SNAP Awards 2013
Toys for Kids with Special Needs
Tags: SNAP Awards, toys for special needs,
Posted: 2013-11-25 15:24:40 By: Joanne Oppenheim


Too often gift-givers look for toys that are "good for" children. Of course, you want toys that have value, but so-called "good" toys need not be like medicine. They can help kids learn new skills without turning play into lessons that feel more like drill than fun. These are just a handful of the many SNAP Award winners that you can find on our website. (To find more SNAP winners from this year and previous years, open the Search option above and check the SNAP entry for a more extensive list.) These are mainstream toys that you can adapt or use straight out of the box. You'll find the reason these were chosen as well as playful ideas for adapting or using them.



2013 Awards
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Crawl Around Car
(Fisher-Price $60 Score: )

You know how car salesmen tell you the car they are selling is fully loaded? That would be a good description of this red activity center that is shaped like a car. It has wheels but does not move around. It's designed for sitting up, crawling, and even toddlers who are cruising. There's a dashboard with steering wheel, lights, and buttons to activate--always a favorite of toddlers. The back wheels spin and one side door opens and closes so tots can go in and out. There is a shape sorter on one side and a ball run on the other, a windshield wiper that talks about the weather. All the pieces are sized up for young players. This toy takes some time to put together with screws and stickers. It says 6 months to 36 but we think this will be used most by babies who are crawling, cruising and beginning walkers. Lots of ways for them to make things happen and for early games of pretending.

SNAP: There's still plenty to do even though the wheels of this sporty red car do not move the vehicle about.  A good choice for a child who is ready for pretend without the need for pedals or foot power. Think of it as a pretend setting with so many ways of making things happen.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Lamaze Franky the Hanky Whale
(Tomy $25 Score: )

A soft textured fabric whale comes with bright colored hankies that can disappear into the whale's ribbon trimmed spout and peek-a-boo--they reappear when pulled out of its wide mouth. It has a bold black and white pattern on its underside and crinkle sounds in its fins. A cute way to play around with object permanence and develop fine motor skills in little hands. 9 months & up

SNAP: Use this toy for reinforcing color concepts as you pull the hankies out. Look for other things in the room that are the color of the hankie you put in the spout. Once children have the hang of this add other peek-a-boo surprises to this clever toy that has no finger catches or hard edges. This plays on an old favorite game of filling and dumping. Putting things into a container and taking them develops manual skills as well as proving repetition and a sense of empowerment. Changing the objects to be filled and dumped--or in this case pushed and pulled, adds variety to a useful play mode.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Sassy Rings Around Rattle
(Sassy $6.99 Score: )

An easy-to-grasp kidney-shaped ring rattle. There are beads that roll around inside a see-through part of the ring and textured black and white bands on another part. Three little colored rings clack between a black and white ball and an orange textured ball. Well designed for sensory learning. Bring this home when baby is able to reach out to take hold of things to explore. 4 months & up.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Quercetti Daisy Box Castle
(International Playthings $37 Score: )

For starters tots will love the classic action of filling and dumping all the pieces that come in the Daisy Box Castle. The rounded edges of the container and the blocks make them kid-friendly and easy for little hands to grasp. Once they get the idea, they can make the colorful rounded blocks fit into one another in towers or side-by-side on the white peg-board lid of the red container. The various shapes are designed to be used in an open-ended fashion with no right or wrong ways. A lovely toy for building eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, the language of color concepts and imaginative play.

SNAP: Give kids plenty of time to explore the various pieces of this building set. After plenty of time for free play, use the pieces to sort by color or size. Use them for reinforcing simple counting and even to make patterns. This does not have a babyish look yet the size of the playing pieces will make it easier for many children to manipulate.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
ELC Singing Animal Keyboard
(International Playthings $34.99 Score: )

We like the new look to a classic first keyboard that helps tots learn about cause and effect. The big keys work one at a time to activate the animals that open their mouths and make sounds. The sound is not over-the-top loud. It has three play modes: animal sounds, animals singing, and animals singing along to a tune. The music is just so-so, but the action will please tots who love the sense power and repetition of making things happen. A good first birthday gift. 12 months & up.

SNAP: Unlike a lot of toys where so many things happen, this works in a very one to one cause and effect way.

Age: Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Kids Preferred The World of Eric Carle Discovery Cube Toy
(Kids Preferred $17 Score: )

 A new and inviting look to a classic toy. This soft fabric cube comes with easy to grasp handles. The cube itself is under-stuffed, making it easier for baby to hold and explore. It has tons of sensory feedback for baby to explore. There are crinkle and rattle sounds, a variety of appliqué textures and moving peek-a-boo flaps for little fingers to lift, plastic rings with bumpy textures to grab and taste, black and white knotties, and the bold animal graphics on each side. A good choice for building knowing and naming language when you talk about the animals and the sounds they make, as well as the featured colors on each side of the cube. A charming toy for introducing the joyful patterns and delicious palette of artist Eric Carle.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Chicco Toby Push 'N Go
(Chicco $14.95 Score: )

An easy-to-activate floor toy to motivate crawling. A child-powered rolling toy with a spinning ball inside the body of Toby, a spotted pooch. The ball has a quiet rattling sound and just a small push sets it in motion. For cat lovers, there is an orange and yellow cat called Tom Push 'N Go.  6 months & up

SNAP just a swipe of the hand powers the action, so this is a good choice for inviting beginning crawlers to go get the rolling cat or puppy.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2013.




