10 Best Sensory Toys for Children with Autism

By sandra.caplesc…, 25 October, 2021
A colorful toy.

Sensory toys are fantastic. They are a joy for every child struggling with distorted sensory input. What's there not to like? Your kid has the chance to do a sensory exploration and check out different feels, sounds, and smells. It's a magical experience, but there's science behind sensory toys: they allow children to regulate themselves. When exposed to external stimuli like lights or loud noises, it can trigger feelings of overwhelming. As a result, your child with an autism spectrum disorder has a meltdown. Sensory toys come in handy in this situation by acting as a calming medium that helps children process their emotions.

These toys are made to stimulate a child's five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. They come in different textures, colors, sounds and, most importantly, are safe to use during playtime. Since there are so many options, it's hard to choose one since your child's preferences might change like the weather. In addition, some toys work better in certain situations, depending on the mood.

READ MORE: How to Create a Calm Down Kit.

How Do Sensory Toys Help?

Many autistic children have difficulties getting the correct sensory input. They have problems processing sights, sounds, smells, textures, or anything that might stimulate their senses. Sensory toys can mend this issue by offering:

An understanding of the body (proprioceptive input): jump ropes, modeling clay, bean bags;

A comprehension of the head position and body movement (vestibular input): spinning, swinging, or rocking toys;

A sense of touch (tactile stimulation): finger paints, bubbles, sand, or water toys.

Sensory toys are designed to stimulate and highlight these senses. They appeal to children on the spectrum because they calm the child and provide the sensory experience they desire. As a result, toys help kids engage with their senses, provide feedback, and regulate their sensory systems. They work in an enjoyable way that makes sense to the child. Oren Steinberg, the co-founder of SensoryTreat, says that sensory stimulation is effective. "A family-centered approach emphasizes parental coaching in the natural environments of the family." That's why many occupational therapists (OTs) recommend the use of sensory toys.

Toys come in different shapes and sizes. Some toys vibrate, some stimulate senses through texture or temperature. Toys are very flexible, and they help children with autism symptoms focus and relax in stressful situations. The goal is to decrease a kid's fear and discomfort in a simple, natural way: through sensory play. Toys are also a perfect way to educate children as they learn specific skills like communication due to the lowered levels of anxiety and frustration.

As a parent, don't forget to get involved to boost your child's progress. Remember, though: sensory toys are not a replacement for treatment. It's just a way for children to learn about their senses in a fun way.

READ MORE: The Different Types of Therapies for Children with Autism

What to Look for in Sensory Toys

Many parents wonder what features to look for when buying sensory toys. Are any toys better for autistic children than others? Well, not really. The toy should be fun, first and foremost. Besides, choosing a toy for a child with autism feels a lot like picking out a toy for any other kid. Dr. Kristie Patten Koening, an occupational therapist, says to let your child's interest guide you. Think about what your child likes:

  • Swing at the park
  • Watch bright lights
  • Make loud noises
  • Jump around a lot

Any of these can be a hint to what your child might like in a toy. See what your kid with autism gravitates towards. It's the first step you should take when selecting a suitable toy: something familiar that will calm them. Also, the toy should engage your child and develop a particular skill. Some incite collaborative play, while others will focus on independent play. Parents should look for toys that encourage physical activity, like a swing. Look for toys that allow creativity, so kids can use them however they like in multiple ways.

Be careful of overstimulating toys. It is nice to have visual toys that light up and move and play music simultaneously, but it might be too much for your child at once. Also, as long as they don't pose a safety hazard, you shouldn't care about the age grading. Toys are for everyone.

10 Recommended Toys for Kids with Autism

Now we get to the fun part. There are tons of lists filled with great toys you can find online and in stores. Put your child at ease and fill the playroom with these exciting options:

Sensory Mats

It's an excellent toy for feet and hands, as sensory mats come in different textures. Does your kid like grass, plush, or carpet textures? Rugs come in many forms and support sensory-seeker kids. Children with autism like to enjoy certain textures, or you can play a guessing game: have your kid describe what they feel on different mats. These are great toys for improving tactile sensitivities.

