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Shopping for toys during the holiday season always takes a bit of resourcefulness. You need to learn what’s new, what’s out, what’s flying off the shelves – and then carefully consider whether your purchase will add to your child’s entertainment stockpile. But if you have a child with special needs, especially one who is struggling with depression, finding the right toy can feel even more daunting.

Though there are many different kinds of games and toys, here are 8 categories that I teach parents to consider thinking about when holiday shopping. These themes help with healing and are also super fun too.

  • Seek out toys that teach about feelings. Though most children find it a challenge to label feelings, depressed children struggle even more in identifying and expressing them. Toys like Eggspressions, Kimochis and Moody Monsters Memory Game invite depressed kids to see the subtle differences between and among emotions. They also teach how actual expressions look on others’ faces as well as their own. Playing with these toys will help your child learn how mad is different than irritated. How sad is different than lonely. Once children learn these subtle differences, they can better label what they’re feeling and talk about it.
  • Get artsy. Research shows that the expressive arts, like drawing, painting and creating music not only lift mood, they help children express and manage feeling states. Old-school toys that encourage artistic expression like crayons, paints, clay are great items. So is getting your child a musical instrument. And don’t forget the new-school digital ways of getting art and music into your child’s life with downloadable apps and computer software like Toca Band, MoMA Artlab, Garage Band or iDraw, for example.

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Toys for Depressed Kids: How play helps depressed children
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