If there’s a young one in your life with special needs, you’ll want to know about the best sensory toys for kids. When you’re gifting a toy to a child who’s on the autism spectrum or has a processing disorder, the latest toy craze may not be your best bet. In fact, you might end up giving a present that looks like loads of fun but does nothing for them. Why is this? Well, kids with sensory issues respond best to sensory toys.
What are sensory toys?
Sensory toys are exactly what they sound like — toys that stimulate the five senses. These toys are fundamental to childhood sensory stimulation, appealing to the senses with colors, sounds, and textures. While sensory stimulation is important for all children, it’s especially important for kids with certain conditions, including autism, sensory processing disorder, and cerebral palsy, where an over- or under-responsiveness to sensory stimulation usually appears. With so many toys on the market, what exactly constitutes a “sensory toy?” Well, there are four types you should know about.
1. Toys for visual processing. One of the most popular forms of sensory toys are aimed at visual processing. Essentially, visual processing is the ability to make sense of what we see. This is crucial for everything from reading and writing to understanding social cues and day-to-day interactions. To help a child you love in this developmental area, go for a gift that stimulates these processes, like identification games or visually captivating liquid motion bubblers.
2. Toys for tactile stimulation. Many kids with sensory disorders have a high sensitivity to touch, so they respond well to toys that provide tactile stimulation. For a gift that’s rich in texture, go for a toy like kinetic sand or a plush stuffed animal.
3. Toys for vestibular input. Many kids with sensory issues struggle with movement, particularly balance. As studies continue to research the correlation between these issues and diminished motor skills, many parents use vestibular sensory toys to help their kids stay active and improve their balance. To do the same, go for a gift that strengthens their overall equilibrium, like a balance board or a push car.
4. Toys for proprioception. Proprioceptive toys also deal with movement, but they throw in the element of pressure. People who have trouble regulating balance may also have trouble regulating pressure (like pressing too hard or too soft on paper while drawing), and may desire additional sensory input through movements with force — think jumping, stomping, or tight hugs. A cozy pod swing or trampoline will help provide the proprioceptive input they’re seeking.
The Best Sensory Toy Gifts
Whether you’re shopping for a child in your life or your own little one, make their day extra special with a toy they’ll love to play with. Ready to find the perfect gift? Keep scrolling for the 16 best sensory toys for kids that will make great gifts for years to come.
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Best Sensory Toys For Kids Bizybeez Magstix Sensory Magnets Building Set Legos
1. Best Sensory Magnets for Kids
Where to buy: $69.99, Amazon
Most kids have Legos, but do they have BizyBeez MagStix yet? Both a sensory and STEM-focused toy, these magnetic building sticks are therapeutic and fun. Providing an outlet for creativity and sensory stimulation, these sticks feature four textures, and they can be molded into anything your child's heart desires. Complete with a travel playboard and fun magnetic wheels, the possibilities are endless. Amazon buyer Jacinda loves this toy, saying, "Bought this for my son who has autism. It has kept his attention and he loves building new things. I’m so happy — it’s sometimes hard finding a toy that keeps him interested."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Pod Swing Hammock Security
2. Best Sensory Pod Swing for Kids
Where to buy: $36.99, Amazon
One of the most highly recommended toys for kids with sensory issues is a soothing pod swing, like this one from OUTREE. Great for indoor and outdoor use, this swing is made from soft, 100-percent cotton canvas, supports up to 170 pounds, and comes with an inflatable pillow. Great for both vestibular and proprioceptive input, this swing creates a calming snuggle spot to gently rock in. Amazon buyer Taylor loves this cocoon-shaped swing, saying, "Best money ever spent! I bought this for my daughter who has autism — she's non verbal and it was her happy place! I recommend this to everyone especially the autism parents!"
