Sensory Toys Perfect for World Autism Day — & Every Day

Sensory toys are flat-out amazing. They entice kids to explore, discover, and create by using their senses, as opposed to, say, staring at a screen. Kids have been learning with their senses since birth, so why wouldn’t that continue as they get older? Sensory toys are great for all kids: those with disabilities, kids on the autism spectrum, or just kids in general. And it’s not just toys; sensory play of all kinds is all the rage these days, and for good reason: It’s crucial for brain development, even helping build neural pathways. That’s why sensory DIY crafts are all over Pinterest, and even Target has released a line of furniture for kids with sensory sensitivities. Google “sensory tables“and tell me you don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of themed fillers and whether beans or rice is better. Go ahead.

Too often, people think that sensory toys are meant exclusively for kids on the spectrum, but the reality is that all kids — I repeat, ALL kids — benefit immensely from playing with them. The ability of sensory play to help children of all different backgrounds and abilities learn is what makes it so important. As famed educator Maria Montessori said, “The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge. Our apparatus for educating the senses offers the child a key to guide his explorations of the world.”

Basically, sensory toys are key to your child’s development. But there are so. Many. Out there. Some are specifically marketed towards kids who are differently abled, some are marketed towards crunchy hippie parents, and there are some toys that simply slap on the word “sensory” just to make themselves look good. So if you want to get started with sensory-toy shopping, where do you even begin?

We’ve rounded up the best sensory toys for kids on or off the spectrum, just ahead. Whether your child is seeking deep pressure, tactile stimulus, or vestibular input, or just likes ball pits, kinetic sand and ziplines, we’ve got you covered.

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