Great Gift Ideas for Kids with Disabilities or Chronic Illness

The holidays are fast upon us, and we all find ourselves turning our thoughts to gift-giving. If your shopping list includes children, especially children with disabilities or chronic illness, you may be looking for something a little extra special this year.

I’m a firm believer that play is the great normalizer, and one of the best therapeutic tools available to children. No matter what a child is experiencing (health-related or otherwise), play is an opportunity way to express and process things that are big and scary, and to make them feel a little more normal and manageable. Likewise, if you have a child in your life who does not live with disability or illness, I think it’s equally important that their toys and playtime include diversity of all kinds to help normalize all different bodies and abilities.

With that in mind, here are a few of my top picks for inclusive, illness/disability-friendly gifts for children (and be sure to check out my gift guides for men and women too).

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you purchase through those links. I post links to products that I have used personally, or that I feel might be helpful or useful to my readers. I particularly like to support small businesses, socially-responsible sellers, and other disabled/chronically ill individuals whenever possible.

Dolls and Doll Accessories

Image of a set of doll accessories for 18 inch dolls with crutches, eye patch, neck brace, ice pack, walking foot cast, gauze roll, scissors, and assorted bandages. Links to Target website.
Photo shows assortment of 18 inch doll accessories, including mint green doll crutches, a pink neck brace, a pink fabric eye patch with winking eye embroidered in black, a patterned pink and green fabric ice pack, a mint green striped walking cast for the foot, a doll-sized gauze roll, toy green bandage scissors, and an assortment of colorful patterned sticker bandages for dolls.

If the child in your life loves playing with 18″ dolls, there are some fabulous accessories on the market that are inclusive and kid-friendly. I love this little set in particular, because it includes two things I haven’t often seen in toy sets: crutches and an eye patch. The set also includes plenty of accessories to help their doll heal, such as bandages, an ice pack, neck brace, and gauze. And the price is so afforable, it won’t stretch the bank too much!

Image of Mattel Ken doll in wheelchair with accessory ramp, links to Mattel website.
Photo shows blonde male Ken doll with yellow and blue tie-dyed sleeveless shirt, denim jeans, and white high-top sneakers. Ken is sitting in a pale green toy wheelchair with one hand on the right wheel. Next to him is a blue toy ramp.

I love that Mattel has started making the Barbie line of dolls in all different body types, and that they’ve included several dolls with wheelchairs. Ken is just one example of the options that are available. The dolls are fully posable, and include a realistic wheelchair and a ramp so that Ken (or his friends) can easily access anything in the Barbie world, including the Barbie Dream House.

American Girl diabetes care accessory kit, linked to listing on Poshmark.
Photo shows American Girl diabetes care kit pictured with small maroon case with gray handle; a small daily blood sugar log booklet with American Girl logo scattered stars in red, green, and yellow; gray toy insulin pump with maroon arrow buttons and clear plastic tubing; charcoal toy glucose meter with blue screen that and yellow digital print, “104”; doll-sized insulin pens, glucose tablet container with bright orange label and illegible writing.

Some time ago, American Girl came out with a diabetes care kit for their dolls. I loved how inclusive it was, with an insulin pump, glucose meter, glucose tablets, and insulin dosing pen. It seems they may have discontinued the toy for now, but it’s still widely available on resale sites. This is a great way to normalize a chronic illness like diabetes.

Image of vinyl baby doll with cleft lip, links to Etsy seller.
Photo shows a Caucasian vinyl baby doll with no hair, pink and mint green bow headband, and shirt with pink sleeves and white body, with yellow, pink, and blue unicorn outline on front of shirt. Doll is smiling with blue eyes. She has a cleft lip in her left top lip. She is sitting in a pink and green patterned doll carrier seat.

When I worked in the neonatal intensive care, I cared for many babies with cleft lips and/or palates. I can honestly say I’ve never seen this represented on baby dolls or toys, and I love that this Etsy seller has! They have a wide range of dolls available, and can be customized to reflect any type of cleft.

Stuffed Animals and Soft Toys

Image of stuffed animal penguin with various medical devices: nasal feeding tube, port, ostomy, and g-button site. Links to Etsy seller.
Image is of a medium-sized black and white stuffed penguin toy. He has bright blue eyes and an orange stripe over each eye. He also has large orange feet. He is lying on a black background. A hand to the left of the frame is holding the penguin by his leg. The penguin has a clear plastic nasal feeding tube entering through the left side of his beak, a bright blue PICC line or port site on the upper right shoulder area, a large gray plastic cover over what is presumed to be an ostomy site on his lower right abdomen, and a white g-button port on his upper left abdomen.

