Some children with special needs, specifically spd or autism, are under-responsive to sensation. These children are sometimes called sensory seekers because their experience of things like touch, texture, smell, sound, pressure, speed and balance needs to be intense.
Sensory toys are toys that respond to your child’s action. They offer feedback (sound, light, movement, etc) that can help children with autism or sensory processing disorder to focus their attention, calm themselves more quickly and decrease hyperactivity.
For children who are sensory seekers, it is important to find toys that they will relate to and enjoy. Otherwise, they will not enjoy them or will use them in unintended ways to make them provide the sensory input they desire. This may not be safe!
A friend of mine who has a child with Autism who is also sensory seeker once explained it to me this way: Suppose someone was trying to tell you something very important. You knew it was important that you listen but you just couldn’t because you had the most intense itch on your back. It wouldn’t go away. Instead of listening all you could do was focus on that itch and how to relieve it. That’s what it’s like for a sensory seeker. Until that “itch” is scratched the child is unable to focus and manage his behavior.
For sensory seekers it is important that toys are very stimulating. This can be through lights, sounds, vivid and/or changing colors, button pressing, required repetitive movement, or interesting textures. Toys that rock , spin or allow the child to move and bounce safely fit this category too. Toys that allow the child to crawl through, climb on, or balance atop are wonderful as well.
Top 10 Special Needs Toys for Sensory Seeking Children
(all suitable for typically developing children as well)
- Sensory Balls
Sensory Ball Mega Pack by Edushape which includes 4 textured balls (two 7″ balls and two 4″ balls) that provide sensory stimulation for a child when touching it, rolling it on their body, putting it in their mouth (yes, it’s safe!), or just bouncing it.
- Ball Tracks or Ramp Racers
Rollipop Advanced Ball Track Set by Edushape This Oppenheim Best Toy Award Winner will provide sensory fun for years! It is suitable for a child 9 months and up but will be used for many years after. The brightly colored ball track provides visual stimulation as does following the balls as they meander and roll down and around the track. The balls are also brightly colored and one ball jingles and another is reflective. Your sensory seeker will also enjoy the repetitive nature of dropping a ball down the track over and over again!
- Textured Puzzles
Vehicles Touch and Feel Puzzle by Melissa & Doug This wooden puzzle measures 9″ x 12″ and features brightly colored vehicles (sailboat, airplane, truck, and car) with interesting textures. This puzzle is a delight to hold and touch and complete for any sensory seeker.
- Sensory Art
Finger Painting Party by Alex Toys An Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award Winner! This tactilely (my word) terrific finger paint set will indulge your child’s desire for interesting textures and sensations. It includes finger paints and lots of cool tools to create unique patterns and effects: 6 jars of finger paint, 5 stamp shapes, 2 foam pattern painters, suction cup ball, rubber spike ball, plastic pattern tool, and -a mess-free mat!
- Indoor Active Play
Kitty Catkin Hopscotch by Melissa & Doug Don’t let bad weather keep your child from safely satisfying his need for sensory stimulation! This cat themed hopscotch set will allow your child to jump and move safely and with purpose. The foam mat provides sensory stimulation to bare feet too! Kiddies will love this Kitty-themed hopscotch board, with 8 durable, interlocking, easy-clean foam pieces. The set comes with complete game instructions, 2 markers and a durable carry case. Use it indoors or out!
- Play Food
Slice and Bake Cookies by Melissa & Doug If your child likes lots of fine motor activity then this set takes the cake – or cookies! This wooden play food toy includes 12 cookies and 18 colorful toppings; knife; spatula; kitchen mitt and cookie sheet. It inspires pretend play and your child will have a great time taking the wooden cookie dough from the realistic looking tube, slicing the wooden cookie dough with included knife, putting the cookies on the included wooden baking sheet, baking the cookies, removing the freshly baked cookies using the included oven mitt, putting on “icing toppings” and then serving them.
- Beach Toys & Bath Toys
Flex Octopus Pail & Sifter – Sunny Patch by Melissa & Doug Scooping, pouring, sifting, opening, closing – this beach toy has it all in one compact and sturdy toy! This durable, blue bucket is the “handiest” one on the beach. Flex’s eight arms are attached to a generously sized sifter that removes easily for dumping and sifting fun, and snaps back on for quick beach or sandbox clean up.
- Beads & Lacing
Lacing Beads in a Box by Melissa & Doug If your child needs fine motor stimulation then this lacing beads set is sure to satisfy. The classic lacing beads set has been reborn with lively, stimulating graphics, colors and new shapes! Includes 27 large solid wood beads and 2 extra-long laces for hours of bead lacing fun!
- Wooden Blocks
Sand Wooden Rainbow Unit Blocks by Guidecraft Ordinary wooden unit blocks are fun for sensory seekers (the weight, smooth feel, movement required to build, repetitive motion, sound of blocks clacking and falling) but now Guidecraft has ratcheted up the fun for sensory seekers with their Sand Wooden Rainbow Unit Blocks! Each wooden block is filled with brightly colored sand! Watch the sand trickle one way then another as it’s tilted! Listen to the sand moving. Look at the brightly colored sand as it moves…and then is still. An adventure in color, light, and sound! Indulge your child’s appetite for exploration by merging blocks together to form new colors, or stack the blocks in a different order each time to form new and exciting shapes. Includes 8 blocks: 4 rectangle and 4 half moon shapes. (also available as Bead Rainbow Blocks, Water Rainbow Blocks, and Rainbow Blocks)
Latches Board by Melissa & Doug Winner ASTRA Best Toys for Kids This beautifully crafted wooden learning board with polished brass locks, latches, hooks and clasps has hide and seek pictures behind each door! This tremendous value is the perfect wooden toy for the curious sensory seeking child! The real working hardware helps develop fine motor and memory skills! A great wooden toy for teaching safety as well as developing dexterity! The visually stimulating, shiny, brass hardware as well as the repetitive nature of opening and closing each door, will keep your child interested hour upon hour!
- BONUS ENTRY: This list would not be complete without including Bilibo. What is Bilibo? It’s basically a large plastic shell – brightly colored, with a smooth surface. Bilibo has won many, many awards since it’s introduction! Deceptively simple and magically attractive, Bilibo’s iconic shell shape and bright colors immediately appeal to children. Developed in collaboration with childhood development experts, Bilibo’s unique form arouses curiosity, engages the imagination, and encourages creativity. Both boys and girls find unlimited ways to play with Bilibos–using them to rock in, spin in, hide under, sit on, tote with, and peek through. Bilibo provides hours of fun, indoors and out: at home, at the park, at the beach, in water, and even on snow. Bilibo is highly acclaimed by childhood learning specialists and toy experts worldwide.
Whether Christmas is coming, a special birthday, or you’re just looking for a great gift, this list of Top 10 Sensory Seeking Toys is sure to include at least one that is just right for the little sensory seeker in your life!
Tags: Sensory Toys, Special Needs Toys, Toys for Children with Special Needs, Sensory, Autism, Toys, Autism Toys, Toys for Children with Autism, Christmas Gift for Autistic Child, Gift for Autistic Child, Gift for Child with Autism, SPD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Gift for Child with SPD
special needs toys