Thinking Outside the Box for My Son’s Christmas Gifts

A columnist considers what to give her 4-year-old with Pompe disease

Keara Engle avatar

by Keara Engle |

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With Christmas right around the corner, I’ve had many people in our family ask what they can get my 4-year-old son, Cayden, for the holiday. A lot of toys aimed at children his age aren’t easy for him to use, which makes buying gifts a bit difficult.

Cayden has infantile-onset Pompe disease, which causes him to have weakened muscles throughout his body. He’s unable to stand or walk and doesn’t have as much strength in his arms and hands as other children his age. He can only lift fairly light things and has a hard time holding and squeezing objects.

Of course, we work on these challenges with him during physical and occupational therapy, but he still struggles. However, I refuse to let his weakness stop him from having fun!

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Thankfully, Cayden has really been into learning lately. It makes me so happy that he takes such an interest in it, because he couldn’t be placed in a preschool class this year due to teacher staffing issues. However, he’ll begin kindergarten in the 2023–24 school year, which will start before long. In the meantime, his therapists, who see him in our home, and I have been teaching him lots of new things, and he’s learning it all very quickly.

Some of the gift suggestions I’ve made include items that will help Cayden learn, such as writing practice books. We’re now working on having him write his letters. He knows all of them already, but writing them is something that we only recently started practicing with him. It’s too hard for him to write with a pencil because he doesn’t have the strength to press hard enough, so we usually stick to markers, which are much easier for him to use.

The photo shows a white piece of paper with the word "Cayden" at the center, with a marker tracing over it. The words "TRACNG MY NAME" are at the top left, with "I can trace and write my name" beneath it. A cartoon pencil drawing is at the top right. At the bottom are three well-written "Cayden"s within two lines, with another line in the middle to mark the height of the little letters.

A sample of Cayden’s work tracing his name. (Photo by Keara Engle)

I also like the Melissa and Doug toys for Cayden. The options for these are endless, with many different play and activity sets that Cayden enjoys. They also have tons of different block sets, which are one of his favorite things to play with. He really likes playing hands-on with toys, so these have been perfect. They’re light and easy for him to hold and maneuver. He has a few Melissa and Doug toys, but I’m sure he’d love to expand his collection.

Cayden has recently shown love for pretend play and a few superheroes. I plan to get him a few dress-up sets so that he can pretend to be some of his favorites. He already likes to pretend he’s Spider-Man when he’s in his Spider-Man pajamas. I can only imagine how cool he’d feel if he had a Spider-Man mask and accessories to play with, too.

In conclusion, I’ve had to get a bit creative this year when thinking about gifts Cayden would enjoy. This is the first Christmas season in which he’s starting to realize what comes along with the holiday. He’s gotten gifts every year, but this year he seems to be looking forward to what Santa will bring him. I can’t wait to see his excitement as he opens his gifts, and I’m hoping that all of the brainstorming I did will pay off.

Note: Pompe Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pompe Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Pompe disease.


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