Fidget Toys

It might sound unbelievable, but a fidget spinner is a great toy for children with ADD and ADHD. Kids focus more by keeping their hands busy while concentrating on another task. Fidget spinners are enjoyable for many children due to the smooth and fast rotation, plus it's quiet and compact. They come in many visually stimulating designs that can be sensory appealing to what your child loves. If fidget spinners are not your child's thing, there are many other fidget toys for keeping hands occupied, like a ball of yarn to stretch toys.

Electric Dog Pet

If you can’t handle the responsibility of buying a pet, then maybe you should consider buying a robot toy. Some sounds can be overwhelming for children with autism, but noises from home appliances and pets can help desensitize those struggling with sensory processing disorders. This puppy is great for introducing different sounds to children and helping them interact with objects. The robot responds to your child’s touch, making it a great tactile and social interactive toy.

Vibrating Cushion

The benefits of vibrational therapy are real, backed up by research. A vibrating cushion is a great way to calm your kid during meals or a car ride. Its soothing motion and calm sounds improve verbal initiations and responses, encouraging children to engage in social interaction. The cushions are light and portable, and they come in colorful and fun shapes. The material cleans easily and feels pleasant to the touch, making it a comfortable place to sit. Plus, your child can squeeze it to his heart's content.

Chew Toys

Teething toys are not uncommon but chew toys have another use for children with autism spectrum. They are beneficial for developing muscles, refining tongue coordination, and improving motor skills. Chew toys are made out of non-toxic silicone and come in various textures, from dots to ridges to patterns. Children love to chew them for the sensory stimulation these toys provide, and they can be held or worn around the neck or wrist. Make sure the size is appropriate for the child's age to avoid choking risks.

Body Sox

Many autistic kids feel overwhelmed or anxious, and sometimes all they need is a place to crawl into. Body soxs are just what you need for allowing your child to put themselves into a colorful, see-through, and breathable environment. This interactive toy provides deep touch pressure that relieves anxiety and initiates relaxation. Your kid can stretch it, jump in it, and run in this comfortable and flexible material.

Kinetic Sand

Sand and slime are great for imaginative play. They also allow children to develop fine motor skills. The kid can play with the substance alone or incorporate it into other objects. Since these toys are brightly colored, they appeal to children. They'll love squishing it between their fingers and creating many interesting shapes by using molds and rakes. It offers tactile stimulation that provides a calming sensation and eases stress.

Balance Boards

Many kids need strengthened core muscles—so a balancing board is perfect for developing gross motor skills. Children with ADHD have impaired balance, so this toy improves balance skills. The child will figure out his center of gravity while giving him the vestibular input he craves. It also gives them a way to challenge themselves safely.

Play Tunnels

An obstacle course provides benefits to parents and children alike. Play tunnels are the perfect opportunity for the child to explore his surroundings and experience a stimulating sensory environment. They can crawl, jump, and leap in the tunnel while playing hide and seek. As a result, the child develops strength and balance.


A non-gendered dollhouse will engage any child in collaborative play. This toy encourages them to use their senses and imagination to play with others however they like. It's excellent for creating scenarios and developing emotional and social skills that will serve them well in the future. A dollhouse usually comes furnished with different toys that are easy to move and arrange.

There are many more toys we can mention. Plus, tons of stores offer interesting, creative, and fun toys for children with autism. Every child is unique, each with different tastes. It is essential to find what your child likes and ask their opinion on it. Or, if you're out of ideas, you can always ask your child's therapist for suggestions. He'll know better what your little bundle of joy needs.


Another critical thing to remember is to go down and play with your kid. By interacting with your kid during playtime, you'll create valuable bonds, and your child will feel more confident when in social situations. Find toys that speak to your child's sensory cravings and will help them develop the skills they need. One great thing about these sensory toys is that you can use them anywhere: at school, at work, to establish a sleep routine, during meals. Finding the right toy might require a bit of trial and error, but in the end, you'll fill the playroom with all kinds of exciting toys.

And oh, don't forget to have fun!