If you know a teen or young woman with Down syndrome, then you might be wondering about gift ideas. Luckily, my sister, Katie, has been working on her birthday list. Over the years, I’ve seen the gifts she’s loved and the gifts she ignores. As she plans her birthday list, I’m writing down what she likes.
Every young woman with Down syndrome is different. She has her own personality and interests. However, there are a few things that many people have in common.
Here’s a quick summary of my ideas:
- Cute clothes and accessories
- Board and card games
- Art supplies
- Toys (maybe)
- Movies and TV
Of course, anyone can talk about gift ideas, related to Down syndrome or not. So, this post is going to be a little different. How do you pick a gift that won’t end up forgotten in the back of a closet?
Let’s talk about choosing an extra-special gift. How do fine motor skills get involved? What about personal style? We’ll cover the things you need to know so that your loved one with Down syndrome can get excited when she opens her present.
Here are details on the gift ideas that a young woman with Down syndrome might enjoy.
7. Cute Clothes and Accessories
An older teen or young woman with Down syndrome probably has discovered fashion. Regardless, everyone deserves to look good!
Sometimes, Katie takes extra time to dress up. She’ll pair clothes thoughtfully so they match well. Sometimes this includes a cute hairdo with hair clips or headbands. Many young women with Down syndrome have the motor skills to use cute hair clips.
However, clothes can be tricky. If you want to pick something she’ll wear, then consider these:
- Check her clothing size first. (Ask her family.) The last thing you want is to pick something too small. When in doubt, pick the larger size. Baggy clothes are cuter than too-tight clothes.
- The clothes should be easy to put on. Tiny zippers and buttons can frustrate any woman. For someone with Down syndrome, they might be too hard to use.
- Pick soft fabrics (like cotton) if she has sensitive skin.
- Find out her personal style. Does she wear jewelry? What’s her fashion sense? For example, some people find bracelets uncomfortable, so they don’t wear them. Some girls love cartoon shirts and others think they’re childish.
- Check her social media profiles for selfies and you’ll see what she likes to wear.
- If you don’t see social media, then try asking a family member.
- If you don’t know how to pick trendy or flattering clothes, then ask for help. Bring a fashion-savvy friend shopping with you.
- When in doubt, go for a cute slogan. My sister loves these.
Keep these in mind and you’re likely to pick a winner!
For example, our grandma got Katie a cute white sundress with pink and blue palm trees on it. It was comfy, cute, easy to put on, and colorful. Katie wore it often until she outgrew it.
6. Board and Card Games
Games offer connections with family and friends. My sister and I like to play Sorry, Life, Hoot Owl Hoot, Trouble, and other games. As a family, we play Uno sometimes.
If your loved one spends lots of time with family or friends at home, then a game might be a perfect option. As long as it isn’t too complex, she’s likely to enjoy it.
Also, keep in mind that board games can be good for the brain. When Katie started playing board games and counting out her steps more often, she found it easier to count on a number line for her math homework. Many young women with Down syndrome can benefit from games where you count steps on a game board.
Of course, if she has major anxiety, the suspense of winning or losing might make it no fun. In that case, try going for another gift.
5. Ability-Appropriate Art Supplies
Art supplies are a tricky one. If they’re too complex, then she’ll ignore them. After all, art is supposed to be fun, not a headache.
With Katie, crayons and coloring books get the most use. Currently, we have lots of crayons. (Though Katie’s friends have broken some… stop that!) She enjoys coloring books with Disney princesses and movie characters. Before the pandemic, she’d get them out when she had friends over.
A young woman with Down syndrome is not a child. However, her motor skills might be similar to those of a child. Thus, pick things that look easy to use.
4. Toys (if She Likes Them)
In some ways, teens and young adults with Down syndrome are different. There are developmental delays. Part of that means that she might still delight in playing with toys.
Recently, Katie asked my mom for another Ken doll. She said that the doll would be Captain Picard. Katie has rediscovered Barbie dolls, so this means lots of Barbie adventures. Kidnapping, magic spells, rescues, and more have taken place in our family room. Now, at least one Star Trek character will join the fun.
(Update: I couldn’t spill the beans yet because Katie would read it, but Katie got Captain Picard and Data dolls!)
You don’t have to pretend that your loved one is average. If she plays with toys, then why not give her a toy she’d like?
3. Good Books
Books are a classic gift for everyone. That includes people with Down syndrome.
First, think about their interests. What books and movies do they already enjoy? What are common themes there? For example, if she likes the Hardy Boys, maybe she’d like Nancy Drew too.
Next, think of the reading level. If you talk to her family, then they might be able to tell you her reading level. (Her school may have tested this.) You can look up the reading levels of different books online or search by reading level for ideas. In this case, it’s okay if you go a little high. A family member could always read it to her. Or she might enjoy it in a few years.
Lately, my sister has been reading Nancy Drew and similar books with our dad. She reads one page and he reads the next. It gets her reading and spending time with family.
2. Movies and TV
If the young woman you know is anything like my sister, she loves watching movies and shows. Katie watches the same shows over and over again. Sometimes, she sings along to the music in them.
Listen to what your loved one talks about. Which movies and shows are on her mind?
When you pick a movie or TV show to buy her, you’ll need to ask these questions:
- Is it similar to content she enjoys?
- Does she already have it? Is it available already on a streaming service she uses?
- Is the content too mature? Katie only started watching PG-13 shows recently. If Common Sense Media says it’s not for kids, and your loved one is on the younger side, then ask her family first.
Also, keep in mind that not all screen time is wasted time. Plenty of shows teach social skills nowadays. This is a safe, entertaining way for her to explore the world’s complexities. The subtitles are good for reading, too.
Most of Katie’s birthday list is movies this year.
I listed music last because chances are good she’s going to love it.
Katie LOVES music. She sings and dances all the time. I can’t count how many times we’ve heard “Into the Unknown” coming from her bedroom. She loves Disney songs, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and other popular music. Music is a gift she’s likely to enjoy over and over and over and over and…
“It’s called obsessed,” Katie says.
If you know which artists your loved one already likes, then try buying something new of theirs. You can also go with a related artist you think she might enjoy discovering. Just check quietly with her family to make sure she doesn’t already own the album!
Do You Have Gift Ideas for People with Down Syndrome?
This blog post can’t cover every question. When in doubt, check with the family. They’ll know what she likes and what she already has. Otherwise, it’s okay to just ask her! Not every gift has to be a surprise. She can tell you what she wants. And that way, you know she’s going to like it.
Intent matters the most when it comes to gift-giving. However, it’s also nice to pick something she’ll enjoy!
Do you have any gift ideas for people with Down syndrome? Or do you have interesting stories to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!