In a world filled with screens and digital distractions, nurturing a child’s sensory development has never been more important.
Sensory play not only engages a child’s senses but also enhances their cognitive, emotional, and physical growth. It’s a gateway to a realm of discovery and creativity, where children learn through touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste.
To help you embark on this exciting journey of sensory exploration, we’ve curated a list of the top sensory toys for kids.
These toys are not only designed to captivate young minds but also provide a plethora of benefits, from encouraging fine motor skills to sparking imaginative adventures.
What Is Sensory Sensitivity?
Sensory sensitivity, also known as sensory processing sensitivity or sensory over-responsivity, refers to a heightened reaction or responsiveness to sensory stimuli from the environment.
This can include heightened reactions to sounds, lights, textures, tastes, smells, and other sensory inputs that may not typically bother others.
Individuals with sensory sensitivity may become easily overwhelmed or agitated in sensory-rich environments or when exposed to certain stimuli.
This heightened sensitivity can affect their daily lives and well-being, potentially leading to anxiety, stress, or discomfort in various situations.
It’s important to note that sensory sensitivity can vary widely from person to person, and it is often associated with conditions such as sensory processing disorder (SPD) or autism spectrum disorders.
Understanding and addressing sensory sensitivity can be crucial in providing support and accommodations for individuals who experience it.
Sensory Playthings for Infants and Toddlers
Sensory Buddy: A soft teething toy with lots of textures, and fun to cuddle.
Soft Textured Balls: Soft, colorful balls with various textures stimulate tactile exploration.
Rattles: Rattles with different shapes and textures engage both the sense of touch and hearing.
Sensory Blocks: Soft, squeezable blocks with patterns, colors, and different textures for building and exploration.
Crinkle Toys: Toys that make crinkling sounds when squeezed or touched.
Cloth Books: Fabric books with contrasting colors, textures, and crinkly pages for visual and tactile stimulation.
Teething Toys: Safe, textured toys for infants to chew on to soothe teething discomfort.
Mirrors: Baby-safe mirrors encourage visual exploration and self-recognition.
Water Play Mats: Mats filled with water or gel that create a sensory experience when babies press their hands or bodies on them.
Sensory Bottles: Clear bottles filled with colorful objects like beads, glitter, or buttons for visual and auditory exploration.
Sensory Tunnels: Soft, collapsible tunnels for crawling and exploring.
Sensory Board Books: Board books with textured elements for tactile engagement during storytime.
Gentle Musical Toys: Toys that produce soft, soothing melodies or nature sounds.
Sensory Play Gyms: Activity gyms with hanging toys, mirrors, and textures for infants to explore while lying on their backs.
Stacking Rings: Stacking toys with different textures, sizes, and colors for motor skill development.
Colorful Scarves: Soft, brightly colored scarves for peek-a-boo games and tactile exploration.
Sensory Squishy Toys: Squishy toys that can be squeezed, promoting fine motor skills and tactile stimulation.
Floating Bath Toys: Waterproof toys that float and provide sensory fun during bath time.
Baby-safe Playdough: Non-toxic playdough that allows toddlers to explore different textures and shapes.
Musical Shakers: Shaker toys with small, soft beads or bells that make soothing sounds.
Play Tents: Fabric tents for imaginative play and sensory exploration within a confined space.
Sensory Puzzles: Simple, tactile puzzles with large, easy-to-grasp pieces.
Sensory Wall Decals: Wall decals with various textures and patterns for a sensory room or play area.
Nature Exploration Kits: Child-safe kits for exploring natural textures, like sand, leaves, or small pebbles.
Pop Tubes: Pop tubes are flexible, expandable tubes that can be bent, stretched, and “popped” back into shape. They provide both tactile and auditory stimulation and are great for fidgeting and sensory play.
Quiet Fidget Toys: Quiet fidget toys are designed to provide a discreet way to satisfy the need to fidget without causing noise or disruption. These toys, such as stress balls or textured pads, offer tactile engagement without being distracting.
