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Updated January 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
EduShape Sensory Puzzle Blocks
EduShape
Sensory Puzzle Blocks
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STEM & Spatial Skills
Bottom Line

These brightly-colored, angular foam blocks challenge toddlers' logic and reasoning skills, and provide sensory stimulation to boot.

Pros

Popular set that encourages spatial and STEM thinking, and gives visual and tactile stimulation as well. Each block has pyramid-shaped tactile nubs. Made from soft EVA foam, so they are recommended for children ages 2 and up who have passed the stage of chewing on most toys.

Cons

The nubs that make these blocks such great sensory toy makes it difficult to stack them more than two high. If this frustrates your child, consider using them like puzzle pieces.

Best Bang for the Buck
Impresa Products Spiky Sensory Balls
Impresa Products
Spiky Sensory Balls
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Bargain Pick
Bottom Line

Captures attention with bright colors and soft rubber spikes that fascinate toddlers and help older kids focus.

Pros

Feature nice, bright colors and a great feel. Attracts toddlers and young kids very well. Hold up well to constant use and squeezing. Come at an affordable price point compared to similar options.

Cons

Too big to fit some users’ hands comfortably as a fidget tool. Some kids don’t like the spiky feel of the ball.

Infantino Sensory Balls, Blocks, and Cups Activity Set
Infantino
Sensory Balls, Blocks, and Cups Activity Set
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Most Versatile
Bottom Line

Includes a variety of durable toys that toddlers can use to build fine motor skills, explore STEM concepts, and more.

Pros

Generous 16-piece set comes with 8 stacking cups, 4 squishy blocks, and 4 tactile balls. Each set of items can be used independently or combined for even more exploration. Made from durable, easy-to-clean, flexible plastic. Chewable and soft-sided.

Cons

There are small holes in some pieces that can trap water.

Fat Brain PipSquigz Teething Toy
Fat Brain
PipSquigz Teething Toy
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Durable & Rugged
Bottom Line

Sturdy suction cups grip different surfaces and are ideal for highchairs and bath time.

Pros

Constructed of high-quality BPA-free silicone. Feature bright colors, bumps, debossed smiley face, and ridges. Suction cups help baby develop fine and gross motor skills. Dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. Great for teething.

Cons

Suction may not be strong enough for some surfaces.

Sensory Jungle Water Beads for Kids
Sensory Jungle
Water Beads for Kids
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Aesthetically Appealing
Bottom Line

A mesmerizing in-water sensory tool that keeps kids occupied for long stretches of time—parents should supervise, however, because of their size.

Pros

These store easily before use and quickly expand to several times their original size when soaked in water. They can stay hydrated for up to 2-3 days. Can be rehydrated multiple times, and do not burst easily.

Cons

Eventually will burst with enough play or rehydration. Can crumble when drying out. Difficult to clean up if spilled. Some find them too small, even after hydration.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best sensory toys

It's harder for some children to engage with toys than others. Some toys don't provide the type of stimulation certain kids desire, and others provide too much visual and auditory stimulation, which can be overwhelming. Sensory toys are specially designed to engage and stimulate one of the five senses.

Interested? Your next step is to figure out which sensory toys would be best for your child. To do so, you need to know about sensory toy types, features, and purposes.

Luckily, you're in the right place. Alongside our top picks, we've created a full guide to sensory toys that will teach you all you need to know.

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Sensory toys can help lessen anxiety in children with sensory processing issues.

The purpose of sensory toys

The majority of toys are designed with the act of play in mind, but sensory toys are designed to stimulate a particular sense. It might seem odd that a toy would be designed to stimulate just one sense, but these toys were originally designed for use by people with sensory processing disorder (which may sit alongside autism, ADHD, and other conditions).

People with sensory processing disorder often seek specific sensory stimulation and sensory toys help to fulfil their needs in appropriate ways. For example, a person might play with a fidget toy to keep an urge satisfied. That said, there's no reason why neurotypical children can't play with sensory toys if said toys appeal to them.

Types of sensory toys

You can find sensory toys in a number of forms; it would take an extremely long time to list every single subtype. However, we can break types of sensory toys down into the senses that they stimulate and give you a few popular examples of each.

Visual toys

These are toys that provide visual stimulation for children. Examples include light projectors, bubble tubes, and zigzag timers.

