Award-Winning Toys Under $20 for Special Needs Kids

little girl under a christmas tree with present - award winning toys kids special needsEqual opportunity playtime is something the independent researchers at New York-based Oppenheim Toy Portfolio take seriously. After reviewing thousands of toys each year, the OTP reveals its choices for the much-anticipated, best-of-the-best in a number of categories -- including the SNAP Award, spotlighting great toys that can be "used or easily adapted for children with special needs."

WalletPop compiled a list of a dozen SNAP Award-winning toys priced under $20 for kids ranging in age from infant to elementary school. It's fun for all, and for that we give the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio two snaps. Way up!

Sassy Baby Ring Stacker - award winning toys kids special needsSassy Rock and Roll Ring Stacker, $9.99
SNAP Award Winner, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Toy Award

A colorful collection of stacking rings in a variety of sizes and textures. One of the rings rattles and the triangular tower becomes a rolling toy when the knob is placed on top. Age appropriate for infants and toddlers.Sassy Discovery Loops, $5.99, feature three, creatively-interlocking loops with a variety of colors, textures, patterns and sounds. This rattle received a SNAP Award as well as a 2010 Platinum Best Toy of the Year Award and was included in a previous WalletPop post, 10 Award Winning Toys For $10 or Under.

Sassy Baby Wrist Rattles - award winning toys kids special needsSassy Wrist Rattles, $3.99
SNAP Award Winner

Plush orange lions, darling blue mice and other animals are quiet, textural rattles that Velcro onto wrists or ankles. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio says, "Finding their feet or hands is always surprising to babies. Adding a sound and texture to hands or feet can enhance that exploration. At first the discovery will be random, but as baby grows, he will begin to anticipate and control movements that bring them into sight and touch. Although baby may not have learned yet how to grasp and hold onto a rattle, these little fabric rattles stay on with a Velcro strap. So they are less frustrating and easier to control than a rattle that easily falls away."

eeBoo baby animal puzzle - top toys kids special needseeBoo Baby Animals, Simple Puzzle Pairs, $14.95
SNAP Award Winner, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Toy Award

This sturdy, 22-piece puzzle features animal mothers and their babies fitting together side by side. Artwork is by popular illustrator Saxton Freymann. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio say it's a winner because it's, "A good choice for building language. When you play with these you can also use them with riddles ... I see an animal that has a trunk ... or I see an animal that hops. There are other games suggested on the box." Puzzles are also a good fit for practicing dexterity. Recommended for preschool and early grade kids.

Eric Carle photo cube - top toys kids special needsEric Carle Photo Cube, $11.99
SNAP Award Winner, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Toy Award

Beloved children's illustrator Eric Carle inspired the colorful artwork covering the soft, fabric cube that features a quiet rattle inside and clear plastic pockets for holding photographs of family and friends. Since photos can be changed out regularly, baby will always have something new to discover. The cube can also be rolled or tossed for active play. It might make the perfect gift for those who don't get to see baby as often as they would like.
Recommended for ages 6 months and up.

Ambi and tess teddy bear carousel - top toys kids special needsAmbi Ted & Tess Carousel, $19.99
SNAP Award Winner, 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Toy Award, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Blue Chip Classic Award Winner (for toys with staying power!)

Push the knob and watch the bears ("Ted and Tess") go round and round! In addition to a charming, sturdy, and colorful design the top also teaches lessons of cause and effect. It was chosen for the SNAP Award because, "It's not always easy finding toys that respond to a swipe of the whole hand. This classic spinning toy is sturdy and easy to activate." Recommended for ages 6 months and up.

