For toddlers, sensory toys are a great way to learn about the world around them. They’re giving them new stuff to feel, smell, see and listen to. Sensory toys are also a great way to help teach cause and effect to your kids. For instance, it will squish if you squeeze the ball, or if you scrunch the book, it will crinkle. To you, it may seem mundane, but to your toddler, the novelty of these experiences cannot be understated. Anyway, we know how difficult it can be to find the right options for your toddlers – after all, each child is unique. This is why we created this list of the best sensory toys for you to browse through for toddlers.
Why do toddlers need sensory toys?
Sensory toys help your child learn about their senses and to explore them. Usually, they provide a blend of new textures, colors, and smells. The good ones are versatile and force your child to leverage them with their creativity and intellect so that they can understand cause and effect, too. Overall, for parents with busy toddlers who like to learn, they are an awesome choice. In certain situations, they are also a fantastic way of helping to relax the mind of a child with special needs.
What makes a good sensory toy?
It is hard to discover a decent sensory toy. The best are lasting and able to endure heavy usage and abuse by kids of different ages and abilities. They will need to be flexible in general. For instance, if all your baby can do is squish it, they will get bored. However, they will still discover new ways of using it if they can squish it, stretch it, and twist it.
5 Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers
BunMo XL Pop Tubes
When it comes to active sensory toys, it is important to find an option that provides lots of learning opportunities. They should make it so your child needs to use their imagination and brainpower to manipulate them. The BunMo XL Pop Tubes are an excellent choice because they offer lots of feedback and teach your child to think outside the box.
These tubes twist together, so the more you have, the better. Meanwhile, the fun shapes provide both tactile and auditory feedback, which keeps your child interested in them long enough to learn to use them. They can be turned into fun ropes, tube cities, car ramps, and more. Your kids will love finding new and interesting ways to twist them, wrap them, and attach them. The fun texture and crinkly noises help them really get a feel for the movement, which adds to the fun.
- They are uniquely designed to be twisted, turned, and attached to each other
- These toys provide several ways for your child to learn to explore, which in turn keeps them interested for longer
- They are large and easy to manipulate for toddlers
- We appreciate how durable they are
- It is tough to get them back into their original shape once extended
Impresa Products Monkey Noodles
Kids love things that stretch, squish, and twist. The more something can be manipulated and changed, the better. That said, you want to ensure that the toys you buy for your child will last. The Impresa Products –Monkey Noodles are the best of both worlds, and both you and your kids will love them.
These squishy rope toys are made of non-toxic and hypoallergenic materials, making them safe for all kids, no matter their needs. We love that they can be pulled, twisted, tied, and bent and they’ll still go back to their original shape after. A single 12-inch rope can even be stretched all the way to 8 feet just to pop right back.
- Each set comes with five fun-colored monkey noodles
- They are extremely durable and will last a long time
- Your child can easily manipulate them into different shapes and squish and pull them for hours
- They are safe for kids with allergies
- The price is very affordable
- They have a sticky texture that easily picks up hair and lint
Pilpoc theFube Fidget Cube
As your toddler gets older, they may get bored with some of the one-dimensional sensory toys. They will also be expected to sit still more as they enter school. Fidget cubes are a great choice for these kids because they are portable and easy to manipulate without making a mess. One of our favorites is The Pilpoc theFube Fidget Cube.
This six-sided fidget cube comes with several different tactile options that provide your child with plenty of opportunities to keep their mind busy. They can click buttons, switch the on/off switch, massage the bumpy side, roll around the joystick, twist the gears, and click and spin the wheel. All of these options provide plenty of stimulation to their brain, which in turn helps them to focus better. Overall, it is an awesome choice for kids who struggle to stay still in situations that require it.
- This cube comes with a carrying case, making it easy to throw in a bag or backpack
- There are several silent fidget options for quiet places
- Your child will be able to switch through the different sides in order to avoid becoming bored with it
- Available in several colors
- The size is perfect for older toddlers and young preschoolers
- We wish it was more durable
Bristle Blocks Jungle Adventures
Blocks are always a hit with kids, but most of them are very simple. They are smooth and connect in very specific ways, which can stifle a child’s imagination. That is why we think all toddlers need a set of versatile and imaginative Bristle Blocks.
Bristle Blocks connect using rubbery, soft, and flexible bristles. They can be attached in any direction or angle, and the tactile feedback of the bristles is very satisfying for kids. In addition, the bright colors, fun faces, and distinct shapes can keep them interested for hours while they find new and exciting ways to arrange them. The blocks are BPA-free, as well, making them an excellent choice for young toddlers who still like to put everything in their mouths.
- This set comes with 54 chunky Bristle Blocks
- They are designed to look like fun jungle animals and flowers
- Care is easy — simply wash in soapy water and air dry
- These blocks help with fine motor skills, concentration, and hand-eye coordination
- They are affordable
- It can be hard for your toddler to pull them apart without help
Kinetic Sand Castle Containers
Although we generally prefer for our kids to play with clean toys, sometimes it makes more sense to make a mess. Messy sensory toys often have the most to offer in terms of learning, and Kinetic Sand Castle Containers are a fantastic example of that.