Tubie Pals have been on my list of favorite inclusive toys for a long time now. The seller seems to have an endless list of options to choose from. There are many different animal options, from the penguin shown here to dogs, dragons, unicorns, monkeys, and many others. They also offer an extensive list of medical device options, including chemo ports, nasal feeding tubes, hearing aids, hydrocephalus shunts, and many more. A stuffed animal like this allows a child to play with the devices they have (or are about to have) on their bodies. An adult or medical provider can demonstrate procedures on the stuffed animal to minimize fear and help the child understand what will be taking place. And, of course, a stuffed animal is always comforting for a child to hold. (For more g-tube toys, check out my post about feeding tubes!)

Image of plush toy sheep that is a hot water bottle cover. Links to Etsy seller.
Photo of plush stuffed animal sheep water bottle cover. The sheep is laying on its belly. Wooly, fuzzy white fleece covers the arms and body, with light brown ears and face toward the front. He has two small round black eyes, a v-shaped embroidered nose, and a subtle embroidered smile. Two fleecy paws are resting on either side of the sheep’s face. There is a white background.

While not technically a stuffed animal or a toy, this hot water bottle cover is almost irresistible. The soft, plushy exterior is warm and cuddly, and the hot water bottle concealed inside its body is soothing. For a child who has chronic pain, abdominal discomfort, or temperature difficulties, this little lamb would be a wonderful gift. The seller also has other animals available, such as a black bear, a mouse, a dog, and several other sweet critters.

Image of Elf on the Shelf toy customized with candy cane-colored hearing aids. Links to Etsy seller.
Four images are arranged in a collage showing a customized Elf on the Shelf toy. Top left image shows a traditional Elf on the Shelf elf with red pointed had with white brim, elf outfit with red sleeves, pointy white collar, and decal on front of shirt reading “Scout Elf Super Hero.” He is laying on his left side with arms extended, and several thin strands of red and white polymer clay are on the white marble countertop next to him. Top right image shows the same elf close up. Elf is facing right side of the frame, and polymer clay appears to have been swirled into candy cane pattern and cut to fit around curvature of his right ear like a hearing aid. Bottom left image shows same elf facing opposite direction with hearing aid in left ear. Bottom right image shows elf facing forward with both hearing aids barely visible. Elf has brown hair and blue eyes, with rosy cheeks and a faint smile. Polymer strands are barely visible in background at top of image.

Many children absolutely love the Elf on the Shelf tradition. I love that this little elf has his own candy cane hearing aids! What a great way to celebrate Christmas in an inclusive way. This seller also has some great accessories and other toys available for children (or adults!) who are hearing impaired.

Books

Image of cover of special edition illustrated version of children's book, "Wonder," with link to Penguin Random House Publishers.
A light blue illustrated children’s book, “Wonder,” has author’s name in white scrolling letters, “R.J. Palacio.” In Beneath, reads “Illustrated Edition.” A picture of a large silver astronaut helmet fills the center of the cover, with a white outline visor opening. Inside the helmet, we see the suggestion of a boy’s face, white and colorless, with a fringe of black hair beneath the helmet. An outline of one bright blue eye on the right side of his face has the word “Wonder” in scrolling font above. At the bottom of the helmet are blue and white gauges and buttons. Beneath the helmet in small font, “Illustrated by Tad Carpenter.” Surrounding the helmet are small drawings of stars and planets, many colored in in light gray.

“Wonder” is a fantastic story about a fifth-grade boy who is born with a physical disability. The story is told from the boy’s perspective, as well as that of several other characters. It’s a beautiful story of growing understanding and inclusiveness (and it was made into a movie, too!). This book is geared toward a middle school reading level, but could be read aloud with younger children.

Image of the cover of a children's book, "Thank you, Mr. Falker," that links to Barnes and Noble website.
A book cover drawing shows a Caucasian male teacher with brown hair and green tweed jacket standing at a table with two students. He holds his left hand to his mouth and looks pensive as he watches a female student read, and has a green book in his hand, tucked under his left arm. To the left of the image, a young Caucasian girl sits at the table with a stack of books in front of her and appears to be reading an open book on top. She has auburn hair in two braids, and rests her forehead with fingers in her bangs. Her face appears frustrated, with a scowl as she looks at the page. We see the hands of an African American child sitting across the table from the girl, holding an open book and pointing at words that are scribbled (illegible) on the page. The author’s name, “Patricia Polacco,” and book title, “Thank you, Mr. Falker,” appear at the top.

