Children explore the world with their senses.
But for children with autism or sensory processing disorder, sensory input is overwhelming and often leads to an overreaction or underreaction to everyday stimuli.
Incorporating sensory integration therapy into your child’s daily routine can help your child explore, create, and calm the senses leading to desensitization to stimuli and fewer meltdowns.
Even if you’re not the type of parent who creates sensory bins, there are plenty of sensory toys geared toward helping your child explore his or her sensory system.
Here are a variety of sensory toys for children with autism!
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you click on them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
What Senses Are Activated With Sensory Play?
Sensory integration therapy is able to activate all a child’s senses including sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound.
But sensory play also activates two senses called vestibular and proprioceptive senses.
The vestibular sense is an individuals sense of balance, while the proprioceptive is a person’s sense of where each body part is in relation to space.
The proprioceptive sense is also known as body awareness.
Sensory toys seek to activate multiple senses at once to help your child become less sensitive and reactive to certain sensory stimuli.
Toys for sensory stimulation are an easy, no-mess way to help a child with autism process sensory input.
What Are The Benefits Of Sensory Play?
- Builds nerve connections to help with brain development
- Exposes the senses to different stimuli to help a child deal with distressing situations
- Supports language development
- Develops fine motor skills
- Introduces problem solving skills
- Shows cause and effect
- Improves memory
- Increases attention and focus
- Provides a calming effect
- Helps develop social skills when playing with other children
- Helps develop self-control for rules and boundaries
How Does Sensory Play Help Children With Autism?
Other than all the benefits above, sensory play is especially helpful for children with autism who need help calming themselves.
If your child is truing with self-regulating his or her emotions, pull out the sensory toys to give your child something else to focus on other than their upset feelings.
Changes are, they’ll become so distracted with sensory toys and activating multiple senses they will forget all about the reason behind their meltdown.
One way I use sensory toys with my son is by using them for redirection.
Redirection is about taking a negative activity and replacing it with a positive, acceptable behavior.
My child is a rocker! He will rock (sometimes aggressively) on the couch for long periods of time.
To replace this behavior with an acceptable one, I hand him a sensory toy. Usually a sensory ball (he’s obsessed with circles).
Sensory toys are perfect for an on-the go sensory experience with no mess compared to sensory bins.
Sensory Toys For Autism
Fidget Pop Tubes
Fidget tubes offer your child vibrant colors for visual sensory, plus different textures for tactile stimulation.
For children who need auditory stimulation, these sensory toys offer a satisfying popping sound with durable plastic that can be manipulated by being pulled, snapped, and bended.
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Textured Stretchy Strings
Textured stretchy strings are built for calming anxious or frustrated children with autism.
With 6 bright colors and different textures your child can squeeze, wrap, stretch and even make pattern designs to enhance creativity.
Montessori Sensory board
Sensory boards provide an all-in-one activity area for autistic children of preschool age.
This busy board offers 10 preschool activities for a child to explore basic essential life skills based on Montessori.
The board is designed teach children occupational therapy skills like learning how to zip a zipper or tie shoelaces.
These sensory circles are able to awake your child’s senses to increase concentration and focus.
Use at home or in the classroom.
The sensory discs come with five large stepping discs with five small hand discs for children to stimulate senses in two different areas of the body.
These sensory toys help children with autism by increasing balance, coordination and preconception.
Spinning Light-Up Wand
Nothing calms an autism meltdown more than the motion of lights to stimulate the senses.
This sensory LED handheld wand is able to illuminate a room to provide a visual sensory experience for your child.
Liquid Motion Bubbler
These sensory toys provide simple visual stimulation with multiple colors that can be manipulated by flipping it to let gravity change the direction of the colored bubbles.
It can also be shaken to create smaller visually stimulating bubbles.
Sensory Toy Activity Set
This 20 piece set has become one of my son’s favorite sensory activities or multiple reason…
- He loves to stack things
- He loves anything circular
- He chews on everything (oral stimming
Since my son has a major oral stimming problem, I need toys that will hold up to aggressive chewing.
These sensory toys are durable to hold up to chewing!
The different textures provide him with tactile stimulation mixed with vibrant colors he loves!
Sensory Fidget Tubes
These sensory fidget toys are perfect for parents who want a sensory bottle experience without the DIY.
This set of four tubes are designed for helping children with autism “fidget” with sensory stimulation to help calm and regulate intense emotions.
Squeezy Water Beads
Have you ever wanted to do a sensory activity that includes water beads? Well now you can without the mess!
These spikey balls offer a tactile experience without water beads inside the textured ball that can be squished and stretched perfect for relieving anxiety and calming the senses.
Be advised these spikey balls do not hold up to chewing for children who oral stim.
Sensory Rain Stick
Sensory toys like rain sticks provide a child with auditory stimulation resembling the sound of rain.
The rain sounds are able to calm an anxious mind while seeing the brightly colored beads also provides visual stimulation.
Spikey Sensory Balls
Sensory balls are all the rage in my house! The sensory balls hold up to children with autism who need to chew, plus they’re bouncy!
My son loves to have these spikey sensory balls rubbed on his back for a massage 🙂
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Marble Fidget Toy
While these marble fidget toys technically fall into the “fidget toy” category, they do provide children with a sensory experience with tactile stimulation from nylon and marble.
These are perfect for relieving anxiety!
Giant Stress Ball
A stress ball is a must for your child’s sensory toy kit! Squeeze and stretch the stress ball to help calm your child.
Plus, the more your child manipulates the squishy ball, the ball begins to change colors offer him or her a visual sensory experience.
However, be warned that if your child oral stims or chews on things, this ball will make a mess!
A fidget cube is an on-the-go calming tool for children with autism.
It gives your child the tactile stimulation he or she craves.
But this fidget cube also provides auditory stimulation with clicks, rollers, spinners, and flickers.
It can be taken anywhere and easy concealed in a pocket to calm anxiety and increase mental focus.
Sensory play is vital for every child. But for children with autism, sensory play is a must!
I’m currently trying to incorporate a sensory play activity once per day into my son’s schedule.
I have three reasons for increasing more sensory play:
- To help calm him during meltdowns
- Distract from stimming behavior (rocking)
- To focus his attention and increase concentration
Sensory toys for autism are a great no-mess way to engage, stimulate, and calm your child.
Why sensory play is important