Auditory toys

While plenty of kids with sensory processing disorder prefer to avoid unwanted sounds, there are some who seek out specific sounds or may find particular sounds calming. Auditory sensory toys include rainsticks, musical instruments, and anything that crinkles when touched.

Tactile toys

Touch-related sensory toys provide a particular physical sensation or give kids something to do with their hands. Common choices include slime or putty, kinetic sand, fidget toys, stress toys, textured balls, and swings.

Toys related to smell and taste

Although not widely available (since smell isn't a common sense that needs stimulating in people with sensory processing disorders), you can find some toys, such as squishies, that are infused with a particular scent. As for taste, there aren't really any sensory toys you can taste. However, there are items designed for kids who like to bite or chew. These include chew necklaces, vibrachews, and other oral motor toys.

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Did you know?
Some sensory toys, such as fidget toys, are designed to help focus a child's attention when they may otherwise act out.
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Considerations for selecting sensory toys

Age range

It's important to choose sensory toys that are appropriate for your child’s age. Always adhere to minimum recommended ages, as these are put in place for safety reasons. For example, some sensory toys may have small parts that pose a choking risk for young children.

The upper end of the recommended age range is less important with sensory toys. Textured bouncy balls might be listed as suitable for ages three to six, for instance, but your 10-year-old might still enjoy the feeling of squeezing them of rolling the knobbly parts down their arm.

Educational merit

Sensory toys aren't really designed to be educational, but some of them can be, anyway. You might find a light projector that projects constellations or planets. Bubble or zigzag timers can teach kids something about the properties of fluids with different densities. We wouldn't necessarily recommend thinking about educational merit over sensory input for kids with sensory processing issues, but they can still learn along the way, if relevant.

Responsiveness

Depending on the nature of your child's sensory issues, they may need immediate sensory response from their toys. A sensory toy should ideally give the desired response right away. So, for example, a noise-making toy should create a sound as soon as your child hits it or presses a button. If a sensory toy isn't responsive enough, the child might go elsewhere to achieve the desired sensory response, which in some cases could be unsafe.

Safety

Although it should go without saying, sensory toys must be safe for their intended use. If a toy designed to be chewed isn't strong enough, a child could bite a part off, which could pose a choking risk. If a sensory toy is made from toxic materials, it’s not safe for use by children at all. Check that any sensory toys you buy are safe and fit for purpose.

Sensory toy prices

Excellent news for parents on a budget: you don't need to spend much to get a quality sensory toy. In fact, sensory toys are often quite simple and have a low price tag.

Basic sensory toys may cost as little as $5 to $10, and sometimes less.

Mid-range sensory toys tend to be priced between $10 and $20.

High-end sensory toys with more complex parts (such as light projectors) can cost between $20 and $40.

Tips

  • Choose a sensory toy that provides the type of stimulation your child needs. If your child craves tactile stimulation, for example, a light-up visual sensory toy won't hit the spot. And, in this case, your child could misuse the toy to achieve the desired sensory response.

  • Pick durable sensory toys. Sensory toys should be able to withstand the kind of wear and tear that kids put their toys through. Anything that breaks easily could be dangerous.

  • Consult your child when buying sensory toys. Unless you're buying a toy as a surprise gift, you're more likely to find a toy your child will enjoy if you consult them before purchasing.

  • Make sure your chosen sensory toys adhere to relevant safety standards. Ideally, a sensory toy should adhere to the ASTM International standards for toy safety.
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If you're unsure what kinds of sensory toys would help your child with their sensory processing disorder, consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.

FAQ

Q. Are fidget toys the same as sensory toys?

A. Fidget toys are a type of sensory toy that give kids tactile stimulation instead of fidgeting in other ways. However, not all sensory toys are fidget toys.

Q. Aren't all toys sensory toys?

A. You could argue that all toys are sensory toys since they stimulate multiple senses in various ways. However, sensory toys are different in that they're usually designed to stimulate one sense while being fairly unstimulating in other ways. For instance, a musical sensory toy usually doesn't have lots of other lights, sounds, and bright colors. This is because toys that are too "busy" can confuse and overwhelm some children with additional needs, such as autism or sensory processing disorder.

Q. How durable are sensory toys?

A. This depends on the toy you opt for. Some are extremely durable, so they're great for young kids or children who have a tendency to throw or play roughly with their toys. Others are more fragile, so you might want to supervise play, especially if said toys are filled with liquid or smaller parts that could be swallowed.

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