The 25 Best Sensory Toys for Kids With Special Needs
Fact checked by Elisa Cinelli, a well-known parenting writer, an expert on child behavior, and certified in Positive Discipline.
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Having a variety of sensory toys is essential for the education and development of kids with special needs and all kids who are learning and exploring the world. Sensory toys serve several purposes.
- First of all, they are fun! We always want our children to enjoy learning.
- They also provide the stimulation for senses that kids with special needs like autism crave. When kids are seeking out certain sensations, it can distract them from being able to listen, focus, and attend to the task at hand.
- Sensory toys provide children with a safe and natural way to calm themselves and focus.
An occupational therapist or special education teacher can help you choose a specific category of sensory toys to best help your child, but by providing kids with a selection of different kinds of toys, you will be able to see what your little one naturally gravitates to.
Our Top Picks:
The Best Tactile Stimulation: Rainbow Water Beads for Kids
The Best Comfort and Swaddle Stimulation: Indoor Therapy Swing for Kids
The Best Stress Relief: 4E's Novelty Expandable Ball
The Best Visual Stimulation: Liquid Motion Bubbler for Sensory Play
The Best Weighted Comfort: Weighted Lap Pad for Kids
The Best Fine Motor Skills Development: Spike The Fine Motor Hedgehog
The Best Tactile Toy: BunMo Pop Tubes Sensory Toys
The Best Mood Identification Help: The Original Mood Flipbook for Kids
The Best Toy for Hand Eye Coordination Needs: Sensory Buckle Pillow
The Best Toy for Getting the Doodles Out: Aqua Magic Doodle Mat
The Best Toy for Dynamic Sensory Movement: Dynamic Movement Sensory Sox
The Best Toy for Sensory Art: ArtCreativity Classic Pin Art Game Set
The Best Sensory Teething and Chewing Toy: Chew Necklace Sensory Teething Toys
The Best Sensory Toy for Kids Who Need Space: USA Toyz Rocket Ship Play Tent for Kids
The Best Sensory Toy for STEM: Magna-Tiles Stardust Set
The Best Sensory Toy for Speech Development: Wily Fox Sensory Toys for Autistic Children
The Best Sensory Toy for Hand Strengthening: Secure Stress Balls on a String
The Best Fidget Toys: 4 Pack Bean Bags Fidget Toys for Sensory Kids
The Best Anti-Anxiety Fidgeting Toys: iBaseToy 30 Pack Fidget Toy Set
The Best Sensory Toy for Imaginative Play: Kinetic Sand
The Best Sensory Toy for Jumping and Swinging: JUMP POWER Indoor/Outdoor Trampoline
The Best Fidget Spinner: Rainbow Fidget Finger Hand Spinners
The Best Sensory Therapy Putty: Therapy Putty for Hand Exercise Rehab
The Best Toy to Keep Their Attention: Fat Brain Toys Dimpl Toys
The Best Proprioceptive Toy: Foam Stepping Stones for Kids
What to Consider When Purchasing Sensory Toys for Kids with Special Needs
- Consider the recommendations of your family’s occupational therapist or a trusted special education teacher. The experts in your life can point you in the right direction.
- Think about the kinds of movements and sensations that your child already gravitates to. Does she like weight and swaddle sensations? Does he like to spin or squeeze? Is your child calmed by visual stimulation?
- Which sensory system does your child need help with? Consider the seven main sensory systems: Proprioception (knowing where the body is in space), vestibular (the sense of movement and balance), tactile (the sense of touch), vision, hearing, smell, oral/taste.
How We Chose Our Favorites
We consulted with experts, parents, and special education educators to get the lowdown on what you need to know to choose the best sensory toys for kids with special needs. We also tapped into these experts' advice to find out which brands were best and easily available on Amazon.
The Best Sensory Toys for Kids with Special Needs
Water beads are wonderful for children who love tactile toys. They are non-toxic, and all you have to do to get your child started is to add water. Water beads are especially calming for kids who have autism or sensory processing disorder.
“[M]y son loved them just the same. He hates to touch anything wet or slimy feeling but he LOVED these beads. He put his hands, his feet and wanted to pour them on top of his head! I can't believe he enjoys the cold and squishy feeling. great product! I'm sure this is helping his SPD (sensory processing disorder).”
