Which sensory toys are worth buying, and who needs them? Do you have the kind of kid who would rather crash into your couch or jump off the coffee table than sit and play with traditional toys? I did (well, do) and I found that when I bought him “regular” toys to play with they either wound up collecting dust or just periodically dumped onto the floor and left. Anybody else have a toy bin dumper? Well, these 10 toys are not only a big hit over and over again, but they are also good for your little sensory seeker’s brain! One of my favorite parts as a mom with some tactile avoidance issues is they are not messy and there are no little pieces.
Disclaimer: I am not an Occupational Therapist, I’m a mom of a child with sensory processing disorder who is just a huge fan of what OT brings to enrich and change children’s lives. I encourage any parent of a child with sensory processing issues to add their local OT to their child’s care team and to also follow some OT accounts and hashtags on social media. Some of my favorites on Instagram are occupationaltherapyabc, brainconnextherapy, perthchildrensot, ilslearning, sensorydigest and totsontarget, but there are so many wonderful OT’s who are putting their knowledge out there to help parents and educators serve kids like ours. For an interview with one of our friendly local OT’s head over to this blog post.
Megan’s Top 10 Sensory Toys
- Disc swing
- Crash pad
- Body sock
- Wiggle cushion
- Balance board
- Tape (for obstacle courses)
- Bubble fidget
- Scoot board
1. Disc Swing
This is a common outside toy that really gives the vestibular system a good workout. If you have a big playroom, you could even put one inside for lounging or rainy days. The big disc swings are so versatile, you can try having your child lay on their belly or their back. Sometimes studying or reading can be easier on the swing (we used to study spelling words on the swing).
I know there must be some kids who do not like trampolines, but I have to say I have not had the pleasure of meeting one. Bouncing is wonderful proprioceptive input (our sense of where our body is in space, or the brain’s map of the body parts). You could get a big trampoline—one of my friends integrated a slide into theirs for extra fun—or a smaller indoor one. The small ones are great for rainy days or bouncing while watching TV.
Crawling is one of the most underrated infant activities. Even after infant hood it’s a great activity, especially for kids with sensory issues. Having trouble with word problems in math? Take a crawl break. Many tunnels are collapsable which makes them easy to store, and are lightweight, so even if you line your hallway with tunnels for your kids to crawl through, it’s easy for grownups to pass by. This is among the easiest sensory toys to make: string some dining room chairs together and you have an instant tunnel!
4. Crash pad
If you couch cushions could use a break, a crash pad is a great investment. You can make one by sewing two kind sized flat sheets together at the edges and stuffing it with chunks of foam. Do you have an aggressive hugger? Do you have a daredevil who jumps off of everything? A crash pad is fantastic for kids who need to crash!
5. Body sock
A lycra body sock has been one of the best investments in our house. It’s great for lounging or for activities to strengthen body awareness. The resistance of the lycra provides full body proprioceptive input. Of all the sensory toys listed here, this one is my favorite. Try doing some yoga in it!
6. Wiggle Cushion
Our wiggle cushions have been with us since Kindergarten. From sitting on them at school, to the dinner table—sometimes you just need to wiggle! The activity of wiggling on the cushion strengthens your child’s core which can improve their posture and even their handwriting!
7. Balance board
I have to admit, this one is fun for me, too! There are so many different shapes and types of balance board to try! Similar to the wiggle cushion, working on the balance board is a great core strengthening activity and it’s something your child can do actively or passively.
Obstacle courses are king for doing at home therapeutic activities with your sensory seeker. You can tie together so many activities this way! You can tape down a sensory walk, tape down a figure 8 to walk, they even make road tape that your child can push their cars down while crawling along. Tape is super versatile.
9. Bubble fidget
This is among the latest sensory toys to “pop” up everywhere. It’s a fidget toy new to us, but it combines the fun of popping bubble wrap with the quiet of silicone. There’s something so satisfying about pushing down all the bubbles and then running your finger across the back to pop them all back up! My son’s OT plays a game with him where she hides a marble under 1 or more bubbles and he has to find them. For younger kids it’s great for working on 1-to-1 counting.
10. Scoot boards
Scoot boards are one of those toys that can grow with your child. They can ride on them outside before they’re old enough to ride a bike and can continue to do activities on them into older childhood, too. Got a toe walker? Using their heels to push and pull their body along on the scoot board can help send proprioceptive input up the back of their legs to their brain. Have them lay on their belly to work on hand, arm and shoulder strength.
Top 10 Sensory Toys Honorable mention: the yoga ball. My oldest is purely a sensory seeker, but my youngest has some tactile avoidance issues while also proprioceptive seeking. My go-tos, like joint squishes, were a little too intense for her, but she loves an activity we called “cookie dough” before bed. I have her lay on her belly and use the yoga ball to roll her out like cookie dough. It’s a great way to provide some more calm proprioceptive input before bed.