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The Best Sensory Toys for Toddler Development

2021-11-23 by Melissa & Doug
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The Best Sensory Toys for Your Growing Child

Sensory toys might be something you’ve heard of in passing, but are you aware of the developmental benefits of sensory play both indoors and outdoors? When many parents hear “sensory processing,” they might think it’s tied to a disorder or special needs. While sensory toys are excellent for children with Autism and Down Syndrome, sensory play helps all children develop language skills, social-emotional skills, fine-motor skills, and cognitive skills in all children. Sensory processing is simply the way we observe our surroundings through our senses and how we make sense of them. This leads us to make our likes and dislikes. Knowing how these are developed in your child make for a more engaging and tailored play experience! 

Girl playing with Melissa & Doug Basic Skills Board

10 Amazing Sensory Toys for Toddler Development

There’s a toy that fits the needs of every child, that’s our motto at Melissa & Doug. Here are a few of our favorite toys that encourage sensory development in children with all kinds of needs. (Pro-tip: you can always make your own at home!)

Created by Me! Shape, Model & Mold Modeling Dough Kit

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: Offers a chance for children to squish, squeeze, mold, and craft different designs. The set includes 3 easy-to-grab tools with unique patterns. Mold vibrant creations with 4 colors—yellow, red, blue, and green.
Sweet detail: Each tub of modeling dough has a lid with an animal mold for easy designing!
Skills: Fine motor skills, finger strength, color recognition, shape recognition, and creative expression.
Countless Ways to Play: Have kids roll the dough out into thin coils, then ask them to form the capital letters of the alphabet using the rolled clay. Place the letters on a flat surface in alphabetical order.

Deluxe Wooden Stamp Set – ABCs 123s

Age: 4+
Why it’s great: Stamp some fun on your kiddo’s day with this extensive stamp set. Between decorating cards, practicing making words, or counting—the possibilities for play are plentiful! All the supplies are stored neatly in a tray, making cleanup easy.
Sweet detail: This set includes 71 wooden-handled upper-and-lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and punctuation stamps, four-color washable ink stamp pads, and a fun workbook.
Skills: Fine motor skills, letter and number recognition, and creative expression.
Countless Ways to Play: Let your child practice spelling their name, the names of mom and dad, or brothers and sisters! 

Primary Lacing Beads

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: Your child can make custom creations all their own with this multicolor, multishape bead set. The set includes 5 different shapes and 6 different colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
Sweet detail: The set comes with two laces for collaborative play and a wooden storage for easy cleanup.
Skills: Hand-eye coordination, fine motor, cognitive and visual perception skills.
Countless Ways to Play: Ask your child to put beads in different orders and patterns, like alternating specific colors or shapes. 

Basic Skills Puzzle Board 

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: Getting dressed is always fun with this jolly bear friend. This puzzle promotes life skills by teaching different fastening for everyday clothing items—buckles, zippers, buttons—giving your child a fun and exciting sensory way to practice each skill.
Sweet detail: Each fastening tool is located on a separate puzzle piece (6 in total) making practice and honing in on specific skills easy.
Skills: Fine motor and life skills.
Countless Ways to Play: This toy is an excellent way to practice your child’s development. Try timing how long it takes your kiddo to complete the puzzle to track skill growth.

Wooden Doorbell House

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: Fun’s at the front door! This Melissa’s Pick introduces daily tasks, like ringing doorbells and using keys, in a fun, exciting way! Each of the 4 doors has a corresponding key and there are 4 pose-able dolls to allow some imaginary play while practicing everyday skills.
Sweet detail: Parents, don’t sweat over the keys disappearing! The 4 keys are attached to the house’s handle ensuring they don’t get lost.
Skills: Fine motor and life skills.
Countless Ways to Play: Incorporate knock-knock jokes while unlocking each door—or make stories and narratives about who might be entering the home.

Band-in-a-Box – Clap! Clang! Tap!

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: The band’s all here—and in a convenient storage container. The music never stops with this 10-piece set. Play solo or as a duo or a trio for some dynamic flair.
Sweet detail: The Band-in-a-Box includes tambourine, cymbals, maracas, clacker, tone blocks, and a triangle to spark a symphony of sounds.
Skills: Hand-eye coordination, fine motor, cognitive and auditory perception skills.
Countless Ways to Play: Practice auditory skills by asking your child to identify each instrument by the sound it makes. 

Farm Friends Hand Puppets

Age: 2+
Why it’s great: Have the whole barn in your hand with these plush finger puppets. Make up fantastical stories with these farm friends or act scenes together.
Sweet detail: These puppets are made from durable, machine-washable fabric meaning they will last for generations to come.
Skills: Developing motor skills, hand-eye coordination, communication skills, self-confidence, parent-child bonding.
Countless Ways to Play: Practice auditory skills by identifying the different animal sounds or encourage your child to make a narrative for the animal and then to act it out in a puppet play. 

Felt Play Food – Sandwich Set

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: This sandwich shop is now taking orders! This 33-piece sandwich set is a smorgasbord of toppings and treats—white, wheat, or pita bread, veggies or bacon, and a variety of cheeses. Put on an apron and get to making delicious treats for dolls and stuffed friends.
Sweet detail: This set is simple to clean: all it takes is a wipe down! Felt Play Food also comes with instructions for play ideas.
Skills: Developing motor skills, hand-eye coordination, communication skills.
Countless Ways to Play: Set up a sandwich shop in the kitchen and take different orders for different family members—don’t forget the pets!

Cozy Cottage Play Tent

Age: 3+
Why it’s great: There’s no containing the imagine that will be brought to life in this perfect playhouse. The 4-feet tall, 3-feet wide fabric tent is spacious enough for your kiddo and some stuffed animal guests.
Sweet detail: Nothing was left out in the creation of this fabulous play space. It includes: front door with a flap that rolls up, window shutters that open and close, a working mail slot—it even has a reusable postcard to drop in the mail slot!
Skills: Fine motor, creative and life skills.
Countless Ways to Play: Invite dolls and friends over for a playful tea party, dinner, or a riveting performance. 

First Play Wooden Touch and Feel Puzzle Peek-a-Boo Pets With Mirror

Age: 1+
Why it’s great: This set is so much more than your regular puzzle. It stimulates younger children with a variety of textures for excellent sensory processing growth and stimulation. The smiling kitties and pets let you know you are doing an excellent job fitting the four pieces.
Sweet detail: This puzzle includes a child-safe mirror at the center, so your kiddo can see their own face smiling back during the fun.
Skills: Fine motor skills.
Countless Ways to Play: The chunky pieces can stand up on their own, allowing for even more creative play! Stand them up to practice animal sounds, or have races with the different animals.

Be sure to also check out this article on What Are Sensory Toys? 


Melissa & Doug

Our team of play experts occasionally enjoys sharing news about our company, new product launches, and some of the #CountlessWaysToPlay with our toys, crafts, and games. At Melissa & Doug, we’re on a mission to inspire the innovators of tomorrow through kid-powered play!

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