This story is absolutely fantastic! The main character, a little girl, has dyslexia. Her teacher works with her to help her overcome her learning challenges, and in the process helps the reader have a better understanding of learning disabilities. The story is inspired by the author’s own experience as a child, which makes it all the richer. The targeted reading level is 3-5 grade, but this book could be read aloud with younger children, and could be appreciated by older children as well.

Image of cover of children's book, "Mommy Sayang," with link to Barnes and Noble.
Image of the cover of a children’s book. The background is light peach-colored with faint sketches of flowers covering the space. At the top right in small black font, it reads, “Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase.” Beneath this, in curving red lettering, reads the book title, “Mommy Sayang.” Under the title in small green font, we read the author’s name, “Rosana Sullivan.” On the left side of the cover we see a woman with medium brown skin and narrow black eyes. Her head is covered in a light blue hijab head covering, with a pink scallop at the front of her forehead. She is smiling faintly with her forehead resting against the forehead of a little girl. The little girl has long curly brown hair with thick bangs, and complexion similar to the woman’s. She is looking into the woman’s eyes. She has a small upturned nose and she is smiling. Between the two is a pink tropical flower.

“Mommy Sayang” was new to me, but I have to say I absolutely love the premise of this book! It hits close to home, since it tells the story of a little girl whose mother lives with chronic illness. The little girl is devastated as her mother’s health keeps her from being able to play and do all the things she once did with her daughter. For many children living with a disabled or chronically ill parent, this book will resonate deeply. I also love the cultural diversity this book provides. The pictures are absolutely stunning, created by a Pixar artist–apparently the author’s first book! This is a beautiful book in every way.

This website has a great list of additional children’s books that represent a wide range of disabilities and differences.

Image of a collection of Leap Frog Tag Reader children's books and a Tag Reader pen, with link to Target.
Image of a collection of children’s books and a reading device. In a fan shape across the top of the image are six children’s books. The first, and most visible, is a light blue book depicting an African American man standing next to a young African American girl. The man has short black hair and is wearing a denim jacket with white t-shirt beneath, and jeans. He is looking down at the little girl and smiling, and is holding her hand with his right hand. The little girl has slightly lighter skin, and has black curly hair in a short ponytail. She is wearing a white shirt and jeans and smiling up at the man. A title reads, “Learn To Read: Parent Curricular Guide.” The books fanned out next to this show only a sliver of the covers. All have colorful covers with what appear to be cartoon drawings, but neither the images nor the titles are visible. Fanned out in a row beneath these books are five more books. The first shows a colorful background of a country side with a winding brown dirt toad. Two cartoon frog children are wearing bike helmets and riding bicycles. A girl frog with pink pants and purple shirt rides ahead, and she is looking back to wave at the second frog. Behind her, a boy frog with red t-shirt and jeans rides his bike and is waving at the girl frog. In the distance behind them, we faintly see more animal children and what appears to be a starting line for a race. A title reads, “The Bike Race.” The remaining books next to this are also barely visible, but appear to be colorful with cartoon drawings on the cover. On the bottom right of the screen, we see what appears to be a thick plastic pen. The top is white with a small blue speaker and several indistinct buttons. The bottom is bright green, and comes to a fine point.

Although this is neither a single book, nor a book about disabilities or illness specifically, the Tag Reader by Leap Frog has to be on my list of great gifts for kids. Versions of this reader have been available since my children were little, and it was a fantastic tool for us! My kids loved to use this during their daily rest time. They would hold the pen up to the pages of the book, and the pen would read aloud the words on the page. There are several options with this toy: it can simply read the story aloud, it can help children sound out individual words, or it can help them play games with the story that enhance their understanding and their grasp of reading. I am not exaggerating when I say I credit this toy with teaching my oldest to read long before he was in school! For a child who has difficulty learning, who has some vision impairment, who has neuro differences, has a parent with chronic illness (see above), or who simply spends a lot of time resting or in waiting rooms, this book set is a fantastic gift. There are many other books available to purchase separately, as well, including books with characters children recognize from movies or shows. We didn’t use a lot of electronic toys with our children, but this one was absolutely a worthwhile investment.