Press n' pop shapes - award winning toys kids special needsPlayskool Press 'n Pop Shapes, $19.99
SNAP Award Winner and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Toy Award

Funny-faced shapes and happy patterns pop up and down when baby pushes on the sturdy plastic pieces. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio describes the fun: "Push the red head on the top with textured fabrics and it sets a see through circle in motion with small beads inside that rattle and turn. Push the orange head down and up pop three gears that twirl inside." Suggested as a matching game as well as one that introduces shapes. "Repetition is also a favorite way of learning about cause and effect," explains the award site. Although it is recommended for ages 9 months and up OTP says, "This would still be a great first birthday present."

model magic presto dots - top toys kids special needsModel Magic Presto Dots, $14.99
SNAP Award Winner, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Toy Award

Model Magic clay is cut into "dots" and placed on pre-shaped forms. OTP said, "Our tester liked cutting out the dots of Model Magic...they liked the end product, the cute little animals they created. However, we did have to help the dot maker from time to time." OTP notes that the toy is a fun way to practice fine motor skills ("strengthen those little hand muscles") as well as repetition, and develop hand-eye coordination. OTP advises, "This is by no means simple and will require adult assist, but the rewards of the end piece may make it all worthwhile from the child's point of view." Recommended for kids in the early school years. Time to get crafty!

my first scissors set  award winning toys kids special needsCreativity for Kids My First Scissors Kit, $14.95
SNAP Award Winner, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Toy Award

These cool safety scissors are designed to be gripped by the whole hand. They are free of sharp points and cut easily through the sturdy, patterned paper included in the kit. OTP warns, however, the scissors are also perfectly capable of cutting hair ... (just sayin'!) The kit comes complete with scissors, paper, glue stick, wiggly eyes, yarn and frames. OTP advises, "Don't get caught up with cutting on the lines for beginners. Just the act of cutting a line or a curve is a big deal." Although the kit recommends use for those ages 4 and up, OTP says, "5's are likely to have more success."

iPlay scoop 'em up - award winning toys kids special needsiplay Scoop 'Em Up, $19.95
SNAP Award Winner and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Toy Award

A game about ice cream always sounds like a good bet, and there are multiple ways to play this one. Players use a special ice cream scooper with a release button to scoop up the ice cream and stack it on a stand (or "cone"). The winner is the one who stacks the most scoops. A game for developing dexterity, balance and counting skills. OTP suggests it can also be used as a matching game in which players use the flavor chart and take turns matching ice cream scoops to images on the card. OTP cautions learning how to use the scoop may take time, "but it is a fun learning tool that involves finger action as well as eye-hand coordination." Recommended for preschool and early-grade kids. Delish!

Rubbabu assorted ball set - award winning tpys kids special needsRubbabu Funky Ball Assortment, $6
SNAP Award Winner, and 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Toy Award

Designed in a range of bright colors and textures, the Rubbabu balls are easy to grasp thanks to bumps, indents and "crater"-like finger holds. The balls have a soft, rubbery, flocked feel, and some feature alphabet letters, shapes or numbers molded onto their surface. OTP predicts,"Babies will like them for roly poly social games; toddlers will like chasing them and they are soft enough so that preschoolers will like bouncing and trying to catch them." All ages.

Sing-a-ma-jigs -award winning toys kids special needsSing-a-ma-jigs, $12.99
SNAP Award Winner, 2010 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Toy Award

In spite of widespread adult reviews to the contrary, OTP kid testers called Sing-a-ma-jigs "the cutest novelty toys of the season." Whether you agree or not, you're not the one who's going to be playing with them. I remember a few of my own toys (think: troll dolls with scented hair) that my grandparents banned from entering their home. But I digress. There are several styles of Sing-A-Ma-Jigs, each with their own personality and unique song. Press their tummies to activate their sounds and moving lips. Press the left hand, the doll talks. Press again and it sings. Press it once more and it will harmonize. They sing as fast or slow as you push on their belly. OTP predicts, "These are going to be hot, hot, hot!" On why the line received a SNAP Award, "For kids who need to strengthen hands, this is a playful motivator. It's also a good way to learn about cause and effect since the song sings fast or slow depending on how you squeeze it." Recommended for preschoolers.

A complete listing of 2010 Oppenheim SNAP Award winners in a greater price range, check out the Santa-approved, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio website.

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