Many children keep hold of a favorite “blankie,” even as they grow older. This and items like it help soothe them in scary situations. It’s easier to feel safe from the monster in the closet, after all, if you have your trusty blanket as you go to bed.
While neurotypical kids stop relying on these things after a while, children with autism process their world a bit differently. For them, a loud, overstimulating room with distracting lights or unstructured play with a bunch of kids is their version of a monster in the closet.
One reason is that many kids with autism also experience sensory processing disorder. This causes their sensation of certain experiences—tastes, sounds, and more—to differ from other kids’. That’s where sensory toys come in. These often tactile toys help kids control their sensory experience, leading to better, more peaceful playtimes. If you want to find toys that work for your child, here are the best sensory toys for kids on the spectrum.
Slime is probably the ultimate toy for kids on the spectrum. It serves whatever function your child wants it to, meaning there is a really low chance they get frustrated. It’s extremely hands-on and makes all kinds of squishing, slurping, popping, crunching sounds to your son or daughter’s delight. Meanwhile, if you buy slime from Dope Slimes, you can choose the exact scent they love to sniff—anything from birthday cake to Texas Roadhouse rolls. If you were counting, that’s three senses—touch, hearing, and smell—that slime helps your kiddo process in a focused way.
The rhythmic nature of playing with slime is also undeniably fun for kids with autism. Often they appreciate when their environment responds predictably to them. That’s why they don’t do well at your big family reunion every year. They’d typically rather sit at home and poke their finger in slime and squeeze it through their fingers for hours.
Similar to slime, bubbles provide a responsive medium for play. The simple cause and effect of dipping a wand in bubble solution, blowing softly, and watching a bubble grow and float away is deeply satisfying and conducive to repetition. This is a quality toy for outside play, making it perfect for helping children transition to spending more time outdoors.
Meanwhile, another great sensory toy for kids on the spectrum is a play tent. It specifically helps kids limit their visual input, allowing them to key in on a few things they choose to focus on. Play tents are perfect for uninterrupted, solo, creative play according to their interests and function as a safe space when something overwhelms them.
One final note—tons of kids on the spectrum thrive on trampolines. Perhaps because of the deep pressure they feel as they jump coupled with the rhythmic nature of it, kids with autism often spend lots of time on them. There’s also something extremely pleasing about being in constant, forceful, physical motion.
If you’re searching for even more play options, here’s a list of some additional toys your child with autism may take to.