Everything You Wanted to Know About Sensory Toys
Let’s start off with defining what a sensory toy is: sensory toys are designed to stimulate one or more of the senses. So why is that important for children? For one thing, it's how kids learn. When kids play with sensory toys that stimulate the senses, they are learning important skills critical for their development, such as fine motor and cognitive skills. For children with special needs such as autism and Down Syndrome, sensory toys can be especially useful in helping them to engage with their senses, maintain their focus, and soothe and calm them during stressful times.
It might seem overwhelming to consider all the ways in which sensory processing affects your child—and there’s a lot to learn about our senses! “Sensory processing” is not a disorder and doesn’t just apply to children who might be struggling at home, in day-care, or in school. In fact, you might be intrigued to learn that sensory toys are beneficial for all children. Sensory play is a wonderful way for children to develop language skills, social-emotional skills, fine-motor skills, and cognitive skills. After all, our senses help us make decisions in our everyday lives. Think of foods you might avoid, scents that spark joy, or textures that you can’t get enough of—these are all preferences based on how our mind processes things through our senses!
And sensory play can happen anywhere! For example: starting a garden outside is a fun way to expose your child to the outdoors using multiple senses—sight, touch, smell, hearing, and maybe even taste, in the case of a few creative accidents.
The Power of Texture and Touch
So now that we’ve addressed the what and why behind sensory processing, let’s talk about how your child can be stimulated through sensory play. Our Created by Me! Flower Fleece Quilt is a multifunctional and incredibly fun way to get older children 6 and up involved in sensory play. Not only will they be creating a uniquely beautiful design of their own, but they’ll be practicing fine motor and hand-eye coordination through a tactile (and collaborative experience). Our quilting set doesn’t require sewing, so it’s perfect for little hands.
For younger children, a great starting place for sensory play are molding clays and stamp sets. Our Created by Me! Cut, Sculpt & Roll Modeling Dough Kit gives children 3+ the chance to get their hands messy with a variety of texture, tools, and shapes, leaning into the touch aspect of sensory play. Not only does this promote fine motor skills, but it also helps with pattern recognition.
We have often heard from customers that our plush toys, such as Burrow Bunny, are favorite sensory toys for their children with autism. Children can care for this animal or play veterinarian with friends and siblings, and work on kindness and eye contact at the same time.
Sound and Sensory Toys
One of the most engaging senses is sound—after all sounds are always all around us. The Musical Farm Yard Cube offers predictable sounds that won’t be overwhelming that can stimulate audio processing. Kids of all ages can practice imitating the sounds and work on gross motor, logical, creative, linguistic, emotional, and communication skills at the same time.
Toys For Fidgeting Fingers
To engage touch on a deeper level, there are so many toys that foster everyday skills, like opening latches. Our Wooden Latches Board has 6 different latches on one colorful board that promotes dexterity, fine and gross motor skills through play. Not to mention, it’s a ton of fun as a parent to see your child learning while having a great time. The Flip Fish Baby Toy and the Doorbell House also provide enriching hands-on sensory play for kids.
When it comes to sensory play, what’s most important is honing in on what your child needs and seeing where they can be supported. There’s endless possibilities with sensory play for any and all children. At Melissa & Doug, your children’s needs are our priority, which is why we offer specific toys for your child’s special needs and resources for understanding how play can be fun and developmental at the same time!