“31 Gifts for Kids with Autism: Picky Eater Edition” was written by Jackie Silver MHSc, RD and Ayah Al-Anani
Join us in this post as we highlight 31 gifts for kids with autism who are picky eaters! The gift ideas listed below are awesome for helping autistic kids foster a positive relationship with food and expand their food choices.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links with which I may earn a small commission but at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links help bloggers like me to provide you with free content. All opinions expressed here are genuine.
DISCLAIMER: We both acknowledge that while we are not neurodivergent, it would be ideal for someone who identifies as neurodivergent to write this type of blog post, but there are not many neurodivergent healthcare professionals. I, (Jackie) as a registered dietitian, have a lot of experience working with autistic children and their families, especially picky eaters, so many of these recommendations are tools that have helped my clients expand their diet to a wider selection of foods.
Please also note that we will be using the phrases “kids with autism” and “autistic kids” interchangeably throughout this blog post out of respect for both person-first and identity-first languages.
Last updated: November 27, 2023
It’s Almost the Holiday Season!
The weather is getting colder, meaning the holiday season is almost upon us! With the holidays approaching, that means thinking long and hard about what gifts to buy for your loved ones, especially the kiddos.
Please note that every child is unique so it is best to choose a gift based on someone’s personal interests! When choosing a gift for a child, we recommend first asking them or their family members what they like. However, we know that option is not always available, hence this blog post of gifts for kids with autism.
While this gift guide is tailored towards autistic children who are picky eaters, these gifts are absolutely relevant for kids with ADHD or any kids who are picky eaters! In fact, I have recommended many of these products to parents of kids with autism and/or ADHD.
Let’s face it, kids are picky! But don’t worry, because we came up with a thorough list of gifts for kids with autism who are picky eaters! Please let us know in the comments if we missed anything.
This gift guide is divided into the following sections:
- Play kitchen, cooking and food sets
- Cooking and baking kits
- Cooking and baking tools
- Body positive books
- Gardening kits
- Food science experiments
- Fun Lunch Boxes, Plates and Water Bottles
Let’s get started!
Top 3 Gifts for Kids with Autism
If you don’t have time to scroll through this whole list, here are my top 3 picks, in no particular order:
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Play Kitchen, Cooking & Food Sets
This 40 piece kids cooking set is beyond adorable. It comes with a toy pressure pot, pan, induction cooktop, utensils, kettle, and cookware along with toy knives, cutlery, play food, and more.
This cooking set is a fantastic way to expose autistic kids from a young age to the world of cooking. There is a lot of research showing that getting kids to learn how to cook helps them foster a healthier relationship with food as they grow throughout childhood and into adults.
Pretend Play Food Sets
These adorable sets come with all types of fake food that children can practice cutting. This will help autistic kiddos learn about new foods and hopefully ease them into trying out these foods for real! The more exploration they get, the more likely they will be to try the real versions.
When we found this adorable tea set, we knew we had to include it in this gift guide. It comes with a waffle maker, waffles, kettle, tea cups, cutlery, and dessert pieces that you can stack together to make your own creations.
I (Jackie) often encourage families of autistic kids who are picky eaters to find non-meal time opportunities to encourage food-play and this tea set helps you with exactly that. It’s a fun, no-pressure way to expose children to new foods. The less pressure there is, the more willing kids will be to try new foods out (please don’t let them eat these plastic foods though!). This tea set is one of many wonderful gifts for kids with autism.
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Cooking & Baking Kits for Kids
This gift has so many wonderful reviews about how much kids love it and how good the pretzels taste. It comes with pre-measured ingredients and all the tools needed to make pretzels.
As noted earlier in this blog post, getting kids to cook is an incredible and fun way to encourage them to try new foods. These types of cooking or baking kits are fantastic gifts for kids with autism.
Check out these other cooking kits for children:
You may be wondering, “why is a dietitian recommending baking kits?? Aren’t desserts ‘unhealthy’? Great question. The reason I am recommending these is because not only are they great for picky eaters but they help autistic kids foster a positive relationship with food.
Let me explain. When you treat all food as just food and don’t add moral value to it by teaching kids that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods, kids will start to see all foods as neutral and appropriate to have in moderation. This helps reduce risk for developing eating disorders and fosters a healthy relationship with food in kids. So, get baking!
This kid-sized oven is another amazing gift for kids with autism to help them develop their cooking and baking skills, which will help them become more independent with their cooking as adults.
This adorable device is used to make sphere shaped cakes or donuts which you can then decorate into beautiful cake pops.
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Cooking & Baking Tools
Fruits and vegetables are by far the most difficult foods to get picky eaters to eat, especially with mushy fruits or veggies such as strawberries or tomatoes, because the texture is quite unappealing to autistic kids with sensory issues.
Some awesome ways to get autistic children to want to try fruits and veggies is by making these foods fun to play with, not pressuring them to taste them, and inviting them to help you with food prep. Enter this fruit and veggie prep kit for ages 5 and up.
The reviews for this product are heartwarming to read. We especially love this review: “My son (5) absolutely loves this set. He can’t wait to help me in the kitchen and is eating more fruits and veg because of it.”
To see more products by Curious Chef, click here.
I will often recommend that my clients (parents of autistic kids) use fun-shaped cookie cutters to make shapes out of fruits and veggies. Why? Because often times when a food that a picky eater does not like is presented to them DIFFERENTLY, they are more likely to try it.
Think about it, would you rather eat a bunny-shaped carrot or a circular-shaped carrot? The bunny is way more fun, thus making it appealing to picky eaters.
There are many types of foods you can use these cutters with, such as sandwiches, cheese or deli slices, pizza, fruits, veggies, pancakes, waffles, cookies, and more.
This review says it all: “They work great. You can use them to cut out fun shapes in veggies, fruits or sandwiches. I use this with my picky toddler and he really enjoys it.”
I hope you can see why cookie cutters are great gifts for kids with autism and how you can use them with a wide variety of foods.
Here are some more:
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Body Positive Books
Children are incredibly impressionable and they pick up on everything. It’s no surprise that eating disorders in parents are associated with eating disorders in children. When parents model a healthy relationship with food and their bodies, it’s more likely to rub off on their kids in a positive way. I often recommend that parents start teaching their kids the beauty in everyone having different-sized bodies from a young age.
This will help kids foster more confidence in their bodies just as they are. To read more about having body-positive conversations with kids, check out this pdf guide.
This beautiful picture book, Bodies are Cool, celebrates all the different types of bodies that live in this world. It is meant to instill body acceptance and confidence in children (it’s an important message for adults to hear too).
This is another beautiful picture book about different body features and types. Through playful rhyme, it promotes the development of body acceptance and celebrates inclusivity and individuality.
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Gardening Kits
This kit, recommended for ages 6 and up, comes with everything a young gardener needs to start their own garden! It includes tomato, basil and pepper seeds, markers, stickers, a mini greenhouse, soil, seed signs and a mini hardcover book to write your gardening story. This is an interactive activity to do with your child where you can use the tomato, basil and pepper that you grow as pizza toppings!
I OFTEN recommend teaching autistic kids to garden as research shows that kids who learn to grow their own produce are more likely to eat it! This pizza garden kit is a great way to get started and is one of many fun gifts for kids with autism.
This Magic Bean Garden kit is not edible but it’s still an awesome way to expose autistic kids to the magic (pun intended) of gardening. With this kit, you paint, decorate and grow a magic bean garden that reveals surprise messages on the pods. The beans sprout within a week! It comes with everything, all you have to do is add water.
Herbs are the type of food that have an acquired taste – there are many adults who dislike herbs, so all the more so with children! You and your kiddo can grow delicious basil, oregano, and chives with this kit.
That’s why growing herbs with your kids from an early age is an incredible way to get them to try out new herbs and flavours without fear.
I recommend exposing autistic children to new foods in fun, no-pressure environments, using the division of responsibility approach to feeding. When kids are pressured to try new foods, it will likely backfire, they will resist and meal time will be a constant battle for families. Teaching kids to garden and grow their own produce is an enjoyable activity for them that doesn’t involve forcing, pressuring, or bribing. Time to get planting!
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Food Science Experiments
Does your neurodivergent kid LOVE science?! If yes, then this is the gift for them! This kit comes with an instruction book with directions for 17 edible food science experiments, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a spatula, a whisk, a cutting board, 2 poach pads, and a rolling pin. You’ll have to buy the ingredients but all the tools are in this kit. This is an awesome way to introduce your kid to food science, let them explore with different experiments, and learn lots about topics such as how cheese melts, how to smash an avocado, and more.
This kit is recommended for ages 8 and up. It comes with all the tools needed and simple instructions to make chewy jelly candies, crystal rock candy, chocolates, and lollipops through edible science experiments. This is a fabulous gift for kids with autism to learn and expand their minds.
Gifts for Kids with Autism: Fun Lunch Boxes, Plates and Water Bottles
Kids Dinner Plates
For picky eaters, sometimes all it takes to get them to eat is to present food to them differently; to present it in a fun, enticing manner! Enter these fun kids dinner plates.
This fun dinosaur-themed plate makes dinner time fun with its board-game like presentation. Just remember, please do not pressure or force your picky eater to eat everything as that always backfires. Let them decide whether they want to eat and how much from the foods you serve them.
Who says you can’t play with food?! I know this may sound counterintuitive (and messy) but I often ask parents of picky eaters to encourage food play with their kids!
I recommend making up fun stories with food, making silly shapes and designs with food, and more. This low-key environment is wonderful for fostering a positive relationship with food and motivates kids to try new foods. These plates make meal time exciting and enables kids to use their imaginations by coming up with creative food designs.
This cute elephant shaped suction plate has dividers in it that make up three different sections. It’s a visually appealing plate for picky eaters, making it one of many great gifts for kids with autism. Check it out!
Many neurodivergent kids don’t like when different foods touch each other. This could be due to sensory issues around food textures or many other reasons. Regardless of the reason, I’ve often recommended bento boxes to clients as an exciting way to get kids to want to eat their lunches and ensure their food doesn’t touch and gross them out. A number of parents have reported back with success from using these!
It can be difficult to get kids to drink enough water throughout the day. Using a kid-friendly water bottle with an appealing design is a great way to encourage water-drinking. Also, using fun-shaped straws is another strategy for motivating kids to drink their fluids and stay hydrated.
PS – Are you looking for recipes for picky eaters? Check out these healthy smoothies for picky eaters.
That brings our list of 31 gifts for kids with autism to an end. We hope you found this gift guide helpful and that it gave you inspiration for thoughtful gifts for picky eaters this holiday season (or honestly any time of the year)! We hope these gifts bring joy to your loved ones and help kids foster a healthier relationship with food and encourage them to try new foods!
Let us know in the comments below what your favorites were and we’d also love to hear YOUR suggestions!
Jackie is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian whose mission is to empower and support the neurodivergent and physically disabled communities through nutrition. Jackie runs a virtual private practice and blog which has simple recipes and health information tailored to these communities. She loves cooking, exercising, traveling, journaling, and spending time with family and friends.