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Key Takeaways:

  • Sensory toys help autistic children regulate their emotions, improve their focus, develop motor skills, and feel safe in their environment.
  • Various sensory toys play to different senses, offering different colors and textures to explore.
  • Examples of sensory toys include sensory mats, light-up toys, electronic pets, and rainmakers.

Autism, a condition that affects one in 100 children, can present unique challenges in communication and social interaction [*]. However, with the right tools, these challenges can be overcome. Sensory toys for autism are not just toys; they are gateways to a world of stimulation and interaction. They can help your child develop their senses, engage with their environment, and even pave the way for independence.

If you suspect your child might have autism, this guide is for you. We’ve compiled a list of the best toys for kids with autism and reviewed them.

What are Sensory Toys for Autism?

Sensory toys for autism aim to stimulate one or more senses. While they are often designed for autistic boys and girls with special needs, sensory toys can be fun for everyone. Sensory toys help autistic children meet their sensory needs safely and positively.

They are especially helpful for high-functioning autistic children with anger, as they provide a sense of calm and help children self-regulate.

How Do Sensory Toys Help Kids & Teens with Autism?

Sensory integration is essential for autistic children struggling with communication and learning. By activating the senses, these toys can help them process information better. They can also provide the following benefits:

  • Improved focus and attention. When autistic children have something to fidget with, they eliminate distractions around them and can better focus on conversations.
  • Sensory overload management. People with autism may experience sensory overload, in which sights, sounds, and smells, among other things, overwhelm them. Sensory toys provide a predictable environment where autistic children can become used to stimulants that usually overwhelm them.
  • Developed motor skills. Many sensory toys are simple or repetitive, allowing young children to practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Improved self-regulation. Autistic children may become frustrated quickly. Sensory toys teach children how to soothe themselves when they are stressed.

10 Best Sensory Toys for Kids & Teens with Autism

Sensory toys are an excellent tool for helping autistic adolescents navigate the world. Here are ten helpful sensory toys to try.

1. Sensory Mat

Sensory mats feature play surfaces with different colors and textures with bumps and ridges. Children can touch them with their hands and feet or even crawl on them.

Textures on these mats stimulate the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which are responsible for a person’s balance and spatial awareness [*]. Playing with sensory mats encourages exploration and improves development.

$42.99 on Amazon

2. Chew Toys

Chew toys can be valuable tools for children with autism. They help manage anxiety, improve focus, and develop oral motor skills. Chewing is a self-soothing behavior that can provide autistic children with a sense of safety in stressful situations.

In addition, chew toys strengthen facial muscles, benefiting speech development and eating skills. Ensure you purchase chew toys made with safe, non-toxic materials and replace them when necessary.

$8.98 on Amazon

3. Slime, Putty, and Sand

If you’re looking for sensory toys with high visual appeal that encourage creativity and imagination, slime, putty, and sand are for you! These toys provide a unique blend of sensory and developmental benefits, such as tactile exploration and imaginative play.

$26.24 on Amazon

4. Rainmakers

Rainmakers provide excellent sound and visual stimulation, which can be very calming and soothing for autistic children. They produce predictable and consistent sounds that may be helpful for children who struggle with auditory processing.

Some clear rainmakers with beads or other materials provide visual stimulation, adding another layer of sensory output.

$13.99 on Amazon

5. Fidget Board

Fidget boards feature various sensory inputs, such as textured surfaces, buttons, switches, gears, dials, zippers, and more. They’re a great input for restless hands, encouraging self-regulation and allowing children to manage their sensory needs.

Many fidget boards are portable—perfect for car rides, long waits, or to use in school settings. They’re also often customizable to your child’s needs.

$38.99 on Amazon

6. Light-Up Toys

Light-up balls, fidget toys, bath toys, building sets, and projectors are visually captivating and engaging—ideal for autistic children who enjoy visual stimulation.

Adding lights to regular toys also provides a more interactive element to playtime, encouraging children to explore the toy's other features.

$29.99 on Amazon

7. Electronic Pets

Studies have shown home appliances and everyday pet noises soothe autistic children [*]. Unlike real pets, they don’t require feeding, cleaning, or vet visits. Still, they are an excellent option for autistic children who might crave companionship and stimulation.

These toys provide predictable routines, allowing autistic children to thrive on routine. They also offer a calming presence, reducing anxiety and promoting feelings of safety.

$49.99 on Amazon

8. Vibrating Toys

The sensations in vibrating toys provide deep pressure inputs that are calming for children with autism. Their predictable sensory inputs help autistic children regulate their nervous system and become more comfortable with other sensory experiences.

Autistic children with low excitation may also find that vibrating toys make them more alert and focused.

$37.99 on Amazon

9. Sensory Chairs

Sensory chairs are specially designed seating options that apply compression for children needing soothing and regulation. These soft and bouncy seats are typically made from soft, smooth, and bouncy materials, allowing autistic children to explore their surroundings safely.

Some sensory chairs offer features that improve posture and core muscle strength, aiding in physical development.

$65.99 on Amazon

10. Sensory Bins

Much like a sandbox, a sensory bin is a box full of fun! These toys engage all the senses with different textures and create cognitive tasks for autistic children. They strengthen imagination and encourage motor skill development.

$25.94 on Amazon

The Bottom Line

While autistic children may struggle to regulate, stay focused, or enjoy exploratory play, sensory toys can help meet their unique sensory processing needs.

Engaging the senses is just one aspect of developing the appropriate social skills. Check out our social skills worksheets to help your child become more comfortable and engaged among their peers.

Sources:

  1. “Autism.” World Health Organization, 2023.
  2. Choudhery A and Ansari T. “A Systematic Review Study on the Effects of Vestibular Stimulation in Children with Autism.” European Journal of Public Health Studies, 2020.
  3. Koegel RL. “A Systematic Desensitization Paradigm to Treat Hypersensitivity to Auditory Stimuli in Children with Autism in Family Contexts.” Sage Journals, 2004.

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