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Tangle Fidget Toy
3. Best Sensory Fidget Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $13.88, Amazon
The perfect toy for fidgety fingers, Tangles are the best portable sensory toy for kids. A great way to keep kids calm and busy, this pack of Tangles comes with three bright color schemes, so children can customize each Tangle with the colors of their choosing. Visually stimulating, moms of kids with special needs love Tangles. One Amazon buyer says, "I bought this toy after reading several prior reviews for my six year old daughter with autism and ADHD. She needed something small to carry with her to play with and keep her hands busy and she absolutely loved it."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Teeter Popper Balance Board
4. Best Teeter Popper Balance Board for Kids
Where to buy: $36.95, Amazon
Looking for the perfect sensory toy that gets kids on their feet and helps with vestibular input? Unique and loads of active fun, the Teeter Popper from Fat Brain Toys is the toy you've been searching for. It helps stimulate the senses and improve core strength and stability. So, how is this balance board used? Well, it's up to the kid! Whether they rock it, roll it, sit in it, or stand on it, the possibilities are endless. Plus, this board also has suction cups across the bottom for a fun popping sound with each movement. Amazon buyer Jay loves how active this keeps his son, saying, "This 'toy' is great for any kid and it has helped our ASD/ADHD so much. My son is pretty physically fit he requires a lot of pounding on his joints due to Sensory Processing Disorder. It's great for getting them to exercise without them feeling like it's exercise."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Electronic Interactive Pet Dog Harry
5. Best Interactive Sensory Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $23.99, Amazon
One of the most popular gifts for children is a puppy. But if the real thing just isn't possible at the moment, we found the next great thing — Harry the Playful Puppy! The perfect interactive pet, Harry can do it all. He walks, he barks, he plays, he chases, he sings, and he dances, all through soft-touch response. Perfect for developing tactile and visual input, Harry is the best friend your child has always wanted. Amazon buyer Ruth confirms it's a hit with her grandson, calling it, "The best gift I could have ever purchased for my grandson with autism. He absolutely loves his new best friend."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Liquid Motion Bubbler
6. Best Liquid Motion Bubbler Sensory Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $6.99, Amazon
If you remember lava lamps, you know how fun it is to stare at colorful moving liquid. For on-the-go visual stimulation, pick up a Super Z Liquid Motion Bubbler. Soothing and mesmerizing, your child will love watching the pretty colors as they move up and down, simultaneously developing focus and visual tracking skills. Amazon buyer Dixon loves using these motion bubblers in the classroom, saying, "This is a great calming and focus tool for my students. Many have ADHD and/or autism. This simple tool seems to be very soothing for them. Will be buying several more."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Stuffed Animal Baby
7. Best Sensory Toy for Babies
Where to buy: $13.99, Amazon
Sensory toys are great for children of all ages and abilities, including babies — just take a look at the Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Multi-Sensory Toy. Bandana Buddies are the perfect multi-sensory toy with a variety of textures, patterns, and sounds all wrapped up in an adorable package. And while this toy might be made for babies, Amazon buyer Suzanne shares just how great this is for children of all ages, saying, "I have a 10 year old girl with low functioning autism. I am always on the lookout for toys that she will enjoy playing with. She took to this little guy right away. She loves the soft feel."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Gonge Riverstones Balance
8. Best Gonge Riverstone Balance Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $59.13, Amazon
Looking for a way to build your child's balance skills and encourage playful imagination? Then you're going to love Gonge Riverstones. Each pack comes with six stones (three large and three small) that vary in steepness and difficulty. Complete with a rubber rim to prevent any falls or damage to floors, they're a fun and safe way to improve coordination. Just take it from Amazon buyer Christina: "These are awesome. So happy with my purchase and my boys all under 6 years old enjoy them. My oldest two have autism so toys rarely hold their attention long and all of them played with these all day. I also played with them and I weigh about 130lbs didn't dent at all when I jumped on them. I will definitely be purchasing the hilltops to add more fun to our riverstones."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Dinosaur Kinetic Sand
9. Best Dinosaur Kinetic Sand Sensory Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $59.13, Amazon
For a fun game with tactile stimulation and an educational spin, try the Ultimate Dino Sand Play Set from National Geographic. Each kit comes with two pounds of kinetic sand (it never dries out and never sticks to you), six dinosaur molds, six dinosaur action figures, a sand tray, a dinosaur learning guide, and a genuine dinosaur poop fossil specimen! One Amazon buyer raved about this gift, saying, "I think I like playing with this more than my 3 year old. The sand is really cool! I bought it to help with my autistic son's sensory needs and he loves making the dinosaur molds. I also hide the other dinos in the sand so that he has to find them. Would recommend."
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Plasmacar Ride On Toy
10. Best Ride-On Sensory Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $61, Amazon
To help stimulate their vestibular input and improve coordination, give the gift of the PlasmaCar from PlaSmart. Perfect for indoor and outdoor use, this ride-on toy uses no batteries, gears, or pedals, making it a great way for kids of all abilities to get moving. Your child will be well on their way to twisty, endless fun by simply propping their feet up on the foot rest and turning the wheel. Amazon buyer Jessica raved about the PlasmaCar, saying, "Best purchase EVER! I think I might like it as much as my 6 year old and we can even ride on it together. I was searching for a perfect gift and am so glad I got this. The color is great and we are really excited to take it outside when it gets warmer. It can nearly do a 360 degree turn and my 6 year old, who has autism with lower muscle tone is able to use it with ease."