Kinetic Sand is specially made to be easy for toddlers to move around and shape. This set comes with ten unique colors, and each one comes in its own castle mold for a fun start to your child’s exploration. It feels soft and squishy, and unlike Play-Doh and other manipulatives, it never dries out. Give your child some cookie cutters, a plastic knife, and an area to play, and they’ll fall into their own world for hours with this sand.
- The vibrant colors attract and keep your kid’s attention
- This ten-pack is very affordable
- You get both the sand and the molds in one convenient set
- Encourages imaginative play and creativity
- This sand offers tactile feedback, visual entertainment, and an open-ended way for your child to explore
- It gets messy
How to Choose the Right Sensory Toy for Your Toddler?
These are the 5 simple steps we want you to think through when you want to invest in a sensory toy for your toddler.
1. Evaluate what types of activities your child seeks, avoids, or needs help with:
- Does your child seem to enjoy things such as running to a quiet room or squeezing behind the sofa that is calming? Or, do they seem to like leaping and climbing the furniture off the couch? Do they cover their ears a lot because of the sounds during the day? Perhaps they have a hard time moving between daycare or school activities?
- List the sensory activities you find your child engaging in, avoiding, or having trouble with on a regular basis (write down “odd” or rare activities too, since they are usually sensory based).
- Highlight something that is distracting on the list or appears to be absorbing them.
2. Pinpoint the main sensory system: There are 7 sensory systems, note that there is a lot of variation while they are each independent, and they all function together. It is normal for more to be as well when one is affected. These systems are:
- Proprioception (Knowing where our body is in space, activated through pressure to our muscles and joints)
- Vestibular (Our sense of movement and balance)
- Tactile (Our sense of touch)
- Taste (Oral, which technically combines 3 different systems: taste, tactile, and proprioception).
- Choose 1-2 sensory systems that you think are calling for attention for some of the highlighted activities on your list from step 1 (i.e.: if your child pushes on people all the time, then the sensory system that has a need is definitely proprioception and probably tactile/touch).
- Can you look for any patterns? Do you see more regular sensory systems come up with one or two? If so, you’ll want to target toys that answer that specific sensory system in your quest. If you see several systems that your child is searching for, prioritize the one that seems to most influence your child.
- If you do not see a lot of activities searching or avoiding, and find that your list consists more of activities that your child needs assistance with, then your go-to is proprioception. Proprioception operations are generally embraced by most children and include jumping, climbing, gripping (such as hugging), etc.
3. Identify the timing and environment
- Again, if any of these operations tend to occur at certain times of the day or in certain environments, look at the list you created in step 1. You might note, for instance, that your child only jumps on the furniture first thing in the morning, or maybe when they are in school they only chew on their pen caps. There’s not always a trend, but to make sure you don’t see any similarities, double check.
- If you have found that at specific times or in certain situations, your child is finding or resisting certain sensory feedback, right that down too! If you think your child needs a toy or tool for a specific environment: school, daycare, home, etc., make a note. This will assist you in removing those choices. For example, in a school environment, a weighted lap pad or vest could work to find proprioceptive, and a small indoor trampoline at home will provide proprioceptive feedback.
4. Set your budget and size
- You may be looking for a larger, show-stopping item at this time of year, and there are plenty of incredible sensory toys that will suit the bill. But at the same time, you might be looking for some smaller support that doesn’t take up as much space.
- Write down your budget at the end of your list, and if you have any space restrictions. There are two significant considerations that will help you narrow down your choices.
5. Pull it all together
- At this point, you should have on your list: sensory experiences that your child constantly seeks or avoids, which sensory system you think they are trying to target whether they are searching for or avoiding a time of day or environment, and what your budget and size limits are if any.
- Choose a few things you are searching for. For instance, when your child chews on their shirt sleeve, you may be looking for a sensory toy that can be used for the oral system at school. Or, since your child is dangerously climbing things in your home and has a difficult time paying attention, you might need a high-energy proprioceptive and vestibular activity like a scooter board or a swing.
It’s harder for some children to engage with toys than others. Some toys don’t provide the type of stimulation certain kids desire, and others provide too much visual and auditory stimulation, which can be overpowering. The majority of toys are designed with the act of play in mind, but sensory toys are designed to stimulate a particular sense. It might seem odd that a toy would be designed to stimulate just one sense, but these toys were originally designed for use by people with sensory processing disorders such as autism, ADHD, and other conditions.
Figuring out which sensory toys would be best for your child is the key to choose the right one. To do so, we have listed all the info in our guide above that’ll help you choose the Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers along with our best picks.
Q. Are fidget toys the same as sensory toys?
A. Fidget toys are a type of sensory toy that gives kids tactile stimulation instead of fidgeting in other ways. However, not all sensory toys are fidget toys.
Q. Aren’t all toys sensory toys?
A. You could argue that all toys are sensory toys, since they stimulate multiple senses in various ways. However, sensory toys are different in that they’re usually designed to stimulate one sense, while being fairly unstimulating in other ways. For instance, a musical sensory toy usually doesn’t have lots of other lights, sounds, and bright colors. This is because toys that are too “busy” can confuse and overwhelm some children with additional needs, such as autism or sensory processing disorder.
Q. How durable are sensory toys?
A. This depends on the toy you opt for. Some are extremely durable, so they’re great for young kids or children who have a tendency to throw or play roughly with their toys. Others are more fragile, so you might want to supervise play, especially if said toys are filled with liquid or smaller parts that could be swallowed.
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