The Best Comfort and Swaddle Stimulation
This swing provides a therapeutic experience for kids who enjoy the sensation of being snuggled. It is calming and comfortable, and kids can use it in various positions. This vestibular swing also helps children improve their motor skills.
“Our son has ADHD and autism. He’s constantly moving and nothing calms him during a meltdown quite like swinging... so we put this swing up in his bedroom and he absolutely LOVES it. He has told us several times how amazing it is. He’s already spent hours in it. He was on the verge of a meltdown last night, caught himself before it started and told us he needed to go use his new swing to calm down. We couldn’t be happier!! The fabric is so soft and stretchy, and the hardware is very sturdy.”
Best Sensory Toys 4E's Novelty Expandable Ball
These breathing balls provide a great visual for helping kids understand how to take deep, calming breaths. They can be great aids for children’s yoga or mindfulness classes. They also satisfy tactile sensation needs.
“These entertain kids like nothing else. They are great for the four and up crowd. I find that for ADD it seems to help focus and center. All the kids play with them, from 4 - 44.”
The Best Visual Stimulation
This is a great choice for kids who need something visually soothing. It helps kids to destress and can also help them improve their visual tracking skills.
“A Very Calming and Mesmerizing Toy- It’s Worth the Money For Me!I bought this for my 4 year old grandson who’s on the autism spectrum. It popped up when I was researching on what toys to get him!”
The Best Weighted Comfort
This weighted blanket pad is the perfect size for kids to use as they do schoolwork. It provides the compression sensation without feeling like too much. This is both calming and relaxing for many kids with anxiety and special needs.
“I bought this for my 7 year old daughter who experiences anxiety every day. We first introduced the blanket to her at bedtime because that’s when her worry brain races. I explained that this blanket would be for the moments she needed a hug. This made it easier for me to transition out of her bed (while she is still awake!) after I tuck her in. She now calls it her “hug blanket” and claims it really makes her feel like I am giving her a hug when she needs it. It’s been perfect for our remote learning too! She is able to calm her anxiety with this blanket on her lap. She especially loves how soft the one side is.”
The Best Fine Motor Skills Development
This is a fun toy for kids who need to build fine motor skills and strengthen their hand muscles. It also provides an easy way to do occupational therapy exercises at home. Although it was created for younger kids, children of various ages can use it in different ways.
“This is a great toy! My 4.5yr old, 18 mo old, and 11 mo old grandchildren all played with it in different ways. The oldest made color patterns, the middle did the expected fitting in and pulling out of the holes, and the youngest was able to pull them out and grab the 'quills.' When done the pieces fit inside making it easy to store. I love Learning Resources toys they are well made and thoughtfully designed.”
The Best Tactile Toy
These tubes pop, stretch, and connect. Kids love the sounds and tactile play. They provide tactile stimulation, help with fine motor skills, and auditory feedback.
“Excellent sensory toy! On the loud side so wouldn't get if its going to be used in a quiet place but definitely grabbed the attention of my autistic 10yr old son! One of his go to toys! Also appreciate the safety of this toy.. there are some toys I feel I have to watch my son closely has he plays with them just in case it bakes or he decides to miss use it.. this is NOT one of those toys!”
The Best Mood Identification Help
This is an especially helpful and user-friendly tool for children with autism and ADHD. It can help kids identify and make sense of their moods. It’s also a fun way to promote interaction with others.
“I am a child psychologist with highly motivated parents on my caseload. One of my moms brought in your book with her 4 year old, who loved it. I have since bought one myself and sent one for my grandchild.. and notice other parents are using this with their kids.”
The Best Toy for Hand Eye Coordination Needs
This is a toy that you will find at many sensory gyms and even at homes for senior citizens as a dementia-friendly activity. This pillow is helpful for building fine motor skills, and it also teaches practical skills while giving kids an educational way to fidget.
“If I could give this thing 10 stars, I would. We bought it initially for a road trip when my daughter was about 14 months old. She was interested and it kept her busy for 10-15 minutes at a time (if you're the caregiver of a young toddler you know that's like 15 years in toddler time). Now, a couple of months later, she loves it even more. She is 16 months and can buckle both buckles, zip the zippers, and do the velcro. I imagine we will get a LOT more life out of this because she has a while before she can do the snap, button, hook, and lacing parts. We keep this pillow in the diaper bag to take out to dinner with us, and it is the only thing that keeps her at the table at restaurants! LOVE IT!!”
