Sensory-Based Gifts for Children with Sensory Processing Disorders


The ideal gift for children or adults with a sensory processing disorder (SPD) will be developmentally appropriate AND meet the sensory needs of the individual ! This means that the child will be motivated to use and enjoy the gift- perhaps briefly at first, but for longer periods of time after learning how fun it is to have their sensory needs met.

(FYI, I decided to use the pronoun “their” for brevity).

Adding Weight to Toys Provides Proprioceptive Input

Open up a stuffed animal and fill it with a bag(s) of sand. Then stitch it up. The weight will provide proprioceptive sensory feedback that is often calming and promotes body awareness. You can also attach a bag of sand to the bottom of a toy such as a puzzle board or ring stack that the child may place on their lap.

The following post describes using weighted bags in a simple partner activity. There are some pretty elaborate weighted stuffed animals sold commercially…. You may adapt this according to your child’s cognitive and sensory needs.

Weighted toys sold on Amazon

Offer Toys or Activities that Involve Vibration

Many individuals of all ages often enjoy materials that vibrate. In fact, many toys are sold to meet these sensory needs! Motorized toys or tooth brushes may be used to add vibration to activities. The following post demonstrates a few of my favorite strategies….

Vibrating toys for children sold on Amazon

Visual Stimulation

Sensory and Visual Tracking bottles have moving parts that children often love to watch. Parents may purchase, make or adapt materials to make them fun to watch when shaken or rotated. The following post demonstrates how I made a pegboard using sensory bottles filled with water and tiny pieces of plastic. The peg board also incorporates music (auditory stimulation) and vibration.

The following ring stack and stringing activities provide visual stimulation as materials spiral downwards….

Visual Toys Sold on Amazon

Add Auditory Stimulation

Auditory stimulation may involve activating music or funny sounds by placing rings on a stack or puzzles in a board (as shown in the feature photo). Many children will love these types of toys, but children with sensory challenges often benefit from the reward of listening to sounds produced when activating toys or clicking on an Ipad icon. The following blog post demonstrates how I created auditory stimulation by placing beads inside pill bottles.

Musical toys sold on Amazon

Auditory toys sold on Amazon

Multi-Sensory Toys to Activate with Switches

Many battery operated toys can be adapted to activate using a simple push switch. Some are sold through special needs or therapy catalogs. The following post shows how I adapted activities to involve activating a lamp and vibration.

Activated toys sold on Amazon

Movement Toys and Activities

Sensory Movement Toys sold on Amazon

Most children love movement! Young children may receive the sensory input they seek using toys such as a Sit and Spin, trampolines, swings, scooter boards or bouncing on a ball etc. Offer a luxurious blanket to roll up inside or wheelbarrow walk over…. Other great gifts that promote movement include:

  1. music to dance to
  2. ride-on toys, trikes and bikes
  3. A toy cart to fill up with heavy food items
  4. Construction or sorting toys with containers located at various levels ( i.e. a shelf, under a table, the floor) and around the room so that movement is required to utilize the activity.
  5. Forward Pass, also known as Zoom Ball may be purchased or make your own by following the directions in the following post:

Zoom Ball sold on Amazon

Many toys, games and activities provide multi-sensory input… An example, would be a ring stack that vibrates, has flashing lights and makes funny sounds when the last ring is placed on top. The most powerful (calming or alerting) sensory stimulation includes vibration, movement, deep pressure tactile stimulation. So keep this in mind when choosing gifts to purchase, make or adapt.

Happy Gift Planning!

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