When you first step into the Javits Center for the American International Toy Fair, it’s a bit overwhelming. Aisle and aisles and aisles of games, toys, puzzles, and more. After spending nine hours there yesterday, I put together a quick preview of games coming out this year that I think will be motivating for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Also, please note that none of these games is designed for students with special needs. Each game below is a mainstream game that students with autism may find motivating, which opens up opportunities to practice essential skills and engage in age-appropriate social interactions.
Ages 3 and up
Smarty Blocks by Fat Brain – Like most educators, I like materials that I can use for more than one activity. Smarty Blocks includes 12 blocks and 120 challenge cards that are leveled for non-readers and readers. Learners use the challenge cards to recreate patterns, follow one-step directions, sequence numbers, and more. The blocks are durable and beautiful. I cannot wait for these to be available for purchase because I will be able to use them with a variety of learners to encourage both independent play and parallel play.
Tactile Animals Lotto by Djeco – This fantastic lotto game will be available stateside soon! I love that it presents a new way of recognizing different textures in a fun and engaging way that also encourages language. This game will be great for peer play as well as for generalizing matching skills you’ve already taught.
Ages 4 and up
The Little Firefighters by Foxmind – This cooperative game has players working together to prevent a fire from reaching a house. It emphasizes the skill of counting up to three. Players take turns choosing cards that allow them to move their firefighters closer to the fire. And all the cards show items related to firefighting, such as hydrants and ladders. I’m looking forward to trying this out with some of my younger learners!
Spuzzle by GameBrotherZ – I’m always looking for small puzzles to teach my young learners with autism basic visual perception skills and independent play skills. I also use puzzles with some learners as a reinforcer. Spuzzle takes puzzle-making and turns it into a fun game for 1-4 players. The new game is a generic animals version, but they also have several other versions that may be useful for learners with autism who are highly motivated by the characters from Cars, Disney Princesses, and more. I think this game will be useful for sibling play if both learners are motivated by the materials.
MimiQ by GameBrotherZ – Teaching young learners with autism how to imitate is not only one of the key tasks early intervention educators do, but it is also the foundation for everything else kids will learn. This game introduces a fun way to practice imitations skills. The cards are engaging, and they can be used to play the game as designed as well as in other learning activities.
Ages 6 and up
Doodle Quest by Blue Orange – This game is brilliant, motivating, and more challenging than it first appears. It includes 36 Quests and enough materials for four players to try to complete each quest. Players must look at the Quest card, then try to complete the challenge on their own drawing board. It requires planning, visual perception skills, and creativity. One of the reasons I’m excited about this game is that (after playing the game myself) I know that several of my students will be at the same ability level as the same-age peers. This opens up lots of opportunities for motivating and engaging social interactions.
I Sea 10! by Learning Resources – Basic number sense is important for learners with autism to have success in math as they grow, but also in daily living skills such as purchasing items in a store. I love this game because it provides a simple way to practice composing and decomposing the number 10. We can take a break to play a game for a few minutes and practice essential skills at the same time!
Ages 8 and up
The Tower by Endless Games – The Tower isn’t up yet on Endless Games’ website, but it’s one I’m very excited about. It’s a game that challenges visual perception and sequencing skills. A large tower with colored balls determines the sequence in which each player must organize his/her dice. Each die has a different color on each side, so it gets trickier as you get closer to completing the sequence because you may discover you don’t have the color you need. The game is fantastic, and the tower is a motivating material that can be used in lots of other activities, too!
Cardline Globetrotter by Asmodee – I have already written about how I use Cardline Animals. I love Asmodee’s games because their artwork is beautiful and the games engage my learners with autism who love facts and trivia. At the beginning of the game, you choose one feature to organize the countries by, then line them up based on population, pollution, gross domestic product, or land area. It’s great for estimation skills as well as taking social studies lessons a bit deeper.
Ages 10 and up
Over Under by Gamewright – Coming out later this year, this game gets players working together to come up with the closest estimates to some pretty tough questions. How many bricks are in the Empire State Building? How far away is Pluto? I love that it practices estimates & units of measurements in an engaging way, provides lots of opportunities for teamwork, and encourages social interactions. I have two students right now who I know would benefit from using this game to open opportunities for social interactions with peers because they are very good at responding to questions such as these.
I can’t wait to start playing these games with my students, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s Toy Fair. Finally, I just want to send out a thank you to Julie and Abigail from Different Roads to Learning for letting me tag along with them to the fair this year!