It’s no secret that hands-on learning and exploration is vital for a young child’s development. And sensory toys, in particular, are an excellent way for kids to engage with different textures, sights, sounds and even smells. “Sensory toys provide stimulation that helps create pathways to your child’s brain,” says pediatric occupational therapist Sarah Appleman. “These neuronal pathways are crucial for further skill development they will use when they are older.” Think: problem solving skills, language development, fine and gross motor skills and overall brain development.
Sensory toys are also great for calming or alerting children, depending on what they need, Appleman tells us. “For example, if you have a child who is a picky eater or tactile defensive (they refrain from touching certain textures), using sensory toys such as moon sand, dry rice or a bean bin will help desensitize your child and allow them to explore touch in a safe and calm way. Once the brain properly interprets this information, it can tolerate new textures without becoming overwhelmed thus preventing negative reactions.”
And that’s not all—sensory toys can be especially appealing to children on the spectrum, says Autism Parenting. This is because these playthings can help a child stay calm and engage her senses in an enjoyable and safe way.
And while every toy has some sensory component to it (there are five senses after all), the best ones are those that combine sensory input with targeted skill-building exercises. Here are our top picks for sensory toys for kids.