Many toys are designed to be bright and loud and attention-grabbing. Unfortunately, that’s a combination that won’t work for kids who struggle with sensory issues. We’ve collected a selection of toys that will appeal to most kids, especially autistic children. Our top pick is Kinetic Sand because it is something that most kids love, and it can keep kids entertained for a long time. If that’s not quite what you’re looking for, then we’ve plenty more suggestions to help you find the ideal toy.
Related post: Best Toys for Nonverbal Autism [12 Picks Reviewed 2021]
- Best Toys for Sensory Processing Disorder in 2021
- Best Overall – Kinetic Sand
- Best for Kids Who Seek Out Small Spaces – Harkla Hug
- Budget Option – LED Spinner Wand
- Best for Kids Who Love Sensory Swings – Outree Kids Pod Swing Seat
- Best for Kids Who Like Puzzles – Kanoodle
- Best Toy for Imaginative Play – Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks
- Best Calming Cuddly Toy – Weighted Lap Dog Toy
- Best for Kids Who Need to Fidget – Simpl Dimpl
- What to Consider When Buying a Toy For A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Toys for Sensory Processing Disorder in 2021
Best Overall – Kinetic Sand
Kinetic Sand is an excellent gift that most kids love. It feels fantastic to manipulate and offers a really tactile sensory experience.
This set comes with 2lbs of sand. Half in red and half in blue. You need to be aware that you won’t be able to separate the colors again if mixed together. Depending on how well you mix the sand, you’ll either get a marble effect or 2lbs of purple sand.
This set comes with some exciting tools that allow kids to manipulate the sand in many interesting ways. There’s a few molds, a crinkle cutter, a scooper, and a slicer that can cut ribbons or grate the sand.
A nice feature of this set is that it comes with a mobile phone stand. This helps your kids to make a video of playing with the sand. This can be a nice thing to have that they can return to when they might not be able to play with the sand.
The one weakness of this product is that the sand doesn’t come in a resealable container. If it dries out, it stops working as well. You can easily deal with that by using a couple of sealable boxes. Even sandwich bags will do.
Best for Kids Who Seek Out Small Spaces – Harkla Hug
The Harkla Hug is an ideal gift for kids who respond positively to DTP. It comes with an electric pump, so it’s quick and easy to set up. Its peapod shape allows kids to sit in it in a variety of ways. They’ll soon find the perfect position that helps them feel calm.
The three inflatable sections allow you to get the pressure just right. If you inflate the bottom area, it also allows the whole thing to rock gently, adding extra sensory input.
The material is soft and durable. It’s also easy to wipe clean. While the chair does come with a repair kit, you’re unlikely to need it. The stitching is reinforced and will stand up to a lot of rough play. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Budget Option – LED Spinner Wand
This LED Spinner Wand is a great little gift for any child that is hypnotized by lights. When you press the button, the LEDs light up and begin to spin around inside the globe. It keeps going until you press the button again.
This is an excellent option for kids who like lights but not sounds. The motor is nice and quiet, and it doesn’t make any other sounds. It just creates a really pretty light show.
As you might expect from such a cheap toy, it’s not the most durable item in the world. It does come with a wrist strap, which can prevent a lot of drops. For such a low price, it might be worth getting a spare, just in case.
Best for Kids Who Love Sensory Swings – Outree Kids Pod Swing Seat
The Outree Kids Pod Swing Seat is a great sensory swing. It can be hung either inside or out and comes with everything you need to hang it.
The cushion is made from PVC and is inflatable, so you can get the exact feeling your child wants. The sides of the swing make it feel cozy and safe and provide a calming cocoon for kids to relax in.
The strap for this swing is adjustable, so you can easily change the height to suit your needs. The swing can support up to 100lbs of weight.
Best for Kids Who Like Puzzles – Kanoodle
Kanoodle is a great puzzle game for kids that like logic challenges. It’s a really satisfying sensory experience to slot the pieces into the right positions in the case. The puzzles provide varying levels of challenge and can be solved with trial and error.
This game is a great way to help kids practice their fine motor skills as the pieces have to be placed in with some care, especially once they move onto building the pyramids.
The rules are simple and clear. If your child excels at spatial awareness, then this is a game that they will find satisfying to complete. It can also help kids to develop problem-solving skills as well.
Best Toy for Imaginative Play – Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks
Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks is a great toy for kids who like to create and fiddle. The pieces are held together by magnets. They are strong enough to hold the shape they’re put into but are also easy to take apart.
The pieces can be arranged in as many ways as you can think. You can make geometric patterns or build models. It’s a really versatile and enjoyable toy.
Magnetic toys provide a lot of sensory satisfaction for many kids. The click as these pieces stick together can be very pleasing.
The plastic pieces are durable and will stand up to a lot of knocking about. The only challenge comes from keeping the pieces together. It can be worth investing in a small bag or box to store it, so you don’t lose parts.
