15 Occupational Therapy Recommended Sensory Toys

Claudia Meyer
Claudia Meyer

I was recently asked to provide some sensory toy ideas to help promote the SaintA Toy Drive. My first response was, “All toys are sensory toys.”

Here’s why: Toys create a lot of sensations around the five senses we all learned about in school (hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell) but they may also tap into the more recently discussed senses, including proprioception and vestibular (more on those later.)

15 Popular Sensory Toys

First, the basics. We all have our own combination of sensory patterns, which may lead to avoiding or seeking out more or less sensory stimulation. For that reason, it’s difficult to list my favorite or most recommended sensory toys, but here are 15 that come to mind:

  1. Bean Bag Toss
  2. Bubbles
  3. Chewlery (and other chew toys)
  4. Fidget Toys that are squishable, squeezable and tactile
  5. Hoberman Sphere
  6. Kanoodle
  7. Kinetic Sand
  8. Lunar Light Show
  9. Play-Doh (including toys and tools)
  10. Pull and Stretch Balls
  11. Snap Cubes
  12. Soothing Rain Tube
  13. Tangles and Twistables
  14. Teddy Wear (with clothes to button, zip and snap)
  15. Weighed Blanket or Lycra Wrap

Most of the above can be found on the National Autism Resources website or ILSLearningCorner.com, except Play-Doh.

Sensory Toy

Sensory Integration

Did you know?

When picking out toys for children, it helps to organize around sensory needs, not necessarily age?

Claudia Meyer, OTR, SaintA Occupational Therapist, says an active kid who is very busy needs toys that fit his big movements, while a quiet kid probably needs smaller toys to fit his smaller gestures, regardless of his size or age.

The quiet child might do well with a Mini Hoberman Sphere that expands to 12 inches, while the busier child would get more benefit from the original sized Hoberman Sphere, which stretches to 30 inches in diameter!

Mini Hoberman SphereOriginal Hoberman Sphere

Source: National Autism Resources

In the past few years, we have been looking at how a number of other senses impact how well a child is regulated. One sense is proprioception, which is how your body senses weight and movement all the way down to the joints. Another is vestibular, which has to do with both physical balance and our place in space, organizing information from the other senses.

Examples of toys and tools for improved proprioception include weighted lap pads, plush animals and compression vests; hand-held massagers; heating pads; vibrating pillows and much more. Primary examples of vestibular regulation tools are swings, hammocks and hanging nests. Teeter-totters, trampolines and pogo sticks are other good examples. But walking, riding bikes/riding toys, and just everyday playground equipment are other good strategies.

In occupational therapy, we always say we work from the bottom up. Even though our work is hands on, it’s brain based and it all starts at the brain stem.

You might also enjoy this blog post, “Regulating the Brain, from the Stem Up,” from a Treatment Foster Care colleague.


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