When you have a child with specific sensory and/or motor needs, it is important to keep these in mind when shopping for holiday gifts. I still remember spending money I did not have for a gorgeous bear for my two-year-old son. What I didn’t think about was that the bears realistic fur coat was more scratchy than cuddly. My son wanted nothing to do with it and it quickly became relegated to a high shelf. When selecting toys, it is also important to find items that are fun and resonate for your child. So with many years of experience as both a parent and a pediatric occupational therapist, here are a few of my favorite things.
Theraputty and many variants: You can buy or make your own. Great for hiding things in for child to find.
Instant Snow: Add water to a small amount of powder and the powder instantly erupts into a fluffy cool pile of artificial snow.
Body Sox: This is a Lycra rectangle that completely encompasses your child (or you can leave head sticking out. Provides touch pressure input. Great for body awareness, and often calming and organizing. We have had children use this for sensory breaks in school, as well as at home. Some children like to be still inside the Body Sox, while others love rolling, crawling or walking about in the Body Sox.
Lentil Bin: Of all the sensory bins, lentils are my favorite, because of their soft, silky nature.
Chew Necklace: I feel like any child who chews on their hands or clothing should be provided with an alternative and this is a great one.
BloPens: Nice calming, organizing oral activity that is appropriate for older children. Pictures are created by blowing through special paint ‘pen’ to create a picture with or without stencils.
Egg Chair: This cozy egg shaped chair includes a pull down cover and can be spun. (Spinning is an intense sensory input and is best done under the child’s control or the direction of an OT.)
Sonic Scooterboard: We recently added these at our therapy office and they have been a big hit especially with larger children as we can connect 2 or 3 together.
Check out our article about how Scooter Boards Foster Developmental Skills.
Fisher-Price Bounce and Spin Zebra: Great ride on toy for children about 12-36+ months. Provides vestibular input promotes balance reactions. Fun.
Gymnic Hop Ball: Hoppity balls provide vigorous vestibular/proprioceptive input and develop balance, strength and endurance. The Gymnic line includes sizes to fit a wide variety of children. The largest can even be used by an adult. These can be used inside or out. One young man we work with hops around the block, at his home, as part of his sensory diet.
Squiggly worms: Fun game that involves grabbing worms as they pop up out of apple. No batteries required. Easy to grade game up or down. For greater challenge, try catching worms with strawberry huller.
Mancala: Good game for developing in-hand manipulation skills (dexterity) with older children. Comes in a variety of forms.
String Along Lacing Kit: Very fun punch lace activity. Create your own design or copy one of the patterns. Reinforces mature grip and eye-hand coordination.
So have fun this holiday season and keep in mind your child’s sensorimotor preferences and needs as you do your holiday shopping.