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What’s the best holiday gift for a child with diabetes?
The most important answer is simple: Whatever any child would dream of or wish for as a holiday gift.
That said, it’s never a bad thing if cool toys and accessories also weave diabetes into the fun.
From stuffed animals “with diabetes” and doll accessories to puzzles and games, there are some great choices that are indeed special to kids with diabetes, and sometimes even their friends who care.
Here are a few good choices to consider this holiday season.
For 20-plus years, Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes has been a staple for children and their families as they adapt to life with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the house. Now, Rufus has gone full 21st century, with scannable patches that interact with a downloadable app to give kids and their family and friends a furry and fun learning experience.
He’s actually being merged with the Jerry the Bear with Diabetes toy that’s been so popular over the past 9 years. The new Rufus will replace both classic Rufus and Jerry the Bear, morphing the two into one fuzzy friend.
Even better news? While Rufus will still be the centerpiece of all the JDRF Bags of Hope provided to newly diagnosed families, he’s also now available for direct purchase, meaning you can add this upgraded Rufus to your family collection or purchase it for another child or friend.
Access: The new Rufus is being “soft launched” in winter 2021 and can be preordered from JDRF here. While JDRF says they may not be able to deliver Rufus by the holidays, they have a fun Rufus coloring page available for download with each purchase, so you can gift that with a note that a surprise new friend is coming soon.
Price: $22 plus shipping.
When the now-iconic American Girl series introduced this diabetes kit 3 years ago, it sold out in a flash, and was — for a time — so popular it was difficult to find one.
The thrill is still there. The kit is well thought out, with an insulin pump and an insulin pen (because even dolls using pumps should carry a backup!), glucose tablets, a logbook, and more. While it’s made by and for American Girl dolls, the pieces can be used on any doll.
The kit gives those with T1D a feeling of normalcy and a chance to use creative play to work out their diabetes challenges. It also offers a chance to talk diabetes with friends who may be over to play. “It definitely helped when my 6-year-old was diagnosed,” said newer D-Mom Stephanie. “She used it nearly every day for the first 3 months.”
Access: Simple to order online or in toy stores around the country.
Price: $24 plus shipping.
Pro tip: Build a Bear also offers a diabetes kit, but you’ll need to order it online rather than pick it up in store when a bear is built. It has fewer parts than the American Girl kit but is only $10, plus $5 shipping.
When insulin-maker Eli Lilly partnered with Disney to create the website T1D Everyday Magic to help children, and families, adapt to life with T1D, Coco the Monkey was introduced. Children love the plush Coco toy, as well as the books about Coco’s life.
One challenge for Coco as a holiday gift: The only access you have for the plush toy and books (other than downloading the books via the internet) is to ask your child’s endocrinology team to provide them to you. Most are willing.
And parents who have say it’s worth the effort. “We got our 3-year-old son Coco about 6 months into his diagnosis and it really helped him feel better that Coco had to do all the same steps,” said D-Mom Robin.
Access: The digital books with automatic audio are available online. Print books and Coco the plush toy are only available through endocrine teams around the country.
Pro tip: “The Babysitter’s Club” does not offer a doll or a plush toy, but this popular kid’s book series does include a main character named Stacey who has T1D. You can order the series at all book outlets.
I Heart Guts is a company not just dedicated to the ability to snuggle your pancreas, but most of your organs. For people with diabetes, though, the cute pancreas plush is a fun way to both feel better about diabetes and give it a little wink.
The plush is just that: a stuffed pancreas that you can rest your head on, snuggle when you sleep, punch without remorse, or just plain smile at and with.
It’s great for any age. D-Mom Christina got one for her toddler with T1D and found her child “enjoyed giving it shots more than even Coco.”
A grown-up T1D, Karen is 43 years old but was “delighted” when her sister gifted her a plush pancreas. “After all,” she said, “it’s nice to feel happy at an organ that can sometimes make me so sad.”
Access: Easy and quick to purchase online directly from I Heart Guts.
Price: $19.99 plus shipping.
Pro tip: Moving to next level plush body parts, how about a plush and fluffy pancreatic beta cell? Knick Knack Toy Shack has just that, and it makes learning about and understanding insulin-producing beta cells fun. That one’s available from the manufacturer online for $14.99 plus shipping.
Picking up the pieces of a life after a diabetes diagnosis can be a stressful challenge. Sorting the pieces of this cute and educational puzzle, however, is fun and challenging in a good way.
Created via a partnership between the diabetes nonprofit Beyond Type 1 and the popular puzzle company Jiggy Puzzles, the puzzle pieces link together to create a classic notebook with stickers representing the things that make life with diabetes go on: a glucometer, juice box, and even a “unicorn 100.”
The 500-piece puzzle is colorful and fun, but it’s challenging, so kids will need grown-up help. It comes with a drawstring bag for storage, as well as glue should you want to frame it when finished.
Puzzle time can be a great conversation time too: This gift could open up more insight between a child and adult caretaker.
Access: Easy and quick online ordering from Jiggy Puzzles here.
Price: $40 plus shipping.
Pro Tip: While not a puzzle, there are lots of fun diabetes-themed actual notebooks that make greats gift as well. Check them out on Zazzle to choose from silly, inspirational, or all of the above. Prices run from $11–$18.
Heather Russell may be the best auntie of all time. When her 10-year-old niece was diagnosed with T1D, she wanted to use her crafting skills to make her happy. That niece’s request? A fun way to carry her diabetes supplies, with a touch of Harry Potter (her favorite). That gave birth to the “Insulin Is Magic” tote bag.
Made of sturdy fabric to make it last but with enough glitz to keep it fun, the bag fits a meter, strips, continuous glucose monitor (CGM) receiver, insulin, lancets, and more, and still has room to tuck a snack in as well. It’s charming, fun, and even an advocacy tool since it gives your child a chance to explain just why insulin is indeed magic to them. Grown-up Harry Potter fans with T1D may love it as well.
Access: Order now, as supplies can be limited and shipping can take up to 2 weeks.
Price: $22; shipping is free.
Pro tip: Perfect to tuck in there? A “Hands Off My Hypo Sweets” glucose carrying case, available on Etsy as well, for just over $8. The term “hypo sweets” is European and so fun to say!