Play is one of the most vital pillars of childhood. And the statement remains true across cultures, genders, and regardless of a child's neurological status. Choosing the best toys that fit their cognition is always paramount to supporting kids with neurodivergent conditions.
According to CDC, 1 in every 44 children is identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder accompanied by sensory issues. So, the best toys for kids with autism are the ones that provide sensory input and can offer therapeutic relief to young infants and children.
Before we dig into the best toys for kids with autism, let's try first to understand what sensory play is and its underlying benefits:
What is Sensory Play?
Kids with autism normally struggle with sensory processing. This may manifest in two ways: hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. Both types of sensitivities affect how a child responds to external stimuli like light, sound, touch, taste, or smell.
Hypersensitive kids with ASD may avoid things that overstimulate their senses. On the other hand, hyposenstive kids may pursue additional stimulation if they don't feel stimulated enough.
Sensory play helps by stimulating the senses of kids with autism. Engagement in this kind of play supports three important aspects:
Proprioception (or sense of their own body)
Vestibular input (sense of position, direction, and movement of the head), and
Tactile stimulation (sense of touch).
Moreover, sensory play is described as the foundation of all skills kids learn subsequently, like reading and writing.
What are Sensory Toys and their Benefits?
Sensory toys are the tools of the trade if you want autistic children to engage in sensory play. These sensory toys help make kids with autism relaxed and focused. In addition, the contours and feel of each toy gradually decrease a child's fear and discomfort in grasping objects. Finally, sensory toys also reinforce their social skills like sharing and negotiating.
Here are the benefits of sensory toys relative to the 5 senses:
Sight: Sensory toys with vibrant colors and contrasts can stimulate visual interest and pique the attention of kids with autism leading to cognitive stimulation.
Hearing: Sensory toys that produce interesting music or sounds provide auditory engagement that may facilitate language development.
Taste: Some sensory toys like teething rings have oral satisfaction.
Touch: Sensory toys vary in form, texture, firmness, and rigidity, which can stimulate kids with autism differently and build their motor skills.
Smell: Aromas emitted by sensory toys can elicit curiosity and olfactory stimulation among autistic children, which may calm their nerves or increase their environmental awareness.
Best Toys for Kids with Autism
1. The STEMscope Kids' Microscope
Thanks to its lightweight build, this portable microscope is every adventurous child's companion. The contours of the handle fit perfectly with a child's small and often clumsy hands, plus the non-slip grip features subtle tactile bumps that add extra texture that feels nice to the touch and keeps the tool from falling off.
Most importantly, the STEMscope is great for kids with autism as it supports visual stimulation. Peeking into the viewfinder reveals micro-mysteries invisible to the naked eye and will surely captivate a child's curiosity!
2. Classic Pin-Art Games
Classic pin-art games are one of the most time-honored classics because of their unique 3D modeling functionality and sensory support for kids with autism. By manipulating the pins, children can create as many 3D designs as possible. Anything is possible, from various hand signs to their face, as long as it fits the board.
This autism sensory toy is useful for stimulating kids' visual interest, and the metal pins offer some tactile satisfaction for autistic children. You can also play games by hiding objects underneath and letting your child guess what it is through the pins' conformation.
3. Foam Pogo Jumper
Sometimes, kids associated with Autism Personality Disorder exhibit bursts of hyperactivity, and their pent-up energy must be released through physical activities. The foam pogo stick from Flybar is an excellent device to facilitate hours of healthy and bouncy fun. It's very versatile as children can use them whether indoors or out.
There is no need to worry about floor damage because this stick is made of foam --- soft and quiet. It is a perfect tool to help your child redirect their jolting energy into a fitness-promoting, hand-eye coordination training, and balance-enhancing play session.
4. Edushape Rainmaker
Raindrops sounds are a kind of noise that everyone enjoys listening to, even kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. And this Edushape Rainmaker is a great auditory stimulant that some parents of autistic children claim their kids can play with all day.
