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 this holiday extra special with a toy they'll love to play with. Ready to find your perfect gift? Keep scrolling for the 16 best sensory toys for kids that will make great gifts this holiday season.