Sensory play is crucial for the development of young children. The earlier we can expose children to different sensory toys, the better. Sensory play that incorporates a sensory toy can help children learn about different types of sensory input and helps with their sensory integration.
A sensory toy is designed to stimulate different senses, sensory toys are highly appealing to children as they provide different sensory experiences in a fun way. While most of these toys aim to stimulate the five main senses like sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, there are a few that focus on body awareness and balance as well.
A sensory toy can be especially suitable for children who have sensory processing disorder as these children may have either low or high sensory thresholds. The use of a sensory toy may be able to help the child manage their sensory needs in their natural environment.
Why do we use sensory toys for toddlers?
A sensory toy is especially helpful in toddlers when the child’s brain is rapidly growning. The human brain is made of trillions of neurons. Neurons are the brain cells that create a connection amongst themselves, which are known as synapses.
In neurology, the first three years after birth is considered to be crucial as, during this period, a child’s brain grows at a rapid speed. For instance, newborns have around 50 trillion synapses in total. However, a 3-year-old child has around 1000 trillion of them.
Introducing sensory toys at an early age strengthens your child’s sensory-related synapses and functions. These toys aid the overall development of your child, including gross and fine motor skills.
Benefits of Sensory Toys
Children need to engage in sensory toys that are not only entertaining but also beneficial towards their development. Sensory toys nurture their senses, help them develop motor skills and can help with concentration and focus. In other words, sensory development helps children interact with their world.
Sensory toys are known for introducing tactile sensations and other different stimuli. Some of them can even help children in boosting their balancing skills, problem-solving skills, assist them to pay attention, and gross and fine motor skills.
Additionally, sensory toys can be beneficial for children with sensory issues such as sensory disabilities, sensory processing disorder, or autism spectrum disorder who often struggle to receive and respond to the processed sensory input. Many children with autism love to keep their hands busy and a fun toy such as sensory fidget toys are a go-to aid used by a lot of occupational therapists.
For older kids, sensory toys like fidget balls and weighted toys can help children with special needs to relieve stress and calm their senses. When regularly used, these toys can help them to cope with everyday stress more efficiently.
Here in this blog, we have listed a few benefits of sensory toys for children.
Teaches different types of textures help your child explore and learn about different types of touch textures through the use of sensory toys. Whether it is smooth, bumpy, hard, or soft, sensory toys offer different types of textures for your child to explore.
Sensory toys like stress relief balls, squeeze toys, etc. can also help your child develop hand strength which is needed for fine motor skills.
Children with sensory disorders can find it hard to concentrate. Here, sensory toys play a great role in improving their concentration skills. The skill helps children with learning difficulties to focus on tasks.
Remember, learning and engaging in real work requires concentration. Thus, to develop this skill, try to provide your child with sensory toys, glitter tubes, liquid timers and sensory cushions that can help your child to improve concentration, especially for those children who require additional movement.
Children with sensory or learning difficulties often get frightened or anxious with new or sudden sensory inputs. However, when these children are introduced to certain sensory toys like pop-it fidgets toys, stress relief balls, Rubik’s cubes and sand toys, these sensory toys can help manage their anxiety naturally.
As these children develop confidence in using the sensory toy, they may stop anxious habits like thumb-sucking or nail-biting.
Aids Fine Motor Skill Development
Delayed development of fine motor skills is very common in children with special needs like autism and sensory processing disorder. Here, sensory toys play an important role in strengthening and developing a child’s fine motor skills while making them experience fun.
Thus, encourage your child to play with sensory toys like bricks and blocks, bead mazes, activity cubes, counting frames, sorting saucers and dough plays to ensure fine motor skill development from an early age.
Improves Language Skills
Language skills are important for keeping your child’s brain in good shape and enhancing their cognitive skills along with memory. The development of this skill is also important for building good concentration.
For the growth of your child’s language skills, encourage them to play with sensory toys with new textures, tastes or sounds. Teach your toddler words like ‘bumpy’, ‘smooth’, ‘sweet’, ‘salty’, ‘loud’ and ‘soft’. Teaching them to describe words can help them communicate clearly about their experiences.