Sleep Aids

Image of weighted blanket in the style of a pink mermaid fin, with link to Kohls website.
Image shows two views of a mermaid tail blanket. On the left side of the screen, we see the front view. The narrow body is covered in a scalloped pattern in several shades of light, medium, and dark pink, to look like fish scales. A plush light pink fin is seen at the bottom of the tail, with two points. On the right side of the image, we see the back view. The whole tail is the same light pink fabric of the fin, with a faint scallop pattern stitched into the fabric. A long zipper runs down the back to just above the fin.

Many children find a weighted blanket comforting, whether they live with chronic pain or illness, neurodivergent or sensory issues, or just like to feel the security of a little weight. There are dozens of options available, but this sweet little mermaid blanket is perfect for a child who dreams of living under the sea. This blanket rolls up into a small size, too, so it’s easily portable to doctor appointments or procedures. Since it mostly covers the legs, it is perfect to use when reading or watching a show. It could even be a good option for a compact leg cover in a wheelchair. It also comes in a choice of different colors.

Image of child's bedroom with galaxy lights projected onto ceiling, with link to Hammacher Schlemmer site.
Image shows a dark bedroom with double bed made up with white comforter and an assortment of pillows. In the background we faintly see what appear to be bookshelves, with indistinct items displayed. A light is projected onto the ceiling with an array of blue, purple, and green colors that look like a galaxy or a view of the night sky.

There is something enormously comforting about the night sky. For a child who has trouble sleeping, or for a child who spends a lot of time in bed, a galaxy projector makes a great gift. It gives the child something new to see from their bed, and may be calming as they drift off to sleep.

Image of plush green dinosaur back rest pillow, with link to Kolhs website.
Image shows a large plush green dinosaur back rest pillow. A large curved back is covered in bright yellow triangular spikes. The main body is dark green, and has the appearance of a dinosaur lying on its belly. On the left side, we see a rounded face that is used an as arm rest. A small circular eye is embroidered in black, and the dinosaur appears to be smiling slightly. On the opposite side, a second armrest is meant to appear like the dinosaur’s tail. In between, two small paws with jagged toes are embroidered on the lower part of the pillow. The pillow sits on a white background.

Back rests are a lifesaver (and back saver!) to anyone who spends a lot of time in bed. For a child with chronic illness, a pillow like this provides great support to sit up in bed, but with a fun twist. This little dino pillow is perfect for reading, sitting up to eat, coloring, watching a show, or just snuggling. Back rest pillows come in all shapes and sizes and themes (and, hey, they pair well with the gift of books!).

Medical Gifts

Image of small hedgehog children's backpack demonstrating a grommet opening for feeding tube, with link to Etsy seller's site.
Image shows a child’s hedgehog backpack on light blue background. The bag is rounded at the top, with the brown face of a hedgehog with two round black eyes and an oval black nose. Across the top are teal green scallops, meant to look like hedgehog spines. A large dome-shaped pocket occupies the bottom half of the backpack. A hand in the left foreground holds the front zippered pocket open to reveal a large round grommet for passing tubing, and a black mesh pocket.

For a child with a medical device such as a feeding tube or g-button, it can be challenging to find a backpack that’s suited to the equipment they need to have on hand. This seller specializes in just such bags! They offer a wide variety of adorable animal-themed backpacks that have been retrofitted to accommodate a feeding bag and tubing, with space for a pump or other supplies. While this bag is designed specifically for feeding tubes, I could see it being useful for many other devices, including diabetic supplies, oxygen, ostomy supplies, etc.

Image of young boy wearing space-theme shirt with zippered access for feeding tube, with link to Etsy seller.
Image shows a young Caucasian boy with dark brown hair, dark eyes, and smiling face. He is wearing a gray t-shirt, jeans, and orange and black running shoes. The shirt has the image of a cartoon red and white rocket ship blasting horizontally across the center of the shirt with a fiery yellow and orange tail. Several small yellow stars are visible behind the rocket. Just beneath the rocket ship, a long gray zipper extends horizontally across the front of the shirt. It is partially unzipped on the right side, and we see a medical device g-button just visible beneath, and clear tubing coming out of the opening. The boy is holding a section of the tubing down at his waist with his left hand, and holds the port end of the tubing up by his face with his right hand. He is standing in front of a light gray solid background.

