'Tis the season to be jolly, but for children with sensory issues, all the lights, sights, and sounds of the holiday season can be a bit overwhelming.
Children with sensory processing disorder, autism, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can experience sensory overload from regular sights and sounds we take for granted in our everyday environment. Add the holiday bells and whistles and parents of children with sensory issues know all too well the temper tantrums or complete shut downs that can ensue.
While sensory toys can help calm a child with sensory issues, therapists also use them to help desensitize children, the idea being the more they are exposed to sensory input in a fun and safe way, the more they'll be able to tolerate senses in the world around them.
Why not combine fun and learning for your sensitive child this holiday season by gifting him or her with a sensory toy that will build new skills as well as help them (and you) enjoy the holiday season? Check out this list of the latest and greatest sensory toys to help put your child at ease while providing them with a lot of amusement, too.
1. Sensory stepperz
These sensory stepperz works on a child's tactile (touch) and vestibular (balance) senses as kids try to keep their balance while walking on different textured vinyl stones with their bare feet.
Where to get it: Scholar's Choice
2. Sensory mini mats
Also working to improve tactile sensitivities are these sensory mini mats, a set of six mats allowing kids to touch and feel different textures with their hands or feet. Spread the mats out on the floor or hang them on the wall. Ask your child to close their eyes and describe what they feel.
Where to get it: Fun and Function
3. Electric pet dog
Some sounds can actually feel like pain to a child with autism. One study showed how sounds from home appliances and animal sounds from musical toys helped desensitize children with autism who had hypersensitivities to sound. Children with autism also have difficulty with social interaction, and sensory sensitivities might be one of the reasons why.
There are studies currently being done on the effects of interactive robot toys for children with autism. This electric pet dog responds to your child's touch, making this toy a great tactile and social interactive toy. It also helps with auditory processing because your child will have to listen in order to respond to the dog's cues.
4. Senseez vibrating cushion
Results from a study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis show how a vibrating sensory toy can improve verbal initiations and responses in children with autism by prompting them to initiate social interaction. This vibrating cushion will help put your child at ease with its soothing motion and sound.
Where to get it: Toys R Us
5. Body Sox
Pressure helps to induce calmness and relieve anxiety for people with autism and ADHD. Body Sox works by applying pressure on a child's body as they wrap themselves in a colourful and fun, see-through and breathable, huge lycra sock.
Where to get it: Special Needs Toys
6. Silver sensory reflective balls
Children with ADHD have been shown to have less of an ability to process visual sensory information. Help them get a head start on improving their visual sense with these fun and wacky reflective balls.
Where to get it: Scholar's Choice
7. Simon air game
While not officially considered a sensory toy in the traditional sense, this popular retro toy from the '80s is making a new and improved comeback this year. This is great for children with sensory issues because it works on their visual and auditory senses with its "hypnotic lights and sound sequences," which children must memorize and attempt to repeat.
Where to get it: Walmart
8. Monkey balance board
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children with ADHD have impaired balance. Help your child improve his or her balancing skills this holiday while having fun on this monkey balance board.
9. Wikki stix
Studies show it's important for children with autism to work on developing their fine motor skills from an early age. Wikki stix is a reusable and fun sensory toy that has kids working on their fine motor skills by using their fingers to shape and mold thin, pliable sticks to create silly works of art.
Your hyperactive child might enjoy a Bilibo to swing and spin on. This toy, originally designed in Switzerland, has won numerous awards and appeals to kids of all types.
Where to get it: West Coast Kids
11. Kinetic Sand
Your child will love squishing the sand between their fingers and marvel at how it moves on its own! This sensory toy develops a child's fine motor skills as they work with the sand that contains non-toxic polymer, the magic ingredient that helps the sand continually move like a dense fluid. The tactile stimulation is also calming and relaxing.
12. Squigz starter set
Squigz provide all kinds of sensory interaction. They're fun to touch and manipulate, they stick to practically every surface, they're colourful, and they make a fun popping sound when pulled in and out of position.
Where to get it: Chapters/Indigo
You could probably make this toy, but if you're not crafty then try the stepper to improve your child's balance and coordination. It also helps with their gross motor skills.
Where to get it: Fat Brain Toys
Here's another fun toy to help build your child's gross motor and balancing skills as they arrange foam kablocks on a platform and then make it all go kaboom by stepping on a stomp pad.
Where to get it: Mindware
15. Tunnels of Fun
Last but not least, have these tunnels of fun set up and ready for your child when the holidays just become too much for them to handle, including the sensory toys, and they just need a break.
Where to get it: Goose and Moose
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