Provides Additional Stimulation
As discussed, sensory toys provide sensory stimulation to children, which is essential for promoting self-awareness in children. Apart from this, these toys help your child build a connection with the surrounding world.
Some children require additional stimulation to concentrate in the classroom. Introducing small toys that are designed for sensory stimulation can help children to be more focused and productive in learning environments.
Helps in Socialization
Sensory toys can help promote social play and thus, help children to socialize with others. Sensory toys are specially designed toys that allow your child to explore different senses.
For example, when you introduce a drum to a group of children, it creates an auditory stimulation for all of them and encourages them to follow a rhythm together.
Similarly, bubbles allow kids to take turns in blowing and chasing them while creating visual stimulation. Sensory toys are highly beneficial in making your child learn how to wait for turns while participating in the play.
Types of Sensory Toys
There are a variety of sensory toys available in the market. However, it is important to choose the right one according to your child’s needs and interests.
Sensory toys for kids can be categorized based on different sensory systems. Some toys allow you to explore multiple senses at the same time. Allowing your child to have sensory play throughout the day can help develop your child’s senses. The types of sensory toys include:
Visual toys are great for toddlers to develop their visual skills, including tracking and visual perceptual skills.
Visual toys can also help kids stay calm and focused and can be used as an effective calming tool. You may have a range of visual toys in your child’s sensory room to help them calm and regulate.
For some children who avoid bright lights, a slow introduction to visual toys can help them adjust to these lights. It is important to slowly introduce these sensory products and to avoid overwhelming your child, especially if they are sensitive to bright colors and lights.
Some of these toys are:
- Disco ball
- Glittering tubes
- Lava lamps
- Light table or light box
- Light projectors
Tactile toys, including fidget toys, are great for children to develop their gross and fine motor skills as well as tactile development.
Feeling different textures, like bumpy and smooth, can help keep your child engaged in exploring different textures. It can also help them develop hand eye coordination as they reach for the toys and play with different parts of the sensory product. A DIY-colored sensory sandbox is a fantastic toy for kids to practice their tactile sense.
Tactile toys can help children who are sensory seekers and require additional sensory input. For older children, tactile toys can help children focus within the classroom for longer periods of time.
- Tactile mats
- Sequin cushions
- Pop It
- Stress ball
- Kinetic sand
- Busy board
Looking for an effective way to improve your child’s mood and sensory regulation? Consider working on their proprioception sense for the best result.
Proprioception sensory toys create deep touch or pressure to stimulate the proprioception receptors of your child. Once these receptors are stimulated, the brain releases serotonin that improves their sensory regulation.
Proprioception, also known as deep pressure, can help children who experience sensory overload feel more regulated.
Some of these toys include:
- Weighted lap pad *
- Weighted blankets*
- Body sock
- Ball pits
*Use with caution and in consultation with your child’s occupational therapist.
Auditory Sensory Toys
Auditory sensory toys are designed for children to develop auditory processing and may be beneficial for those children who are sensitive to loud noises.
These toys are designed to help your kid engage with new sounds in an interactive way. They also improve their comfort with auditory inputs. Some of these toys are:
- Musical toys
- Soundboard games
- Musical instruments
- Headphones and earmuffs
Scents are important for stimulating our memory. Introduce these toys to your child so that they can easily experience different smells. Being able to distinguish different smells helps identify foods and flowers while alerting others to danger, like a fire.
These toys can be integrated into your child’s daily routine. Some of these toys are:
- Scented pencils
- Scented markers
- Scented dough
- Stuffed toys with embedded essential oils
These toys are meant for promoting oral motor activities like chewing and sucking in children. Oral motor toys provide proprioceptive input to your child’s jaw.
If your child often seeks oral stimulation through chewing clothing or any other non-food objects, consider replacing them with these toys.
- Bubble blowers
- Horns and whistles
While introducing sensory toys, ensure your child is comfortable with them. Most of these toys have simple designs and can be created using your own household supplies. Also, to make the most out of these toys, it’s important to choose the right one according to your child’s needs and interests.
Sensory toys are also beneficial for children with special needs like autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder or ADHD. These toys are designed to calm their senses and help them to relax in stress-inducing situations. They give your child a soothing effect whenever they experience sensory challenges.