The Best Toy for Getting the Doodles Out
This is an awesome toy for kids who need to get their doodles out. If you find your kids drawing on your walls and needing to express themselves visually, this mat gives them a mess-free way to do that. The large size is very appealing and provides that same satisfaction as inking up the floor or walls.
“My two year old loves playing with this (and mommy may as well!) The shape cutouts and small stamps are great for little ones. The pens are easy to fill with water and don’t seem to leak if you close them correctly. Lots of mess free fun!”
The Best Toy for Dynamic Sensory Movement
This sensory sock is a lifesaver for many families. It helps kids move creatively while increasing spatial awareness and helping children learn to calm their own bodies. This is an excellent dynamic movement toy for kids with special needs.
“My son is autistic, he has days where he is so overwhelmed and extremely anxious. This seriously has helped him in so many ways. He has stopped hurting himself as much since we started using this and his chewing aid. I looked for this since his Occupational Therapist used something similar but this is 100 times better!! He can stay using this up to an hour each time he grabs it. It really relaxes him and gives him that deep pressure he needs. I’d definitely buy it again!”
The Best Toy for Sensory Art
Manipulating these 3D pins is mesmerizing and excellent for inspiring creativity. It also calms kids when they feel sensory overload. This is a perfect toy to keep in a learning area for children with special needs.
“I bought these from my teenage autistic nephews. They both love them and each one keeps one in his room. They like the texture of this and enjoy putting their hand against it. It’s a good toy for anyone prone to sensory overload.”
The Best Sensory Teething and Chewing Toy
These chewable necklaces are extremely safe for autistic kids who need sensory teething toys. Keeping them on a necklace keeps them off the floor and helps kids not to lose them. This is perfect for any kid who needs oral sensory input. They are non-toxic and BPA-free.
“I bought these for my 9 year old with autism and sensory processing disorder. He is an extreme chewer, and we’ve gone through quite a bit of chewelry over the years. That being said, I was really happy with these chew necklaces! They are very durable... he wasn’t able to make a dent in one for almost 2 months! We still have 2 of them, and he uses them all the time.”
The Best Sensory Toy for Kids Who Need Space
This tent is a perfect sensory room for kids who need a quiet and calm place to retreat. The space theming makes it mesmerizing and calming, and children will appreciate having space of their own when the outside world feels like a bit too much.
“Delightful - this was a hit. My niece just turned 3 about a month ago, but I feel like this would be good for older kids, too. I liked how the tent pops right up (and then you have to put the rods in of course). It was easy to put together and very quick. The flap door is easy to put up and take down from the outside. You can't tell from the picture, but there are two mesh windows on either side, so it is easy to peek in from the outside without having to lift the flap if it is down.”
The Best Sensory Toy for STEM
These Magna-Tiles inspire creativity and are wonderful manipulatives for little hands. There sparky yet smooth surfaces are calming to handle and watch. This is an excellent STEM toy for children of all ages.
“A favorite manipulative. Have used magna-tiles in my classroom for years. A favorite of the children. Allow for creative play and provide preschool children insight into how magnets work.”
The Best Sensory Toy for Speech Development
This is an excellent game for kids with both autism and speech delays. It was created by a speech therapist and a child disability specialist. It’s also a really fun way to work on problem solving skills and social skills.
“I am a trained Montessori teacher, and this would be completely appropriate to use in a Montessori classroom. It is a very simple concept, but very appealing to my kids, neither of whom have autism or speech therapy needs. We played together and then my 21-month-old spent a good bit of time on her own playing with the Velcro and talking about the different animals. My 4 year old son enjoyed taking turns with his sister, with me guiding the turn-taking.”
The Best Sensory Toy for Hand Strengthening
This is an awesome sensory stimulation toy. It provides stress relief, and it also helps kids get those wiggles out. This is also an excellent toy to practice exercises provided by a physical therapist or occupational therapist.
