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Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers with Autism
Updated on
September 14, 2023

Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers with Autism

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Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers with Autism.
Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers with Autism

No matter what form they take, playtime and toys are an essential part of childhood. Toys can help build necessary fine and gross motor skills, develop problem solving skills and encourage creativity and imagination. But if you have a child with autism, you might find that certain types of toys can be overstimulating, understimulating or even upsetting to your child. That’s where sensory toys come in.

What are sensory toys?

“Sensory toys are geared toward stimulating the senses, whether that be sight, sound, touch, etc,” says Paige Paluch, a board certified behavior analyst for children with autism. These types of toys work well for kids who frequently exhibit sensory-seeking behaviors like chewing on non-food objects, engaging in rough play (especially at inappropriate times) or making repetitive sounds or movements (hand flapping, foot stomping, spinning in circles).

Which sensory toys you choose depends on which senses your child wants to stimulate (or avoid entirely if they’re especially sensitive to certain stimuli). “Each kids’ sensory needs are different,” Paluch says. “Some kids are very sensitive to sound so they wear headphones to block out background noise, others enjoy loud music toys. Sensory toys are meant to meet the sensory need for that child.”

So if your little one is constantly touching things or enjoys rubbing different materials against their skin, they’ll probably do best with sensory toys that have lots of different textures and are meant to be grabbed and squeezed. If your child has a special interest in music or particular sounds, try introducing a variety of musical toys—with volume control, since their sensitivity to sound may change day to day.

Age range for sensory toys

Sensory toys are technically made for any age, including adults with autism and fussy babies who may show signs of sensory processing issues. The toys recommended here are specifically meant for toddlers and young kids ages 18 months and up, since autism isn’t typically detected earlier than 18 months old.

Another important thing to remember when selecting sensory toys for your child is that you may not be able to predict how they’ll react to a toy, so don’t be discouraged if you feel like you’ve struck out after a purchase. Your kiddo may warm up to the toy later, and if not, then it’s a learning experience for what doesn’t work for their unique sensory needs, which is just as important.

The sensory toys below are recommendations from board certified behavior analysts and parents of autistic toddlers (some of the parents also have autism and still benefit from these toys as adults!), and they cover a range of sensory stimuli including touch, light, sound and motion.

Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers with Autism

Silicone Chewy Sticks

More than just a teether, these chew sticks feature four different textures and are designed to reach all the way to the back teeth. And since they're silicone, they're super easy to wash.
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Liquid Motion Bubbler

The gently flowing bubbles and bright colors make excellent visual stimuli, and the container can be turned over and over and over again for never-ending bubbles.
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Silicone bubble popping toys are all the rage right now since they provide the same satisfaction as popping bubble wrap (but without the startling noise!) and never deflate.
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These little suckers stick to just about anything, and they make a nice "pop!" when you pull them off. They're perfect for encouraging development of fine motor skills and for kids who like to experiment with sound and surfaces.
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Light Up Magic Ball Wand

This toy provides almost every type of sensory stimulation possible! It produces light, color, motion, vibration and white noise sound all with the touch of just one button.
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Wobble Board

If your kiddo seeks stimulation by rocking back and forth, a wobble board can make that motion easier for them to accomplish while also building their balance and coordination skills.
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Stretch Balls

It's very common for children with autism to make repetitive hand movements like squeezing their fists or wringing their fingers. These super flexible rubber balls can be squeezed, stretched and misshapen to replicate that stimulus.
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Beaded Raindrops

This little rain stick makes the same gentle "pitter-patter" sound of a traditional rain stick with the added bonus of colorful beads that gently trickle downward.
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Whirly Squigz

Just like the original Squigz we recommend, these stick when you press them and pop when you release them. But Whirly Squigz also feature spinning attachments (much like fidget spinners) for hand and eye sensory stimulation.
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Stretchy Strings

These noodle-like rubber toys can be stretched, squeezed, twisted and wrapped to pretty high maximums thanks to their durable construction. They also have a stimulating texture that many touch-focused kids enjoy.
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Sensory Stepping Stones

Featuring a ridged and bumpy texture that mimics a tortoise shell, these stepping stones are perfect for children who seek stimulation through their feet or need help with balance and coordination.
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Sensory Slug

This little slug is made up of a bunch of connected yet flexible pieces, so it can be moved and wiggled in just about any direction. The hard plastic pieces make a satisfying "click clack" sound when moved against each other.
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Twisty Figure 8 Teether

This toy can be twisted and turned over and over again into lots of different shapes, and the five different textures are safe to chew on. It also makes a gentle rattle sound.
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bilibo Sensory Rocker

Like a wobble board, this sensory rocker provides movement stimulation with ease. Its unique shape allows it to move more than just forward and back or side to side, and sensory seekers also love to use it for spinning.
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Poppin’ Pipes

With every movement, these flexible pipes make a popping noise in a range of musical tones. Compress the pipe to create high-pitched pops, and expand the pipe for low-pitched pops.
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Children who enjoy repetitive motions and activities can't get enough of this toy, delighting in dropping gear after gear down the pole and watching them spin over and over again.
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Light Up Gyro Wheels

Children who seek stimulation by throwing objects can use this toy as a safer alternative. It uses the same flinging motion to activate the wheel, but since it's held on by strong magnets, there's very little risk of actually throwing anything.
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Sensory Swing

Many children with autism like to feel compressed to help them calm down and self-regulate (like hugging themselves or wrapping up in blanket). A lot like a baby swaddle, this sensory swing envelopes with gentle compression to create a sense of security.
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Do-Re-Mi Textured Tunes Musical Toy

If your little one loves music and textures, this colorful toy combines the two in a fun cause-and-effect lesson. Every time a textured button is pressed, a short melody plays.
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Puro Sound Labs Noise Canceling Headphones for Kids

For kids who are easily overstimulated or upset by noise, these child-size headphone cancel out even the smallest background noises.
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These headphones are a great option for kids who don't like the feeling of traditional headphones, which can be heavy and tight around the ears. CozyPhones are soft, slim and lightweight and don't squeeze the ears.
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Toniebox Audio Player

If your little one loves listening to the same song from their favorite movie on endless repeat, a Toniebox lets them control their playlist themselves (and saves your sanity). Keep in mind that each character and song set is sold separately.
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Abby the Alligator Needs Hand Squeezes

Each book in the Living in the Land of Sensory series features a little animal with big sensory needs. The stories teach techniques for helping children with "busy bodies" regulate their movements and emotions with help from others.
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Amylia Ryan

Associate Editor

Amylia Ryan is the Associate Editor at Babylist, specializing on the topics of health, wellness, lifestyle products and more. Combining nearly a decade of experience in writing and editing with a deep passion for helping people, her number one goal in her work is to ensure new parents feel supported and understood. She herself is a parent to two young children, who are more than willing to help product test endless toys, books, clothes, toiletries and more.

Angela Wood

Manager of User Insights

Angela Wood is the Manager of User Insights at Babylist.

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