12 Great Christmas Gifts for Preschoolers with Down Syndrome

“Oh well, I do nothing but shop all day.” This is a quote from St. Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese of Lisieux. I think any mother of a large family can relate… I certainly do! My kids are constantly outgrowing and outwearing everything. She goes on to write, “Your father says, amusingly, that it is a passion with me! It is no use explaining to him that I have no choice; he finds it hard to believe.” (Letter 143)

I find these words so consoling, especially nowadays when I feel I have stupendous amounts of Christmas shopping to do. A saint shopping all day… can you image? Shopping seems so materialistic, but we can find holiness even in shopping if we do it out of love for our family and friends.

So for those of you with littles, here are some Christmas gift ideas to make your shopping a little easier:

When looking for gifts for your preschoolers with T21, it’s good to keep the following in mind:

  1. According to the astute observations of psychologist Joan Goodman, many preschoolers with T21 are interested in container play – putting things in and out of a container. They also like arranging and rearranging collections of toys over and over.
  2. Preschoolers with T21 tend to enjoy repetitive play; while this may seem limiting and overly repetitive, it helps with mastery of skills. Nonetheless, I try to expand Junior’s play by offering new toys and introducing new play sequences. For example, Junior loves to play with matchbox cars. So I’ll invite him to play with pretend food or to do a puzzle.

Here are some of the toys Junior has enjoyed the most:

  1. Melissa and Doug Nesting and Sorting Garages with cars

This is one toy that I rarely rotate out of Junior’s Montessori shelf because he plays with it so often. We have played with it together to learn about numbers, colors, size, and to practice using prepositions such as “on top”, “under”, “in” and “out”.

2. Realistic Animal Figures

Over the past year, I have slowly acquired a collection of realistic animal figures. Maria Montessori encouraged using realistic figures and photographs. We have a collection of Little People animals and figures from older siblings, but Junior is much more interested in the realistic-looking figures. Safari and Terra are both great brands for realistic looking animals that are sized to scale. Junior enjoys lining them up and arranging them around a toy fire.

3. Melissa and Doug Counting Shape Stacker

This has been a great toy for teaching numerical order, counting, shapes, and colors. It was with this toy that Junior learned to put numbers in order from one to ten.

4. Water Wow!

This is a great travel toy that even my older kids enjoy playing with. “It’s therapeutic, Mom,” said the high school senior. I like to use these as a motivator for doing school work or speech therapy. Junior does a task (such as writing the letter “F”) and then he gets to color in a page or card.

5. Seek-a-Boo Flip and Find Word Cards

These cards are great for multiple purposes. First, they build vocabulary. Second, Junior loves container play, so he loves pulling a card out of the box, looking at it, and putting it back in. Third, they’re great motivators — just like the Water Wow, choosing a card can be a reward for doing a school-related task.

6. Four-in-a-Box Puzzles

Junior enjoys doing puzzles, but too many pieces frustrate him. These puzzles are graduated: one puzzle has four pieces, the next has six, then nine, then twelve. Sometimes I put an puzzle on a table with just one or two pieces missing. This increases his chances of success. Other times, I will arrange the pieces in the right order and he just has to fit them together. We always talk about what is in the picture and then practice saying a short sentence, such as “I made a boat.”

7. Magnetic Fishing Puzzle

Junior has really enjoyed playing with this one. Using the wand to put the puzzle pieces in and out is really fun. Again, we name the fish/sea creatures and the colors of each one.

8. Melissa and Doug Parking Garage

Here’s another toy that has had a long shelf life. I have used this to give Junior practice with prepositions such as “in/out”, “up/down”, “beside”, and “through”. But he often plays with this on his own. During Junior’s speech therapy sessions, the therapists often use a play sequence to elicit two and three word phrases. Here is an example of how we use a play sequence with this garage:

9. Ikea Easel

I’ve written in the past about why writing on an easel is so good for our kids. I find Junior (and his siblings!) doodling on this almost every day. Small pieces of chalk and Mini dry erase markers are easier for them to use and control than regular-sized ones.

10. Wooden doll house and Haba Little Friends Dolls

My daughter received these for Christmas when she was younger. Naturally, Junior prefers playing with his cars, but this set has been great for teaching him about where the different pieces of furniture belong. The little dolls are great for introducing pretend play.

11. Matchbox cars

One of Junior’s favorite activities is playing with his assortment of matchbox cars. He loves to take them out of the bin one at a time and line them up. Lately he’s really been getting a kick out of making them race down this:

12. Little People Launch and Loop Raceway

I am not a fan of big, gaudy plastic toys that take up a lot of space. But his big brother bought it for him last Christmas. Junior’s first reaction was that he loved the lights and music. Then the raceway just sat in the playroom collecting dust. Lately, though, he rediscovered it and now plays with it every day with his matchbox cars.

Well, there you have 12 gift ideas for preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome. I hope you and your family have a very blessed Christmas!

One thought on “12 Great Christmas Gifts for Preschoolers with Down Syndrome

  1. Dear Mary, Merry Christmas! Iove the quotes from Zelie. Even though there is only myself and my sister (now 88) to look after at home, since I took over her share of the cooking and food shopping a year ago I feel as though I am always doing one or the other!! You are doing great things on the Down syndrome front. I hope you get a good rest after Christmas. We are hedged about by Covid restrictions here and some parishes will have no Christmas Mass. Luckily we can shop around for Mass and find one most days. With love and best wishes, Carolyn


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