We have a few sensory seeking kids ourselves, and we asked parents on the Bounceback Parenting Facebook page what sensory toys they couldn’t live without. We combine that information here to create this tried and true list of the best sensory toys for kids.
Sensory toys are beneficial for all ages. They help children develop sensory processing skills, which are crucial for their cognitive, emotional, and social growth. Sensory toys can also useful for the essential process of self-regulation.
“Sensory activities are ways of exploring the world, mainly through touch, movement, texture, smell, taste, or sound. When your child feels comfortable and regulated, they are much more able to shift from one activity to another and bring an appropriate amount of energy to that task. Sensory toys help meet these sensory needs.” says Behavior Analyst Amelia Bowler. Whether they’re used for calming down or perking up, providing sensory toys for your child gives them a way to meet sensory needs, and beyond that, they’re a lot of FUN!
Top Sensory Toys
Best Sensory Toys for Each Age
Sensory toys are likely to be the toys that get the most play by your child. We’ve found many of our sensory toys are used for years. It’s worth looking for toys that are durable and offer many different play options.
Sensory Toys for Infants
Sensory toys for babies are designed to stimulate the sense and encourage exploration. Playing with sensory toys together promotes bonding between parents and infants. Here are some of the best sensory toys for the 0 – 12 months age group:
Playmats with a Mobile: Playmats that have a mobile suspended above encourage reaching, rolling and exploring. If you’d like a pretty one, we love this multipurpose Motenssori inspired 2-in-1 Baby Gym from Tinyland.
Soft Rattles: Soft rattles with gentle sounds encourage babies to grasp and move. Socks with little rattles are adorable and entertaining for babies.
Crinkle Toys: Toys that make crinkling sounds when squeezed or touched engage a baby’s sense of touch and hearing. Many cute crinkle toys also include teething tabs for baby to suck and chew.
Sensory Toys for Toddlers
Sensory play can be calming for toddlers and help them manage emotions. Activities like playing with Playdough can serve as a stress-relief tool. And if you have an active, sensory-seeking toddler, sensory toys are absolutely sanity-saving.
Playdough and Modeling Clay: Playdough and modeling clay are fantastic sensory toys for toddlers. The tactile experience of squeezing, molding, and shaping these materials engages their sense of touch and fine motor skills.
Sensory Bins: Sensory bins are containers filled with materials like rice, sand, beans, or water, paired with various items for exploration (e.g., small toys, scoops, and cups). These bins offer a multi-sensory experience, allowing toddlers to dig, pour, and sift through different textures and materials, enhancing their tactile and sensory awareness.
Water Play: Water tables or simple containers filled with water can be an engaging, sensory-rich experience for toddlers. They can splash, swish, and pour while improving their hand-eye coordination and understanding of cause and effect. One of the simplest water sensory toys for toddlers is a set of plastic bowls and scoops to play with in the bath.
Sensory Toys for Preschoolers and Kindergarten
Many of the sensory toys from toddlerhood will still see tons of play in the preschool and kindergarten years. At this age, they also may have a better grasp of their sensory preferences, and you can use the knowledge to help you choose toys. Sensory toys for 4-6 year-olds should provide both entertainment and opportunities for skill-building.
Tiny Land® 5-in-1 Montessori climbing set
Climbing toys are fantastic for preschoolers who are developing coordination and balance. This versatile climbing set from Tiny Land has the benefit of being modular so kids can rearrange the pieces.
Mini Trampoline – Mini trampolines are great for getting energy out when outside play isn’t an option. Some even have handles and can be used with toddlers.
Silk scarves – Silk scarves encourage dining and pretend play. These were mentioned often as a favorite by parents of sensory seeking kids.
Tunnels and Tents – Crawling is a fantastic sensory system activity. Tunnels and play tents offer a fun way for kids to make their own world. We love this tunnel and ball pit combo that offers an entire easy-to-set-up fort from Tiny Land.
Sensory Toys for Elementary Age Kids
Kids ages 7-11 are often starting to have a bit more screen time and more time when they’re supposed to sit still due to school. This makes sensory toys even more important for keeping their sensory systems happy.
Backyard Swings Set: Nothing gets kids outdoors like a swing set. There are even round platform swing options now that can serve as both an active play swing and a peaceful place to read.
Scooters: Get kids rolling! Scooters are a fun physical activity that promotes coordination and the development of the vestibular system.
Sensory fidgets – Each kid will have their favorites, so you might look for a variety to see what they like. Fidgets are more than weird little toys. Having something to fiddles with can actually help some kids concentrate, calm down or sooth a ramped up nervous sytem.
Sensory Toys for Teens
As teens, sensory toys may revolve around finding the toys and tools that help older kids focus as well as stay active. Large trampolines are still very popular at this age, as are scooters and bikes.
Pogo Stick: Did you know they make pogo sticks that are sized for teens and adults? They’re super fun! Get your teen one of these and you might be surprised at how much fun you have giving it a try as well.
Headphones – not exactly a toy, but headphones are such a huge sensory tool for teens who need to create their own little space in a large and often overstimulating world. Wired headphones can be great for gaming and working at their computer.
And for teens on the go bluetooth is a must. We love these decently priced yet high-quality earbuds for Baseus.
Happy Sensory Toy Playtime!
As you pick out sensory toys, keep in mind the diverse needs of your child. From the early months to the teen years, sensory toys offer unique benefits and playability for each stage of growth. Here’s to joyful play and the countless moments of discovery that come with it!
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.