Rainmaker: A rainmaker is a cylindrical tube filled with small beads or objects. When tilted or flipped, it produces a gentle, soothing sound similar to falling rain. It’s often used for relaxation, sensory therapy, or musical play.
Fidget Poppers: Fidget poppers are silicone-based toys with raised bubbles that can be pressed, “popped” back and forth, or spun. They offer a satisfying sensory experience for fidgeting and can be used as stress-relief tools.
Choosing the Ideal Sensory Toy for Your Child
Selecting the perfect sensory toy for your child is a personalized journey that considers your child’s unique needs and preferences. Here are some essential steps to guide you in choosing the ideal sensory toy:
- Assess Your Child’s Sensory Preferences: Start by understanding your child’s sensory sensitivities and preferences. Some children may be drawn to tactile sensations, while others might find comfort in auditory or visual stimuli. Consider what soothes or engages your child the most.
- Age-Appropriate Options: Take your child’s age and developmental stage into account. Ensure that the toy is suitable for their age to prevent any safety hazards and to match their cognitive and physical capabilities.
- Multi-Sensory Features: Opt for toys that offer a variety of sensory experiences. Look for toys that engage multiple senses, such as those with textures to touch, bright colors to see, and sounds to hear.
- Safety and Durability: Prioritize safety by choosing toys made from non-toxic materials. Durability is also crucial, especially if your child tends to play more vigorously.
- Portability and Storage: Consider whether the toy is portable and easy to store. This can be especially important for on-the-go sensory support.
- Consult with Experts: If your child has specific sensory needs due to a condition like autism or sensory processing disorder, consult with therapists, educators, or healthcare professionals who can provide valuable recommendations.
- Observe Your Child’s Reaction: Once you’ve selected a sensory toy, observe how your child interacts with it. Their response will guide you in understanding if the toy effectively meets their sensory needs.
- Stay Open to Adaptation: Children’s sensory preferences can change over time. Be open to adapting and exploring new sensory toys as your child’s needs evolve.
Soothing Sensory Toys for Overwhelmed Children
Soothing sensory toys are a valuable resource for helping overwhelmed children find comfort and emotional relief. These specially designed toys aim to provide a calming and therapeutic sensory experience. Here are some examples of soothing sensory toys that can benefit children in times of overwhelm:
- Weighted Blankets: These blankets provide gentle, even pressure across the body, offering a sense of security and calm. They are particularly effective for children who may have sensory processing challenges.
- Fidget Toys: Fidget toys, like stress balls or squishy toys, offer a tactile outlet for nervous energy and stress. Children can squeeze, twist, or manipulate these toys to alleviate anxiety.
- Calming Glitter Jars: These mesmerizing jars filled with water and floating glitter or objects can be a captivating distraction. Gently shaking the jar and watching the swirling contents can help a child refocus and relax.
- Noise-Canceling Headphones: For children sensitive to sound, noise-canceling headphones can provide a haven of quiet amidst noisy environments, offering a sense of control and peace.
- Aromatherapy Plushies: Plush toys infused with calming scents, such as lavender, can have a soothing effect on children. The gentle scent promotes relaxation.
- Sensory Balls: Soft, textured balls or stress-relief balls with various tactile features can help children release tension and stress by kneading or rolling them in their hands.
- Chewable Jewelry: For children who benefit from oral sensory input, chewable jewelry like necklaces or bracelets can provide a discreet and safe way to satisfy the need to chew.
- Light Projectors: Light projectors that create calming scenes on the ceiling or walls can help children relax and wind down before bedtime or during moments of anxiety.
- Sensory Brushes: Designed to provide deep pressure stimulation, sensory brushes can be used to soothe a child’s tactile sensitivities by gently brushing their skin.
- Texture Pads or Squares: These portable, tactile squares or pads with different textures can be carried in a child’s pocket and touched whenever needed to offer comfort.