Discovering your child has sensory needs quickly opens you up to a whole new world of spiky, squishy, noisy, bouncy things that used to seem like novelties. You’ll suddenly find yourself looking through toy aisles for anything with odd textures, bright colors, or calming visuals.
1. Water Beads
Water beads are a hit in our house. My son has an aversion to some wet or messy things, but that goes out the window when the water beads come out. They’ve been a great tool to get him used to getting his hands wet and can also have a calming effect on him when he’s feeling wound up.
When we get out the water beads, we get out the Helping Hands tools. They encourage fine motor development, add some extra fun with the already-fun beads, and they look cool. You can use them with all kinds of materials, like dry cereal, small manipulatives, water, whatever.
If you’ve got a chewer on your hands, chewable jewelry is a handy and discreet toy to satisfy oral sensory needs. Toss some necklaces and bracelets into a dress-up box. Even let your kid wear one to school so they don’t bite their pencils to death.
On a recent trip to our local science center, there was a wall of impression boards, and my kids went nuts for it. There were a ton of different things to play with and exhibits to experience around them, but they kept coming back to the pin board and pushing their hands and faces into it.
5. Kinetic Sand
This is another toy I thought might not go over well with a child who is sensitive to messy feelings, but this has been a favorite. Just like the water beads, this sand brings out a sense of calm in my son when he needs it. Burying small toys in a tray of this is also a fun activity. You can let your kid use small tools like the Helping Hands to dig them out for some extra sensory stimulation.
These are an awesome toy when it comes to proprioception. Bouncing, balance, and grip are all in practice. Hoppers are also great for developing core strength. My kids like to bounce on them even when they’re just watching some TV.
For audio stimulation, Boomwhackers have a big following. When you hit these tubes against another surface, they emit a musical note. Each colored stick produces a different note, so there is visual stimulation as well. Music teachers seem to really love these.
These have been a hit toy for children with and without sensory needs, so these are great for playdates. My husband might love them even more than our kids do. They’re compact and easy to travel with, so I throw a stack in my bag if we are going out somewhere that my son will need to do some waiting.
Helping your child navigate the world around them when they are experiencing it in a different way than you’re used to can be a challenge at times. But it can also be really fun to discover new ways of playing and learning. Personally, some of my happiest moments as the parent of a child with sensory needs have been finding toys that are just the right fit for them.
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