Toys "R" Us provides parents and caregivers with reliable gift recommendations for kids with special needs in its 2011 Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids. Find out which toys are on the list this year and all about the special features of the guide that can help you find the perfect toy for a child of any skill level or ability.
For nearly 20 years, Toys "R" Us, Inc. has provided parents, caregivers and gift-givers with reliable toy recommendations for the children with special needs in their lives through the Toys "R" Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids®. Continuing that tradition, the company announced the launch of the 2011 edition of the Guide featuring actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria on the cover, alongside Elijah De La Cerda, a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome from Fresno, CA. Released annually, this complimentary resource is created with guidance from the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible to children of all abilities. The Guide is available in Toys"R"Us® and Babies"R"Us® stores nationwide and online, in English and Spanish, at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled.
The Magnetic Double Easel from Crayola ($34.99) stimulates creativity, self-confidence, and visual and fine motor development. By purchasing one of these products, parents support a company that donates funds to special needs organizations like the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS); offers job opportunities (such as modeling gigs) to children with special needs; uses VolunteerMatch.org to link store employees with NDSS Buddy Walk events; and works to ensure toys and play activities are accessible to kids of all abilities.
To help alleviate the guesswork in selecting toys most appropriate for a child's physical, cognitive or developmental needs, all items featured in the Guide are paired with colorful icons to indicate the skills that can be developed during playtime. With more pages and more toys than any past edition of the Guide, this year, the trusted resource has increased to 64 pages, filled with everyday playthings specifically selected for their ability to help kids build critical skills, including fine and gross motor, social, creativity, auditory, language and more.
Along with the company's longstanding commitment to children of all abilities, this year's Guide cover model, Eva Longoria, also has strong ties and a deep passion for the special needs community. One of her sisters was born with developmental disabilities and inspired her to establish Eva's Heroes in 2006. Based in Longoria's hometown of San Antonio, Eva's Heroes is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for individuals with special needs to interact, play, learn and enrich their lives.
"Growing up in a tight-knit family and watching my sister face - and overcome - everyday challenges, I came to understand the critical importance of teamwork and socialization in the development of differently-abled individuals," said Eva Longoria. "The Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids helps foster inclusive play environments by featuring toys that kids with special needs can enjoy alongside siblings and friends. I'm so honored to appear on the cover and lend my support to Toys"R"Us for this project."
"At Toys"R"Us, we know that bringing home the perfect toy for a child, and watching their joyful reaction, is the ultimate victory," said Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO, Toys"R"Us, Inc. "Delivering that experience to all parents, gift-givers and the kids they are shopping for - regardless of ability - is what we strive to do every day. It is with great pride that we introduce the 2011 Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids to our customers nationwide who know and love children with special needs, helping them to make informed toy-buying decisions."
Shopping by Skill, In-Store or At Home
At least two, color-coded skill-building icons are assigned to each toy that appears in the Guide to help users easily identify those most suitable for the child they're shopping for, based on the specific benefits of the item. Toys featured in the 2011 Guide include Dora the ExplorerTM Mega Tunes Guitar from Fisher-Price® (auditory), The Big Box of FuzzoodlesTM from Giddy Up (creativity), Calico CrittersTM Cozy Cottage from International Playthings® (fine motor), Kinect for Xbox 360 from Microsoft® (gross motor), Cake Decorator Playset from Just Like Home® (language), Pop Star Set from Dream Dazzlers® (self esteem), 18-inch Dana Doll and Wheelchair Accessory Set from Journey Girls® (social skills), Sing-A-Ma-Jigs from Mattel® (tactile), Chunky Puzzle Scene from Melissa & Doug® (thinking) and SORRY!® SLIDERS from Hasbro® (visual).
To best determine the developmental significance of the items in the 2011 Guide, Toys"R"Us worked with the National Lekotek Center to conduct therapeutic play sessions with special needs children, assessing how they interact with a broad selection of toys.
Customers who would like to conduct research and make purchases from the comfort of their homes can also take advantage of the shop-by-skill option online at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled. Through this dedicated microsite, shoppers can simply click on any of the 10 skill-building icons to access every toy in the Guide that hones in on the area of development most important to their child.
Bringing the Guide to Life for On-the-Go Shoppers
For the first time, customers who pick up a hard copy of the Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids in-store will find a QR code on the back cover. Scanning the QR code will allow compatible smartphone users to access a special video message from Eva Longoria. Throughout the year, content will be regularly updated to offer unique information, videos and more through this Quick Response code.
Additionally, the company will utilize its official Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us Facebook pages to ensure the online community is aware of the availability of the Guide and its value as a toy selection resource for anyone shopping for children with special needs.
Helpful Tips Courtesy of the Guide
Beyond easy-to-use skill-building icons and a helpful index, the Guide also includes the "Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys" from the National Lekotek Center, which highlight important information to consider when selecting toys for differently-abled kids. For example, shoppers should select items with multi-sensory appeal, while also considering the child's individual abilities and the toy's current popularity.
Additionally, to help prevent accidental injuries during playtime, the Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids features "Safe Play Tips for Children with Special Needs." The tips, created with guidance from leading safety and special needs organizations, offer basic suggestions, such as never leaving a child unsupervised, as well as specialized advice, including avoiding trigger toys.
Company's Ongoing Commitment to the Special Needs Community
Through the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund, a public charity affiliated with the company, Toys"R"Us, Inc. has long supported the special needs community. Organizations that receive support include: American Society for Deaf Children, Autism Speaks, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Down Syndrome Society, National Lekotek Center, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Special Olympics, Spina Bifida Association and United Cerebral Palsy.