One in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder annually, which is why many families ask what are good toys for autistic toddlers.
Sensory issues typically accompany autism, which is why selecting the appropriate toys is of the utmost importance for families or when shopping for a friend’s child.
You’ll want something that can entertain them without triggering sensory overload.
We’ll explore how sensory toys can be used as an aiding approach to provide a safe and natural environment for your children to play, as well as what to look for in the best toys for children with autism.
How Do Sensory Toys Help Autism?
The main benefit that sensory toys bring to the table is allowing families to provide their children with items that can help to soothe them as well as assist them with concentrating on a specific task.
As children play with these highly innovative creations, they can process a specific sense better, whether it be sight or sound, while assisting with decreasing their fear of sensory overload in a more natural environment.
Children have always been innately interested in play.
By combining sensory therapy with a toy that they can spend their time enjoying, it’s a more comfortable venue for them to have the support they need to improve an assortment of skills.
Some parents suggest that sensory toys can also help develop social skills, such as negotiating, sharing, and planning, as well as general motor skills, such as doing physical tasks.
You might also notice an improvement in self-control skills, such as focusing and concentrating on tasks, when a child with autism is provided with sensory toys that are best suited for them.
As a parent, you are likely to benefit from these tools, as well.
You’ll not only feel joy from watching your child engage in playtime that is healthy for their development, but they can also help you to connect.
Teachers, parents, and special needs educators frequently use sensory toys with their autistic children and students to assist with establishing a more profound connection, which plays a significantly more important role in the development of children.
Once you can see the improvements that these items can make in your child’s life, the next step is to ensure you have the right toys at your disposal.
What Are Good Toys for Autistic Toddlers?
As mentioned earlier, the primary objective of sensory toys for autism is to comfortably play in a natural environment to help develop their senses and skills.
With that said, not every toy you find on the shelf will be of high quality to promote a safe and healthy learning environment, which is where these specialty products come into play.
1. Manipulative Pieces
One of the most common features you’re bound to find with sensory toys is that they will have pieces that children can hold and move around to manipulate into specific positions.
For example, a lump of playdoh can be used to create different shapes and offer a soothing tactile sensation to calm their senses.
Manipulative pieces are also important when focusing on children’s gross motor skills, as moving toys and figuring out how they are supposed to work can help develop concentration and focus.
2. Collaborative Play
If you have had concerns about your child’s sharing capabilities, considering toys that feature cooperative play is a great way to encourage them to be more forthcoming.
These toys are highly recommended for autistic children who find it challenging to connect with their peers.
They are also excellent for when parents want to establish a deeper connection with their children.
Some of the best sensory toys on the market are puppets, which allow one user to act out and tell a story while the other is engaged in communication.
3. Easy to Use
Even as an adult, it can be frustrating to be presented with an item that is difficult to use, which can motivate you to stop using it altogether.
Sensory toys are similar in that you’re going to want to make sure they are easy for your children to put to good use, so they don’t begin to feel overwhelmed at the sight of the toy.
A phenomenal option is kinetic sand, which doesn’t make too much of a mess and is incredibly soft and comforting to play with.
You’ll find that the toys that combine easiness with problem-solving are bound to keep your children the most entertained and engulfed in the activity at hand.
Ensure you don’t choose something too easy so that they don’t lose interest.
What Are the Best Sensory Toys for Autism?
Now that you know of three of the most important things to look for in sensory toys for children with autism, let’s discuss the most popular toy categories you should go after.
You can guarantee that, with the improved awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder, manufacturers and specialists are developing a vast array of toys specifically designed for children who require special attention and activities.
A few of the most popular types of sensory toys on the market include:
1. Sand and Putty
You might even be able to throw slime into this category, as it has boomed in popularity over recent years.
Sand and putty are two fantastic items that children will love to use to craft unique shapes and objects.
Both of these are incredibly versatile tools that help develop excellent motor skills.
Children have the option to play with the substance bare-handed, as they are typically non-toxic and kid-friendly, or you can add extra tools into the mix, such as rolling pins and other accessories to further manipulate the products.
You can guarantee that by using sand, putty, and slime, your children will have the perfect sensory experience.
Putty offers a soft and slick texture, while sand is gritty, and slime is wet and sticky—all three are quite different from one another.
Our recommendation is to consider getting an assortment of these toys in different vibrant colors, which will make it even more appealing to their sight as well as their touch.
2. Sensory Mats
The entire premise behind a sensory mat is to provide children with tactile experiences to understand the different types of sensations in the world.
You can typically find mats with soft, rough, bumpy, and smooth textures all in one, or you might be required to purchase a series of rugs that can be put together for a well-rounded experience.
One of the things you’re bound to love about these toys is that they are incredibly safe and give children with autism the exposure to gentle sensory inputs.
Also, sensory mats are unique in that you can put them together on the floor or attach them to the wall, depending on how your child prefers to play.
3. Soothing Sound Toys
Soothing sound toys are not only highly recommended for children with autism but also those who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder.
A great example of something like this would be a rainmaker, which allows children to manipulate the movement of the toy to hear a gratifying sound that is soothing to their ears and minds.
As you won’t be shopping for extremely bright light and sounds, soothing sound toys are a far better alternative that allows your children to work on their fine motor skills while using toys that are far more engaging than silent ones.
4. Toy Animals
Some evidence suggests systematic exposure to certain sounds, such as household appliances and animals, can help to desensitize the hypersensitivity in young children.
By introducing a toy animal to the family, your children could have the opportunity to feel more comfortable with the noises that surround our everyday environment, providing help both in the home and when out in public.
Above all, your children will be excited that they will have a toy pet that they are solely responsible for, and that will play along with them.
Some of the toy animals you can find on the market respond to touch, which is a fantastic sensory benefit for children with autism.
You can also find models that require children to pay attention to the pets to perform tricks or respond in a certain way, which can help to boost concentration and focus.
Overall, if your child responds positively to the effects of having a toy animal, it can likely help to reduce extreme reactions to other stimuli in their environment.
5. Handheld Games
Handheld games, such as Simon, are frequently looked upon as old-school sensory toys, but it doesn’t make them any less effective today.
Simon and similar games are highly effective in helping children with autism develop their memorization skills, as they will have to repeat a sequence that is presented to them with the help of lights and sounds.
The most beneficial aspect of these games is that they aren’t too overwhelming for the senses. Still, they are attractive enough to engage and hold children’s attention for hours on end.
Many suggest that the lights and sounds are relatively hypnotic, so you can rest assured you’ll be providing a safe and comforting toy for your child to play.
Also, you might be able to find some that offer co-op modes.
This is where after one player’s turn is finished, it is then passed to the next player, which is essential for developing sharing skills and communication.
When you start wondering what are good toys for autistic toddlers, you’ll be surprised at the sheer number of options you have available.
From basic designs, such as kinetic sand, to more innovative concepts, like handheld games, there are highly reliable sensory toys for your children that they will love to play with daily.