If you’re looking to get a special gift for your child this holiday season that will last and help your child develop, then dive into this mega sensory toy holiday guide to find an awesome toy for your child!
I love sensory toys because they’re incredibly beneficial for every child’s development. Kids also have a ton of fun with them and they’re usually toys that last and aren’t tossed out the following year like lots of other toys that kids grow out of.
With the holidays around the corner, you might be thinking about a special sensory toy that will be just right for your child and your budget.
There’s A LOT to choose from, which gets overwhelming fast. In this special sensory toy holiday guide, I’m going to round up our best sensory toy guides so that you can easily focus in on the toy you’re looking for.
You’ll find everything from a comprehensive swing guide to budget sensory toys to the perfect sensory stocking stuffers!
Why Are Sensory Toys Awesome
Sensory toys are incredible for two reasons.
First and foremost, every single child benefits from sensory play. Sensory toys are designed to stimulate their senses which promotes learning and brain development. In fact, kids need to run, climb, smell, hear, and touch all sorts of textures to grow the way they were intended.
There are numerous studies that show the detrimental effect sensory deprivation has on children cognitively, emotionally, and socially.
Second, many children have sensory needs or differences. Meaning, they seek a lot of a sensations (think about the child that runs around non-stop) or they may avoid sensations (think about the child that is fearful of going near the swing or getting their hands messy).
Kiddos that have these differences, benefit even more so from specific sensory toys that match their needs!
How to Choose the Right Sensory Toy for Your Child
And, that’s right where you might feel stuck – figuring out which sensory toy would be a great fit for your child.
It’s important to carefully ponder what sensory toy your child might like or need because not every sensory toy will be particularly beneficial. To help sort out what’s best, ask yourself two questions:
- What sensations does my child love? (Looking at bright or spinning objects, jumping on the bed, or squeezing into tight spaces?)
- What sensations does my child avoid? (Finger-painting, swinging, or loud noises?)
If you have some answers to question 1, that’s a great direction to go in. In the following sections, you’ll find lots of lists to inspire you.
If your child avoids most sensations and you have a long list for question 2, focus on helping them get messy and enjoy movement. That might mean they’re unsure of the scooter board that they just unwrapped, but it’s just what they need. For kids that are avoiding sensations, know that you’ll have to take baby steps to help them get used to the sensation.
It’s important not to force or to let them avoid it completely!
For many more details, head to the full post: How to Choose the Right Sensory Toy for Your Child.
Sensory Toys Perfect for Holiday Gifts
Since there are so many sensory toys to choose from, we’ve organized them into categories for you! Scroll through the list below and click the image or link to get all the sensory lists for that category!
Small Sensory Toys for Stocking Stuffers
Small sensory toys can still pack a big punch! An electric toothbrush that’s used to brush your child’s gums and tongue twice a day can be a game changer for a picky eater sensitive to textures. Or, the fidget toy that you stuff inside can make all the difference in how well they pay attention during online learning.
Stocking stuffer sensory toys can be great as a stand alone gift or in addition to some other bigger sensory toys! Head to 24 Amazing and Cheap Stocking Stuffer Ideas for the complete list with ideas organized by each of the 7 senses.
Powerful Sensory Swings for Every Home
Hands down, as an occupational therapist, swinging is one of the most powerful tools a child can use to balance their sensory needs and improve their sensory processing. And, it’s easier than ever to get one for your home or outside space!
In this special sensory swing guide, you’ll find out everything you need know about what type of swing will be best for your child. Plus, we’ve got lots of budget friendly options too! Check out Top 10 Sensory Swing’s for Kid’s Developmental and Sensory Processing to pick the best swing for your child.
Sensory Toys to Improve Learning, Communication, and Calmness
Are you interested in finding toys specifically for your sensory seeker or sensory avoider? How about a child that has autism or sensory processing disorder? Or, maybe you want to get a bigger sensory toy for Christmas morning or a surprise at your family’s holiday celebration?
Then this list is for you! Really, this list is a don’t-miss for everyone with over 37 different ideas for a wide range of budgets and needs. Head to 37 Sensory Toys to Help Kids Learn, Communicate, and Calm Down to get a comprehensive list of sensory toys!
Make a Sensory Room as a Holiday Gift
Are you ready to go all in on making a sensory room in your house so that your child has a dedicated space to get the sensory input they need? Awesome! Sensory rooms are so fun and can easily share the same space as a playroom. Heck it can even be in the corner of your bedroom.
Sensory rooms can get very elaborate, but in this guide, you’ll also learn how to make a simple sensory room on a budget! What a cool present a sensory room would be. Check out Awesome Sensory Room Ideas That Calm Kids for how to create your own sensory room this holiday.
Get a Long Lasting Sensory Toy, a Sensory Tent
If you don’t have space for a sensory room, a sensory tent/calm down space is a great option. Some teachers include these inside of their classrooms, and they work just as well in your home.
The idea is that whenever your child is overstimulated or needs a break, they can retreat to a small enclosed space to regulate their sensory needs. This sensory toy is a total game changer for some kids and having the tent popped up in the living room on Christmas morning makes for a fun surprise!
The tent itself is a great sensory space, but you can add some simple features to pack a big sensory punch.
You might have some cushions inside the tent, some textured books, or a fidget toy inside. You customize it to fit your child’s needs. If you’re tight on space, you can even create a nook just by using a sheet with a basket of small sensory toys. Creating a sensory tent can be VERY easy. Check out How to Create a Quick and Easy Sensory Tent to learn how.
Cheap Sensory Toys for a Tight Budget
Sensory toys can be very pricey! When I first became an OT, before online shopping exploded, most parents were buying sensory toys out of therapy catalogs. It was a serious investment to purchase a sensory toy, but that’s not the case anymore – although you can still get your hands on some of those powerful higher ticket items, as you saw in some of the lists above.
In this list, you’ll find simple, but incredibly effective sensory toys for as little as 2$! Discover these budget friendly options in 10 Awesome and Cheap Sensory Toys.
Fidget Toys for Fidgety Kids
Fidget toys can be helpful for kids that have a hard time sitting still or keeping their hands to themselves. Having a fidget toy in their hand literally gives them something to do while they attend. Be careful though because some fidgets can cause more distraction, especially in a classroom setting.
To learn what the best fidgets are to give as a holiday gift this season, head to The Quintessential Guide to Fidgets for Kids!
Overall Best Child Development Toys
I’m adding this list of developmental toys because many of them also have sensory components. And, the fact that your here tells me you’re probably interested in supporting your child’s development overall.
You’ll find child development toys organized into ages: babies/toddlers, preschoolers, and bigger kids up to age 10+. Check out Incredible Child Development Toys to Help Your Child Thrive.
Have a toy you didn’t see on the list that your kid loves? We’d love to share even more ideas, so leave it in the comments below to help even more parents!
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 15 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.