Best Calming Cuddly Toy – Weighted Lap Dog Toy
This Weighted Lap Dog Toy is an excellent option for kids who could use extra comfort when they’re out and about. With its cute puppy dog design, it doesn’t immediately look like a therapy tool. It looks like a quirky stuffed animal.
The weight in this lap blanket is evenly distributed and held in place with ties. The outer cover can be removed and put in the washing machine, and the inner weight can be sponged clean.
The puppy is nicely sized for kids. It’s 18in x 12in so perfectly suited to a child’s lap.
This is a great toy for helping kids with sensory processing disorder stay focused and calm.
Best for Kids Who Need to Fidget – Simpl Dimpl
The Simpl Dimpl fidget toy is a great item to take out and about. It comes with an easy clip that can attach to a purse, bag, or even a belt loop.
The toy has two colored dimples that you can pop backward and forwards. The sensory experience of pushing the dimples is really pleasing. It’s a really simple toy that provides endless fidgeting distraction.
The buttons are silicone, the frame plastic, and the clip metal. So, this is a very durable toy that is not going to break. It’s the kind of toy that everyone will find hard to resist.
What to Consider When Buying a Toy For A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder
Type of Sensory Input
When choosing a sensory toy, you need to think about which type of sensory input would be most appreciated by your child. Some sensory toys will provide proprioceptive input, vestibular input, tactile input, or visual input.
If your child has attended occupational therapy, then this can give you some guidance towards which sorts of sensory toys will best need your child’s sensory needs. You can watch which activities they enjoy the most or speak to their occupational therapist. They can give you some guidance about which sensory toys for kids will work best for your child.
It can really help children with sensory processing disorder if they can have their own mini sensory room at home. This can give them a space to seek the input they need to feel calm and focused.
Fidget toys can be a great option for a toy that you can easily take out and about. These can really help your child to feel more comfortable when they’re not at home.
Toys that can be used in a variety of different ways can be great options for children with sensory needs. If there’s no one right way to play with a toy, then they are free to experiment and find out what works for them.
Stimulating vs. Calming
When you’re choosing a toy for a child with sensory issues, you need to have a think about the effect playing with it will have on your child. It will be a toy that excites them and fills them with energy and happiness. Or is it one that will help them to find some calm and comfort? Both toys have their place in a child’s toy box, but it’s a good idea to try and find a balance between these types of toys. It can help your child learn to manage their own feelings and experiences if they can choose the right sensory tools for the moment themselves.
Clear and Simple Structure
It’s not uncommon for sensory processing disorder to be one a range of symptoms seen in autistic children. In fact, it’s often one of the diagnostic criteria that is used to identify if a person might be on the autism spectrum. So, it can be good to look for sensory toys that are also autism-friendly. If your child is non-verbal then these toys can be a good addition.
Autistic kids are often very literal. If you give a toy that comes with instructions, it can be worth checking that the instructions can’t be misinterpreted. Clear and direct instructions are best. That does not mean that autistic children can’t play with or won’t enjoy more complex puzzles, toys, and games. It just means you need to be a bit more discerning with your choices.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best sensory toy for kids?
The best sensory toy for your child will depend on their preferences and needs. Some children love sensory toys that create dancing lights. A lot of children, but not all, enjoy sensory toys that have both a proprioceptive and vestibular input, so swings can be a good choice, although they are space-intensive.
Fidget toys are almost always a good option. These allow kids to focus on a single activity. For some kids, this is calming and allows them to disconnect from anything that’s causing them stress. Other children find that these sorts of sensory activities let them focus better during and after they play.
This really is a case of watching your child and letting them guide you to the best sensory toy for them.
Why do some children find swings calming?
In part for the same reason, we all do. Relaxing in a hammock is a wonderful feeling as you just sway back and forth. It takes us all back to feeling the security of being held as a baby. However, for children with SPD, it goes beyond that.
Sensory processing issues can make children feel overwhelmed and disoriented in many different situations. Swinging motions provide both vestibular input (sense of movement) and proprioceptive input (sense of position). This can give their brains more information about their body. This extra input can help them to orient their bodies, and understand what their body is doing.
Imagine feeling a bit dizzy all the time. Then how good it would be if that dizziness faded away for a while.
Why do some children like to feel pressure and weight on their bodies?
The feeling of pressure from a weighted blanket toy or cushion provides proprioceptive (sense of position) input. This particular sort of input is also referred to as deep touch pressure(DTP). If you’ve ever seen or felt the calming effect of a hug, then you’ve seen the results of DTP.
Studies have shown that DTP causes the release of serotonin, sometimes referred to as the happy hormone. Serotonin plays lots of essential roles in the body, including helping process sensory information and regulating mood.
Items like a weighted blanket, lap pads, and cocooning seats all provide DTP, which many children with both sensory processing disorder and autism spectrum disorder find incredibly calming.
Last update on 2021-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API