Beads accumulate on one end of the tube and, when flipped, slowly trickles down the other end creating a soothing rain-like sound effect. This is perfect for calming children that suffer from sensory problems. On top of that, the rainbow design is a visual delight to look at!
5. Sensory Sock
Sensory socks have been around for a long time. But have remained in the market thanks to their warmth to kids with autism.
The sensory sock is made from stretchy polyester and spandex that keeps children cocooned without constricting their mobility. The set is splendid in keeping kids feeling safe and secure to calm their jumpy nerves while also increasing their bodily and spatial awareness.
Unlike other sensory socks from other companies, the ones from YAERSI use snappable buttons for enclosure rather than velcro to ensure durability!
6. Buckle Toy
The Bucke Toy is perhaps one of the best toys for kids with autism because it trains children with important day-to-day tasks like buckling seatbelts, zipping sippers, interlocking latches, and pressing buttons while remaining to be a visually stimulating sight for sensory-challenged kids.
The buckle toy from Sensory4U offers endless fun for kids as they solve the puzzle and train their hand-eye coordination. The set comes with 6 buckle-able/snappable parts and 5 zippers to instill the practice into kids so they can perform it confidently and independently.
7. Sensory Chew Necklaces
Research suggests that approximately 40% of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder suffer from anxiety, and chew toys are effective coping mechanisms for this matter. Chew toys reduce feelings of anxiety from overstimulated children and may also promote oral stimulation for those that need one.
These sensory chewies from TUXEPOC offer BPA-free, phthalate-free, latex-free, and lead-free chewy necklaces made from food-grade silicone. This provides a safe alternative instead of using their hands or hard objects that may damage their teeth when feeling overcome by anxiety.
The set comes with 6 chewy toys in different colors and contour architecture for visual and tactile stimulation. Chewy toys are also great for those suffering from PDD and ADHD.
8. Special Supplies Physical Therapy Putty
Physical therapy is as critical to autistic kids as cognitive training, and this special supplies kit can help sensory-challenged kids strengthen their dexterity, spatial recognition, and motor skills.
The set comes with 6 tubs of hand therapy putty, 3 finger exercisers, 3 hand grip exercisers, and 3 egg-shaped grip strengtheners. Stimulating the hand and fingers is easy thanks to the pliable putty that's easy to pinch, pull, and squish.
Instead of toxic plastic and rubber, this putty set is BPA-free ensuring the safety of every kid that uses them.
9. Mirari Pop! Pop! Piano
Mirari Piano combines the visually delighting looks of a rainbow, audibly enticing sounds of a piano, and the tactility of colored balls, making it undoubtedly one of the best toys for kids with autism.
Depending on your child's preferences, one keypress may reveal a pretty piano tune or a wacky sound and pops out a colored ball depending on the pressed piano tile. This Mirari Piano set is also useful in teaching children cause and effect and spatial awareness.
You may also choose to remove the plastic dome to send the balls flying into the air, and your kid can pick them up from the floor after!
10. Crayola Ultimate Light Board Drawing Tablet
Last but not least, this lightboard drawing tablet can unleash your child's inner Picasso as they draw, sketch, or trace all around the screen. It comes with 6 mini washable gel markers to wipe the previous drawings off easily. Moreover, one button press lights up your child's art and gives it a vibrant makeover!
This drawing pad is perfect for kids with autism to share their artistry in the world while also supporting their fascination for visual stimulation. It's a fun set to have at home, and the built-in marker storage keeps things organized!
Get An All-around Sensory Toy Now!
The STEMscope features impeccable benefits that kids with autism will certainly appreciate. Aside from the visually appealing colorway, the tactile bumps that add texture, and the lens that reveals the world's micro-wonders, it is also portable enough for outdoor usage and exploration — A fun tool that promotes thought-inducing and curiosity-building exploration!
So feel free to check out our full arsenal of science toys now!