Best Weighted Stuffed Animal Sensory Toy For Kids
11. Best Weighted Sensory Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $45.28, Amazon
For children with sensory issues, it's common to see their fight or flight reaction triggered due to the lack of sensory control. This can lead to hyperactivity and, at its worst, proper meltdowns. But there's a toy out there that may help in moments like these. Much like a weighted blanket, this weighted dolphin places pressure upon the child, helping them stay calm even in times of sensory overload. Covered in a sensory-pleasing soft, velvety fabric, this dolphin is the ultimate comforting companion they won't want to live without.
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Sensory Chew Necklace
12. Best Sensory Chew Necklace for Kids
These may look like Lego blocks, but they are so much more than that. Perfect for kids looking for an oral outlet for their anxiety, these Sensory Chew Necklaces from Mindful Creations are game-changing in high-stress environments. Safe and non-toxic, these necklaces have multiple textures for sensory stimulation, and they're made from strong, durable silicone. Amazon buyer Rachelle loved these for her son, writing, "I bought these necklaces for my autistic son, and they are such a lifesaver. They're great for public outings, providing him an outlet for when he gets anxious and wants to bite or chew for self-soothing. And you can't beat the design or the durability of them either. It looks like an ordinary necklace but is flexible and provides great sensory input for him when he needs it. I'd purchase them again without hesitation."
Where to buy: $11.95, Amazon
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Stretchy String Fidget
13. Best Stretchy String Sensory Toy for Kids
Where to buy: $8.99, Amazon
Looking for a sensory fidget toy that can also help build muscle? Colorful and non-toxic, KeNeer Stretchy String is a fun, stress-relieving toy your kid will love. Soft and durable, these strings can take all the squeezing, pulling, pounding, and pinching your kid can throw at it. Not to mention, the repeated movements of the string will also help build much-needed muscle! Amazon buyer Annie raved about these strings, saying, "These are FANTASTIC! My daughter has autism and I have been looking for something that she could use to help her when she’s stressed and these have become her go to when she’s feeling anxious, they calm her down. The texture is very soft and these will not break! My husband who’s 6’2 and 235 pulled on these as much as he could before we gave them to our kiddo, they didn’t so much as crack!"
Best Sensory Toy Subscription Box For Kids
14. Best Sensory Toy Subscription Box for Kids
Where to buy: $36.95/month, Crate Joy
Founded by pediatric occupational therapist Christina Kozlowski, Sensory TheraPlay Box is a subscription box for kids that came out of the struggle to find kid-approved sensory toys. Made for those with developmental delays and autism, each box contains an assortment of toys and activities that fit the following criteria: They're favorites in the "therapy world," items that have had good feedback from parents, everyday toys that have sensory benefits, and — most importantly — are kid-approved! With each box, your child will collect new toys guaranteed to make playtime fun and therapeutic.
Best Sensory Toys For Kids Trampoline
15. Best Trampoline for Kids
Where to buy: $72.99, Amazon
The ultimate proprioceptive toy, many parents of children with sensory issues will agree — trampolines rock. So, why not gift a child you love with this trampoline from Dazzling Toys? They're the perfect way to release some energy and stimulate proprioceptive input. With a weight capacity of up to 180 pounds, this trampoline is kid-friendly thanks to its padded handlebar and safety frame. Portable, foldable, and durable, it's a guaranteed hit! Parents agree, with one saying, "My son loves this. It's a great transition tool to reset his attention when he is starting to escalate, or in cases like 'dinner in in ten minutes...let's jump first!' Most useful sensory thing we have bought so far."
Best Sensory Gifts For Kids Spot It Visual Processing
16. Best Sensory Game for Kids
Where to buy: $9.77, Amazon
Looking for a fun game that helps develop visual processing skills? Award-winning and beloved by parents, Spot It! helps children grow their focus, visual perception, speech, and teamwork skills. So, how does it work? On any given two cards, there is a matching image. Whoever can spot the matching image first wins! One customer in particular shared, "This product is great for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. I am using it for an autism club I run and the kids love it."