On 15th April my little miracle celebrates his 4th Birthday. 4 years. How on Earth did that happen?! Doesn’t seem like yesterday that he was a tiny baby, and now he’s an incredibly handsome (ok, might be a little biased), lovely little boy. Proud? Muchly. Stumped for what to get him? Oh, like you wouldn't believe.
The problem is this; although chronologically Sam is 4 years old, developmentally he is more like 18 months - 2 years in terms of cognitive development, but with the gross motor skills of a 6-12 month old. Fine motor skills are even lower down the scale. So, age appropriate toys simply aren’t appropriate for Sam. And there is a limit to how many brightly coloured balls, fidget toys or other ‘baby’ level items that on child can have. Trust me.
Over the past few years it has gotten harder to think of suitable presents for him, he loves lights and music but struggles with switches due to his poor motor skills. He *adores* his play mat, but it isn’t in need of replacing just yet. Then there’s the Special Needs toys. Take your average toy, add several 0’s on before the decimal point and you’re there... these things are Expensive. Note capitalised E.
By way of an example: a bubble blower machine costs around £8. Make that a SN switch adapted bubble blower machine and the price goes to £35. Fibre optic lights are several hundred pounds and bubbles tubes (the mainstay of sensory rooms the world over) can run into the thousands.
So, what’s a cash-strapped parent to do? Answer: Create.
I love the internet, I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it since Sam’s arrival. I’ve taught myself how to make a battery operated toy into a switch adapted one, have learned that many sensory toys can be found in the £1 shops or even better, the pet shops. Spiky sensory ball from SN website, £25. Exactly the same ball from pet shop, £6. Sorted.
It’s all a matter of perception - does it really matter if your childs favourite toy is something designed for a cat to play with? Not in the slightest... after all, in this house our cats play with anything whether they’re meant to or not, so it seems fair enough that Sam should be able to play with toys designed for them!
If family or friends ask what Sam would like we usually say if they don’t mind, a cheque for him would be perfect. That way we can save it up for something he *really* wants or needs. As I said before, special needs stuff is pricey but there is a lot of good stuff out there that we’d love to get our hands on for Sam... any pennies he is given go into his bank account, so that we can afford to pay for these types of things for him.
There is the other facet of this too... currently, Sam doesn’t really have much understanding of birthdays, Christmas etc., and can get overwhelmed easily by large numbers of people.
But he’s progressing, and while there isn’t much he needs/wants right now, in the future it may well be a different story and this way he’ll have a pot of money that can be used towards something really special.
Of course there are some who insist on buying him loads of toys, most of which will never be played with - Sam may be delayed in his development but he is not a baby anymore and doesn’t have any interest in toys aimed at babies... and just like parents the world over we shall smile and say thank you, ooh and aah in the right places, and make a mental note to discreetly send unsuitable items to the charity shop
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