Again, for a child with a g-button or feeding tube, it can be difficult to find clothing that allows easy access. This adorable space shirt has a zipper across the front that makes it easy to gain access at feeding times, perform button care, or assess the site. If a feeding is not in progress, it zips closed and is subtle and unobtrusive. The seller offers a variety of styles and sizes, all of them adorable. And the wide opening could make this shirt an option for other medical devices as well, such as certain ports or ostomies.

Image shows pink and grey baseball-style shirt with snap access at right shoulder and clear tubing coming out of opening, with link to Etsy seller.
Image shows a light gray and bright pink baseball-style child’s shirt on a pale gray background. The body of the shirt is heathered gray, and the sleeves are pink. At the right shoulder front, small white snaps allow the shirt to be opened. We see the gray front folded down, and clear tubing form a medical device coming out of the opening.

It can be nearly impossible to find stylish clothing that allows access to medical devices, including feeding tubes, IVs, chemo ports, PICC lines, etc. This seller creates a variety of shirts in all sizes (from baby to adult) and colors.

Image of a woman holding a spiral bound journal health tracker, with link to Etsy seller.
Image shows the torso and arms of a Caucasian woman in heathered gray shirt with light green bead bracelet on her right arm and a fabric black and white zebra print band, which appears to be covering a medical device, on her left arm. She is against a dark green stucco wall. She is holding in front of her a spiral bound book with white background and circle shapes in light gold, light blue, and red scattered around the cover. An outline of a teal-colored cartoon smiling man is at the top right of the cover, and next to it in the same color in large font, the words, “Body Check Journal.” The letter “O” in Body has been replaced by the outline of a hand in the thumbs-up sign. Beneath the title in smaller font, reads, “Track it. Know It. Heal It.” In the bottom left of the cover, we see the words, “3-Month Tracking Tool” in scrolling black letters, with “Youth Ages 1-12” in smaller black font beneath. Finally, in a white banner just below these words, we see written in block blue font the seller’s website, “www.bodycheckjournal.com.”

It can be nearly impossible to keep track of everything that needs to be tracked when you are managing a child’s chronic illness. Having an organized place to track all of the medications, treatments, tests, appointments, symptoms, diet, sleep patterns, etc., can be a life-changer. Made for children ages 1-12, this great spiral-bound health journal is designed to provide just such a space. The pages are simple and aesthetically pleasing, with easy access to all of the information your pediatrician or specialist needs right at your fingertips.

Image of "Worry Eater" spiral bound monster notebook journal, with link to Etsy seller.
Image is of a small white notebook with black spiral binding on a spotted gray and white surface. There is a white capped pen lying next to the book. At the top of the book’s cover, in large child-like black writing, we read “Freddie’s” with a heart dotting the “i.” Beneath that, in smaller all caps black writing, we read, “Worry Eater.” There are light blue watercolor splotches in the background of the cover, and in the bottom right corner, we see a large bright blue watercolor drawing of a monster. He has an oval-shaped body and sits cross-legged with arms resting on his legs. He has a wide grin with triangular white teeth sticking up from his bottom lip. He has two wide-spaced black oval eyes with small black eyebrows, and two small gray horns on either side of his head. Next to him, in black whimsical writing, we read, “I’m your Worry Monster and I’d just like to say, you can tell me all of your worries and I’ll eat them all away.”

I love, love, love this little journal! I wish I’d known about it sooner. This little book is a perfect space for a child to write down all their fears and worries: whether it’s about their medical condition, fears for the future, problems with school friends, everyday worries, or whatever is on their mind. They all go into this little journal, and the Worry Eater “eats them.” I love the mental health component with this gift, as it gives kids a tangible way of dealing with their fear and anxiety. They have the opportunity to express their fear, and then they can have the catharsis of knowing the fear is “gone.” I’ve also seen versions of the Worry Eater that look like little plush monsters with zippered mouths. The idea is that the child can put their worries on slips of paper, and watch them disappear into the monster’s mouth to be eaten.

When children are facing big, scary, new situations, it can help to have a hands-on means of expressing and dealing with their fears. A child therapist I worked with once suggested giving anxiety a name, such as “Patty.” When the child starts to feel anxious or uneasy, they can talk directly to “Patty” and tell him/her to quiet down and leave them alone. It allows them to recognize anxiety and disassociate from it a little bit. A Worry Eater is a similar tool, and the child could even combine both coping tools and name their anxiety monster, and feed it all of their worries.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope it gives you some creative ideas for gifts that are meaningful and relevant to the children in your life. Happy holidays, and happy shopping!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: