3 Things I Learned While Playing With My Autistic Son And His New MAGNA-TILES Set

We rock and roll with Walker, respecting exactly who he is, right now, today.

My son Walker is autistic. He was diagnosed at age three, and our family has been learning about autism ever since. Walker’s support needs are minimal, so for us, raising an autistic child mostly means respecting his atypical neurology. We think about and approach things for him just a little differently than we would if he were neurotypical, so he can be as comfortable and successful as possible.

A couple of years ago, I asked Walker’s occupational therapist to recommend some toys that would support his fine motor goals. MAGNA-TILES magnetic building toys have been a constant in his playroom ever since. We’ve tried other brands, but honestly, we’ve found that the original MAGNA-TILES playsets always win out over any others. The quality and durability of the originals is truly unmatched — and the new Dino World XL 50-Piece Set has taken our already extensive collection to the next level.

Lots of autistic kiddos prefer time and space to direct their own playtime.

Walker loves to play with his siblings and other kids. He is happy to participate in other people’s games. Until he’s not.

My boy requires time alone to enjoy the quiet and play on his own terms. The new Dino World XL 50-Piece Set provides him with a loose framework to build a prehistoric wonderland, without the detailed instructions that come with other types of building sets. I love that this set features the first-ever extendable magnetic trees with lush, magnetic leaves — Walker can build out a tropical paradise! He’s also excited that his traditional MAGNA-TILES sets work perfectly with the new ones, allowing for almost endless independent play.

MAGNA-TILES sets open the door to wild imagination.

Like every kid, Walker has his favorite established characters from movies, books, and TV. We’ve got plenty of toys that feature these characters, but he quickly loses interest because he isn’t interested in making up his own stories about them. To him, “That’s not how the story goes.” Once he tires of the script he’s assigned to that toy, it sits discarded.

The MAGNA-TILES Dino World XL playset doesn’t feature dinosaur characters — it just comes with six magnetic dinosaur figurines: Pteranodon, T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, and Brachiosaurus. Since they have no established stories or canon that Walker feels connected to, he’s free to weave whatever tales his imagination can dream up. This makes Walker feel relaxed, confident, and eager to share his playtime with others.

Dinosaurs, MAGNA-TILES products, and a convenient boxed set? It’s Walker’s personal heaven.

Walker has always been very interested in collecting complete sets of things. Anything that comes together, stays together. His part of the playroom is organized into small zipper bags that fill larger baskets. All 26 alphabet blocks in one bag. All the characters from his favorite show in another. An entire set of puzzle pieces. Even his book collection must sit on his shelf together and in order. He uses things, then he puts them away neatly as a unit. It’s just how he likes things.

A set like the new Dino World XL appeals to this side of Walker. Not only does he get to play with dinosaurs and the super cool XL tiles that are four times the size of his traditional tiles — he also knows that when he’s done playing, all he has to do is count the fifty pieces and return them to the box before he puts them back on the shelf. That makes him feel confident that his set is intact and his beloved dinosaurs are ready for their next adventure.

In our house, we are firmly committed to the idea that autistic people deserve to be accommodated and celebrated just as they are without being asked to conform to non-autistic standards. We rock and roll with Walker, respecting exactly who he is, right now, today. That means being intentional about creating a home where he has access to things that allow him to play in the way that feels best to him. When it comes to creating space for meaningful play, MAGNA-TILES building sets are the perfect addition to our playroom.