Special Needs Toys I Wish I’d Known About

I love Parents Magazine. I love the quotes from kids, because it’s true…kids say the darndest things. I skip the “Ages + Stages” section, mostly because none of it applies to Charlie and I’m okay with that. But mostly I love this magazine because they usually have something that applies to special needs, for us off the grid parents. My go-to for most things extra special is always Parenting Special Needs Magazine (I am their writer, after all), but it’s fun to see what the other parents are reading these days and what they are learning about kids like Charlie.

Parents March edition featured an article whose pictures caught my eye before I even read the title. Pictures of stuffed animals with trachs and seeing eye dogs and dolls with nasal gastric tubes. It’s like the medical world met Barbie at Build-a-Bear and got to work. The title of this piece was “Special Dolls for Special Kids.”

When we were still living haunted hours in the NICU, I wish someone had handed me one of these. I wish, instead of tissues and pamphlets, someone have given me a camo bear with a g-tube to hug. I wish, instead of practicing my trach removal on a gender-neutral rubber baby, I had gotten to try my hand on the plush monkey. Of course, that might not have be the anatomical equivalent, and thus, impractical. But it would have been soothing, none the less. I also wish I had the chance to give Charlie one of these, to let it perch in the corner of his crib and comfort him and let him know that he’s not that different after all. And isn’t that what dolls are for, to teach the practicalities through imagination. That’s why little girls feed their baby dolls and dress them to the nines. They’re learning. I think if Charlie had been able to see his trach, mirrored in not just another human, but a creature whom he could project any and all feelings on, he would have felt a little less alone in his state, or maybe I would. He was so little it might not have made a difference. But I would have hugged that doll for all it was worth.

So if you’re a curious about these toys and have a little one at home who might need one, I did a bit more research on the details on the ones that resonated with me:

  1. Stuffed Animals with Medical Tubes









These are stuffed animals that you can custom order from Tubie Friends with trachs and g-tubes (they even come with a cute patch around it) and chest ports and PICC lines. You can actually tell them where your child’s medical device is place on the body, whether it is low profile, etc. and they customize it to match your child! Best of all, all proceeds go to “helping kids and hospitals receive new Tubie Friends™.”


  1. Dolls with Medical Devices









These handmade dolls come from Karen’s Kottage up in Michigan. She makes special order dolls with colostomy bags, lifts in shoes, prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, feeding tubes and hearing aids, leg braces, and chest braces. She can pretty much do anything you need and the dolls are soft and huggable (a necessity).


  1. Hospital Beds








As much as I hated them, we had to get use to the hospital beds and I think if Charlie had his own little bed to put his stuffed animal or doll, he could “take care” of them like the doctors were taking care of him. These portable little beds are designed to fit 18-inch dolls and were created by a woman who was inspired by her 8-year-old daughter’s many hospital stays. She sells them on her shop, DrAvaMedical, on Etsy along with little adjustable IV poles.













I’m not sure whether it was more important for Charlie or for me to feel like he could normalize all the tubes and equipment he had when he was little. After all, it’s all he knew. But I do know that if we still had the trach, the nasal gastric tube, the g-tube, the Mickey-button, the feeding pump, the hospital stays, as he got older I would have wanted these “special dolls for special kids” in my life.