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Awesome Toys With Extra Benefits for Kiddos Who Are Sensory Sensitive

All kids crave sensory stimulation — these toys engage kids' senses AND imaginations, without overwhelming them

Heather Marcoux

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Our senses are the building blocks of human experience, but every human interprets sensory experiences in their own, unique way. That’s why sensory play is such an important part of childhood. By touching and feeling their environment kids learn how they can impact it—and how it impacts them. 

Research tells us sensory play doesn’t just help kids’ cognitive skills, it also teaches them how to manage stress (an important skill in this high-stress world).

Why do kids need sensory sensitive play?

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Kids come into a world that bombards them with sensory input, but young minds and bodies need practice to learn how to process all that information. It’s a skill each child develops uniquely, through play. Play teaches kids how to connect with and understand the sometimes overwhelming (and sometimes soothing) sensations in their environments. 

Because of this, sensory sensitive play is especially important for children who are neurodivergent or have a sensory processing disorder. 

For kids who feel the world differently, a tag on the back of a shirt may cause a stimulus overload, while a tactile toy might engage their senses in a comforting way. Every kid has their own unique sensory needs, and meeting those needs through play teaches kids how to regulate their emotions. 

Different types of sensory play develop different parts of kids’ brains. Tactile play with finger paints or sensory bins teaches kids how the world feels, while other types of sensory play teach them about how they feel, emotionally and physically. 

Kids need sensory play to figure out what this big, messy world is all about and how they fit in it — and sensory toys can help them do that!

Here are some of the best sensory toys for kids, and why they're so useful (and fun!).

Tactile and Texture Toys

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Kids do some of their earliest learning through their sense of touch. They reach for us, they reach for their favorite blankets...and curious kiddos may reach for things that are just a little more messy than parents would like. While mud pies and dirt are great, it turns out all tactile and texture-based toys serve an important role in kids' play. 

Squeezing dough, slime or kinetic sand through their little fingers can lead kids to big cognitive leaps, and help kids learn how to focus on their hands when light or sound threatens to overwhelm their senses.

This kind of play helps kids figure out what feels good to them while also developing their fine motor skills. Early math and science skills can also be developed through texture-based play as kids figure out the basics of temperature, size and shape.

Soft and Squishy Toys

Soft Toys

This big world can get a bit overwhelming for little humans, and sensory-friendly toys can help kids find their calm — or channel their excess energy.

Soft, huggable toys provide a sensory experience that some kids use to self-soothe, and  proprioception sensory play (like jumping, pushing and pulling) teaches kids to process their body’s movements while getting their body moving. 

Fidget Toys

Fidget Toys

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For a lot of kids, particularly those with ADHD or Autism, toys that keep those hands busy can be a soothing form of sensory play. 

Research suggests that playing with a fidget toy can help improve a child’s attention and cognitive skills because when their body is busy with the toy the brain is able to focus on receiving information. 

These toys can also add some fun (which helps regulate emotions) during a road trip or an otherwise boring moment in a waiting room. 

There are almost as many different types of fidget toys as there are ways of learning and processing, so this category has something that will appeal to every kid.

Parents should know that sensory play is all about exploring and there is no one way to do it. Many toys (and DIY creations) can engage kids in the kind of play that’s going to give them the sensations they need to create, explore and thrive in a world full of stimulating (and sometimes overstimulating) experiences.