“I bought this ball for a student who has severe hyperactivity and sensory issues to help him focus in class. It seems to help him release excess energy and he likes the feel of it in his hand. I bought the StringyBall over other balls because of the string. I know from experience how easily fidget toys can be "accidentally" dropped or thrown. So far, the string has prevented this, and has provided him with another way to interact with the ball.”
The Best Fidget Toys
These fidget and sensory toys are soothing for kids with sensory needs. They are also safe and fun for the whole family to play with. We love that they are non-toxic and BPA-free.
“Not often when I open a box from Amazon my eyes well up with tears. I bought these Fidget Toys for my granddaughter who has a rare genetic disorder. She is 2 1/2 and doesn't "play" with toys like other kids do but she loves to feel things and hold things in her hands so I bought these and they are wonderful! But what really impressed me is that this company put into the box a beautiful bag to keep the fidgets in and THE cutest little note cards too. There was one that said "Be unique...It's ok to be different" with darling unicorns. How KIND is the company? Honestly IT IS the little things that make THE BIGGEST difference. 100% would order from this company again! Thank you for making my day!”
The Best Anti-Anxiety Fidgeting Toys
This is a collection of sensory fidget toys that is perfect for repeated movement to relieve stress like stretching, squeezing, and flipping. They are great choices for children with ADHD and autism to help them focus and stay calm. With so many choices included, parents are bound to find at least one that works for their child.
“I have two ADHD kids. During school they utilize fidget things provided there. Virtual learning was hard for them in the spring and our school announced they'd be starting this year virtually too, so we needed more fidget things at home. This has at least two of everything, which is exactly what I needed so they don't fight over stuff.”
The Best Sensory Toy for Imaginative Play
This moldable sand is mesmerizing for children of all ages to play with. It’s wonderful creative and tactile stimulation. It comes with manipulative tools so that kids can shape and move the sand into creations or just to relieve their stress.
“My 9 year old son likes hearing the noises of sand in his hands… My kids are 9 and 6-they’ve outgrown play doh and the kinetic sand seems like a good sensorial replacement!”
The Best Sensory Toy for Jumping and Swinging
If your little one needs to get her wiggles out, this is a perfect choice. Kids can jump and swing in a safe and contained way. This is an awesome choice for kids who need to move to calm down.
“Best thing that I have bought for my ASD child. He loves it along with the other three kids. Wish I had room for three more so they could all have their own. Works great for calming them down and getting the wiggles out.”
The Best Fidget Spinner
This spinner set is beautiful to watch for kids who like to calm themselves with visual stimulation. It relieves stress and anxiety for kids in a very unobtrusive way.
“Beautiful spinner. This spinner has a great feel and is quiet and smooth spinning.”
The Best Sensory Therapy Putty
This non-toxic putty is perfect for building hand strength and for kids who fidget. It provides stress relief through tactile hand movement. The 4 pack provides different colors to keep things feeling new and interesting for kids.
“I originally bought this for my 6 year old son who has ADHD. His teacher recommended getting putty and since this had everything from firm to very soft I went with this one. Well... I also have ADHD and I once I tried it out I didn’t put it down. I pulled off a small ball and carried it with me everywhere. It’s very therapeutic.”
The Best Toy to Keep Their Attention
This is another excellent fidget toy to provide stress relief and relaxation for kids. Kids can spin it or push and pop the multicolor areas. It can really help kids to stay focused and to pay attention.
“I bought this as a fidget for my 10 year old with autism. He loves it!! He plays with it all the time. Anyone who picks it up loves it. It’s interesting and relaxing!! Has held up to his very rigorous play for a few months now-which is impressive.”
The Best Proprioceptive Toy
Kids will love playing “The Floor is Lava” with these foam stepping stones. They also offer excellent proprioceptive movement opportunities for kids with sensory needs. Kids will balance and jump and build their skills while having fun.
“I am a karate instructor, and I use these in my preschool and youth classes for balance and kicking exercises. They have proven to be an excellent proprioceptive progression from the balance buckets and balance beam the kids have become accustomed to . On top of that, they are colorful and interesting. My students were excited to see them and give them a try. Their open-ended nature makes them easy to get creative with. I put them on a blue mat with a couple of alligator stuffed animals and challenged the kids to use their balancing skills to cross “alligator river.” The fact that they are light and portable is also great.”