2013 Awards
Alex Round the Farm
(Alex $43.99 Score: )

An update of a 2008 Platinum Award winner, this soft fabric ball has new faces, textures and sounds. There are four different animal faces, each with its own set of ears that protrude from the ball and have a sound effect appropriate for the related animal. (The frog ribbits, the cat meows, the cow moos, and the dog woofs.) There is also a small finger hole that baby testers thought was great fun. However, the toy was $24.99 in 2008. Hard to know why it is now almost twice the price. 6 months & up.

SNAP: A fun toy to motivate crawling and for developing language.
Talk about the eyes, mouth and ears of each animal. Play a singing game to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it...clap your hands...etc." Only this time play it by singing about tap the cow's nose, mouth, ears. Play it with each face of the toy and with your child's own mouth, eyes and ears.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2013.




2013 Awards
Crayola My First Touch-Lights Pad
(Crayola $21.99 Score: )

One of Crayola's mess-free toys. The screen changes colors and sings 6 songs as toddlers use their fingers or the stylus to make things happen. This does not replace the squishy joy of finger paints, but it does allow less clean-up time. The free form drawings are not permanent. Use the stylus sideways to clear the screen and start again. This takes 3 AA's and happyily--the sound can be turned off. Designed for tots of 24 months & up.

 SNAP:Finger paint it is not..that said, this does provide another way to get children to build finger and hand muscles without the demands of gripping a pencil, marker, or crayon.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Magnetos Better Builders
(Guidecraft $49.95 Score: )

A 30-piece building set of rods and balls shapes that looks like an earlier construction set from Guidecraft, but turns out to be even better than the original award winner. The round pieces are updated in steel and give a stronger connection, allowing kids to make more complex structures. Colorful and chunky, the pieces are right for small hands and safe enough to allow young layers to investigate the power of magnets. It comes with a 24-page guide for parents that will help you expand the possibilities as you introduce kids to the magical science of magnets. The new set also includes a storage bin- a welcome addition for clean-up time. 2 & up

SNAP: With magnets safely out of reach, this is ideal for open-ended connections. You can also use it for building counting skill, color concepts or making simple patterns.

Age: . Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
LeapFrog Leap Pad Ultra
(LeapFrog $149.99 Score: )

How do you make a good thing better? We loved the original Leap Pad and now the Ultra takes it to a new level. It has a Hi-Res 7-inch light-touch screen, a built in 9- hour rechargeable battery, and is loaded with 11 Apps. It has a front and back camera and has 8 GB of Memory that can hold 40,000 photos or more than 100 Game apps. The Leap Pad Ultra has kid-safe Wi-Fi that will not take kids to the web locations they should not reach, but it gives them access to the Leap Frog library of more than 800 games, ebooks, videos and music that is child friendly and age appropriate. You can download learning games that are suited to you child's skill level. You'll find games to reinforce math, reading, art, science and social studies. This Leap Pad Ultra does it all and should it be accidentally dropped - not to worry. It can do that too and keep on playing. 4-9

Age: Preschool, Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on




2013 Awards
Sparkup, The Magical Book Reader
(Sparkup $59.99 Score: )

Connect this new piece of technology that uses a tiny camera as its "eye", and a tiny computer chip as its "brain" to record the pages of any book you read into it. The little wonder of a machine can memorize lots of books or you can store your recordings on the computer. The magical part begins when your child turn the pages of a real book, looks at the pictures, and listens to the story in any langugae, at her own pace. The electronic book reader knows what page to read. You can send the recording via computer to a grandchild who can download to her own Sparkup reader—of course, for long distance sharing you need two Spark-ups. There are a few books that are prerecorded and come on your reading machine. The company promises more books to come. But the magic of this is that you can record old favorites, even hardcover books that you grew up with or today's newest paperback picture books. You do not need to go buy an all new library. Nor are you stuck with typical non-books made to work only with a manufacturer's newest gismo. This is a clever device for beginning readers to use as they listen and follow along to the words on the page. You can also record your child reading and send it to Grandparents across the miles. Or personalize your reading and leave it for kids to listen to when you are out for the evening or out-of-town on business. A lot of Military families are going to like this as another way of connecting.

SNAP: A sure fire way to enhance the beginning reader experience. As listeners kids develop eye sweep as they follow along with the recording. They learn about the mechanics of a book from front to back, from left to right. THese are skills that all kids need to try on before independent reading develops.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2013. Click here to purchase the product on


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