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
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!
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.
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.
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
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!)
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!