As an occupational therapist and mom to two young kiddos, I love a toy that encourages a child to use their senses! Here at the Inspired Treehouse, we believe that play is the best way to promote development and wellness for kids. So I’ve put together a list of some fantastic toys to promote sensory skills that address each of the senses: sight, touch, taste, hearing, smell, and don’t forget about vestibular (or moving the body and practicing balance)! This guide is a great place to start if you’re looking for toys that can contribute to healthy development. I’ve also suggested a few ideas for how to change these toys up to create an even richer sensory experience for your child. Be sure to check out our other gift guides with toys for promoting fine and gross motor skills. Happy Shopping!
1. Hilarous! Sip and Swirl glasses by Play Visions. This toy straw is sure to get giggles while enhancing ORAL SENSORY AND ORAL MOTOR skills. In addition to requiring the power to suck liquid all the way through the straw for a sip, you can also have your child blow out with force to create bubbles in the liquid! Experimenting with the sense of TASTE? Fill his cup with any variety of liquids from warm hot cocoa to a carbonated drink with a kick!
2. These LED finger lights are sure to be a hit with little ones of any age. An excellent toy to enhance VISUAL feedback with the varying colors and bright lights. Have your child play with these in a dark room or at night time, moving their hands in different directions and motions. Change it up and play a game of charades drawing shapes or letters in the air. How about a game of hide and seek?
3. This is one of my favorites! I use it both at home with my kids and also in my OT practice. Spot It is a fantastic game to develop and enhance VISUAL perceputal skills. Between any 2 cards, there is always one, and only one, matching symbol. Be the first to “spot it” to win. This is an amazing game to improve visual development. The best part is that there are so many different sets to choose from: Animals, Alphabet, NHL, MLB, Numbers and Shapes, On the Road, Halloween, Spanish, and many more!
4. We originally found this one at a quaint little toy shop near our home. Fell in love with My Little Sandbox immediately and came home with one that day! This is an inventive way to bring the sandbox indoors in a neat and tidy way. Great for building TACTILE and fine motor skills, this little box is filled with sand and mini toys to encourage pretend play. I was so excited when I heard that it came in not only a construction set, but also a fairy garden, a doggie day camp, mermaids, pirates, and princesses! Allow your child to play independently first and then play with him. Show him how to bury the toys, draw with your fingers in the sand, pinch the sand between your fingertips, and fill up the mini toys with sand to pour.
5. If you love moon sand, check this one out! In my opinion, Kinetic Sand is even better than moon sand in some ways for indoor TACTILE play because it stays together and does not leave any sandy residue on the hands. It doesn’t spread and crumble all over. Press it with the palms of the hands, squeeze it tightly into balls, or try it with cookie cutters like playdough.
6. I go through several Squiggle Wiggle Writers every year. There is just something about a vibrating pen that is a magnet for little children. The TACTILE input this pen provides with vibration can wake up any child’s creativity. Along with drawing, a fun game of Simon Says placing the vibration on different body parts would be fun! Don’t forget the soles of the feet and cheeks!
7. Cozy Plush elephant SMELLS like lavender when warmed in the microwave. Amazing and calming. Your child can snuggle with this guy on the couch or take him to bed at night. There are many different animals to choose from, pick your child’s favorite!
8. The sense of HEARING can be encouraged by listening to any music. In Animal Soundtracks by Galt Toys, Inc. , your child will listen to a sound and match the sound to a picture on his game board. Can he hear the sounds at different volumes? Can he hear a specific sound then mimick it? This game also comes in a series with a variety of noises to identify if you do not want to limit the choices to animal sounds. A must have!
9. What child would not like this toy to get MOVING? Whirl and Twirl by Swing-N-Slide lets your child grip the bar, spin, hang, and swing to his heart’s desire! I also love this toy because it engages kids’ big muscles with heavy work! Try crashing onto a mat when he lets go or counting how long he can hold on. Spin in one direction and then the other!
10. The I Can Do That game by Dr. Seuss is another favorite around here. It is an actively playful game that gets your child MOVING by balancing, hopping, twirling, and crawling just to name a few. How many of the creative moves can your child master? You don’t need therapist recommendations on this one, Dr. Seuss has it covered.
Looking for more inspiration?
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