Every child develops through play; from building bricks where they can hone those fine motor skills, to the make-believe where they make sense of the world around them. I have learnt to stop wasting money on puzzles, board games and any toys that need putting together!!!

Having children with varying disabilities has sometimes made this aspect of childhood difficult. Although three of my girls are very close in age, they have never been into the same toys. My daughter has always loved musical toys and toys that she could interact with, but these toys were sometimes unsuitable for my three girls with hearing loss. These three girlies are more about touch and the sensation of the toys. They were much more into the toys that didn't put pressure on them to listen, sit still, and concentrate. Toys like Lego (which we love), teddies, dolls, tea sets and kitchen items that they could really get their hands on. Now my eldest two are 14 and 13, toys are a thing of the past, and it’s all about their mobile devices, which I find really sad.

My younger two have moderate hearing loss; I became fed up trying to find toys that were loud enough for them to hear properly. Instead, I chose toys that were not only noisy but had lots of visual stimulation, so lights, moving parts and even used toys that moved by themselves. Books with moving parts were great, or ones with puppets attached that could be used to visually stimulate and make them laugh. While this was relatively easy when they were very small, the progression of their development and their interest in particular types of toys has made this increasingly difficult to find toys that hold their attention.

I became the kind of mum that family and friends laugh about - If a toy wasn't played with for a week, it was sold and replaced with something else, as it just held no interest to the girls any more.

All four of my girls have had very different interests, likes and dislikes. This meant that they are always into different things, making hand me downs difficult. One daughter, now 12, has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and hearing loss, and is still very much into her dolls, teddies and pushchairs. The make believe world that she makes with them enables her to use the social skills she has been learning, allows her to explore her feelings and helps her to work through them. I very often stand outside the door and listen to the conversations she has, but also I hear the sadness sometimes when one of the dolls feels left out.

While this kind of play keeps her entertained for hours, it can also make her particularly susceptible to hyper-focus. This is where she becomes very fixated and focused on the particular task at hand and it can make it difficult as a parent to refocus her, get her to come and eat or to join in with family life. Then there are activities like beads, making things, puzzles and board games, which just do not suit her. These are sometimes not even half finished, before she has moved on to other things.

So really, it’s all about trial and error, and this can make the whole experience of toys and finding play ideas expensive and frustrating for any parent. The shops are full of toys that look so inviting on the shelves, even the supermarkets have them. But with prices creeping up, I really don't want to be paying so much for a toy that may not get played with, so I find the best place to get toys from is... drum roll please… car boots and selling sites. 

These have become my preferred toy shopping venues. There is so much on offer that is second hand out there, and once cleaned, the toys are as good as new.  Sometimes the toys are brand new, and their child is not interested in it, so it has cost me a fraction of the price. I can then pass them on to family, friends, or charity shops to help others.

What affect does play have on me as a parent? Well sometimes it can be stressful, disheartening, annoying and I feel like throwing the towel in, but other times seeing the amazing interaction, or the amazing effect a particular toy has on your child is priceless.

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