Toys for Kids with Sensory Issues
When it comes to helping kids with sensory issues by providing sensory diet toys and equipment, there are many low-cost and even no-cost options. I recommend “Lindsey and Nancy’s Fifty Favorite Toys” in Raising a Sensory Smart Child, but here's a short list to start you off. In some cases, I have noted the type of input the item provides. Some of these items also help with developing the imaginative play and cooperative play (kids playing “let’s pretend” together) rather than just parallel, cause-and-effect play (kids playing by themselves, perhaps alongside another child, and noticing that, say, when you push the button, the toy makes a sound). Others help with motor planning or praxis, which means the planning and sequencing of a series of movements. Children with poor body awareness (proprioception) often struggle with motor planning and may have a condition called dyspraxia or apraxia, which is common in kids with sensory processing disorder. Also, please note that some of these may not be appropriate for children under age 3. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Low-Cost Toys and Equipment
Note that I inserted some links (some of them are available in our Sensory Smart Shop) but these are not the only sources for these items. Be sure to check your local discount store, too, for toys for kids with sensory issues that won't break your piggy bank.
A big exercise ball (one suggestion: have the child drum quietly then more intensely and loudly, then return to the quieter drumming, as this is a great multisensory game)
Balls that have texture or make noise (tactile, auditory, visual). One example: Wiggly Giggly Ball
Bubble wands and trays (oral motor)
Pinwheels (oral motor)
Kazoos and whistles (do not share between children unless you sterilize them with boiling water!) (oral motor, auditory)
Play-doh and the Fun Factory (Here are some recipes for homemade “play dough” but please don’t use the peanut one if there’s any chance a child with a peanut allergy will be near it. (tactile, smell, proprioception, motor planning, fine motor)
Finger paints (Here is a recipe for homemade edible finger paint.) (tactile, imagination)
Sensory bin with dried beans or rice or birdseed and smaller toys such as plastic shovels (tactile, imagination)
Stacking toys (visual, motor planning, fine motor)
Sorting toys (visual, motor planning, tactile, fine motor)
books with textures, for example, Pat the Bunny (tactile)
Slinky (visual, tactile)
Finger puppets (tactile input, imagination, fine motor)
Wooden peg bench (excellent for heavy work/proprioception)
Foam alphabet mats (visual, tactile, motor planning, fine motor) In fact, this was one of my son’s favorite toys when he was little. Challenge the child to punch out the letters and put them back in, connect the mats, and identify letters. Place a frame against the wall and ask the child to push in the letters correctly—this builds the muscles in the hand and arm that are used in handwriting.