are specialty toy shops online that design sensory toys for children with disabilities. Just remember: choose simple toys. Children with cerebral palsy have difficulty doing several things at once, and so toys where one hand has to do something while the other hand does something else may be a bit difficult for them to use. Make sure that everything is stable too; children with cerebral palsy’s uncontrollable motor movements may make the toys quite easy to knock down.