If you are the parent of a child who is a sensory seeker (and you know who you are!), then you know first hand how difficult it can be to find the right kind of products that will help satisfy the sensory input his or her body craves.
Well, look no further!
I have put on my OT glasses and found a ton of great products for you and your sensory seeking child! I have specifically chosen to feature items that do not require special therapy equipment (such as special ceiling hooks for hanging therapy swings) so you are able to use these ideas in your own home. I had so much fun filtering through all the fun products out there in order to bring you a list of toys and tools that you can use to help your kiddo meet his or her sensory needs. Click here if you’re curious about how occupational therapists use fun toys and equipment like the ones listed below to help children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
For a crash course in sensory and SPD, read my post on An Introduction to the Sensory Systems, as well as my page on Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Sensory and Sensory Processing Disorder. You can also learn more about sensory processing in a great book called Sensory Processing 101, which is written by my therapy buds over at The Inspired Treehouse.
And for a FREE PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION of this post that can be (legally) printed and distributed as a resource for others who have sensory seekers in their life, please CLICK HERE!
Because there are so many amazing products on this list, I decided to break it down into categories in order to make it easier to browse. Be sure to take a look at all the categories so you don’t miss any of the fun ideas! Click on the picture for each product to be taken to the product page on Amazon. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (see full disclosure here).
Kids who seek vestibular (movement-based) input cannot get enough spinning, swinging, sliding, and rolling. It is normal for kids to seek out vestibular experiences as part of their natural development. Just because a child wants to swing a lot doesn’t mean he or she has sensory processing disorder! (Read an easy-to-understand post about Sensory Processing Disorder from OT Mom, including a link to a checklist for identifying SPD in children, by clicking here.) However, there are some children who truly require INTENSE amounts of vestibular input, to the point that they compromise their own safety (jumping off of counters, diving onto their head, etc.) in order to get it. Yikes! That’s where these awesome products come into play.
Before you go crazy with getting your child all riled up with vestibular input (especially spinning), read this post from the SPD Foundation website about how to minimize the risk of overstimulation and keep your kiddo safe and healthy while engaging in intense vestibular input. This is especially important if your child seeks out spinning, which is a very powerful form of vestibular input and can easily overstimulate a child (but can also calm him or her if used correctly).
JUMPING, BOUNCING, AND BALANCING
Jump-o-Lene. A potentially safer alternative to a big trampoline that still provides the opportunity for movement and lots of jumping.
Foam Pogo Jumper. Better and safer than an old-school pogo stick.
Peanut Ball. Sit, lay, roll, bounce. Learn simple core and upper body strengthening activities to do on a peanut ball from Therapy Fun Zone. These peanut balls are available from the Fun and Function website or on Amazon (click on image).
Exercise Ball. Many parents and teachers (like Julie of Creekside Learning) find that kids can actually focus and learn better when they sit and bounce on an exercise ball
Jump Rope. Learn 10 therapy activities you can do with a jump rope besides jumping rope, from Your Therapy Source.
Sit n Spin. Great because the child can spin themselves by pulling their body around the wheel while also engaging in heavy work (which can help decrease the risk of overstimulation from spinning) and developing important skills like left-right (bilateral) coordination, core stability (in the tummy, back, and neck), and upper body strength.
SWINGING AND ZIPLINING
Little Tykes 2-in-1 Snug ‘n Secure Swing. Swinging in a rhythmic back-and-forth motion can provide much needed vestibular input while also providing calming input (ever noticed how your kiddo sometimes seems sleepy or ready for a nap after a long swinging session at the park?).
Wind Rider Glide Swing. Adds a little bit of heavy work into that back-and-forth motion on the swing to help calm your kiddo after a good, long session of swinging.
Outdoor Platform Swing. Seriously. How much fun is this?! Learn how to make some of your own swings for your sensory seeker by following the Swings & Climbing Things board on Pinterest.
Kids who seek proprioceptive (body-based) input to their muscles and joints are the ones who will often be seen crashing, falling, pushing, pulling, and climbing nearly non-stop. Some kids also crave proprioceptive input to the joints and muscles of the mouth, which is demonstrated by their need to CHEW on everything — shirts, blankets, shoes, pencils…everything. Read my post about how to help kids who hang, lean, and climb on EVERYTHING by clicking HERE. Check out my list of 40 “heavy work” activities for kids who seek proprioceptive input HERE. Read my 5 tips for how to help kids who chew on everything HERE. And learn tons more about proprioception from Sensory-Processing-Disorder.com.
Many activities tend to be both vestibular and proprioceptive in nature (lots of moving and muscle effort in the same activity, such as those you’ll see below). Kids who seek vestibular and/or proprioceptive input are often labeled as “hyperactive” and it seems like their engine is always running too fast.
Radio Flyer All-Terrain Wagon. To ride in or pull for heavy work.
THROWING AND BOPPING
WALKING, PUSHING, CRASHING, AND CLIMBING
Body Sox. Provides amazing, calming, whole-body proprioceptive input as kids stretch and push against the lycra material. Comes with an activity guide and, let’s face it, it’s pretty entertaining to watch kids engage with this sensory tool like little stretchy blue star creatures. Just make sure you figure out what size you need before you order (simply type “body sox” in the search bar on Amazon to see all the results).
Crash Pad. Yes, you could use pillows. But it’s possible your seeker may need something a bit more durable and resistant if he or she is constantly finding ways to jump from high places (as they do!).
FOR KIDS WHO PUT STUFF IN THEIR MOUTH AND NEED TO CHEW
Kids who seek oral input (usually a combination of tactile and proprioceptive input) are the ones who are constantly putting things in their mouths (even non-food items like rocks and erasers), licking things that shouldn’t be licked, chewing on just about anything (sleeves, pens, erasers, soles of shoes, furniture…you name it), or requesting spicier, more intensely flavored foods.
Be smart and watch out for choking hazards with whatever sensory tools you give kids for their mouths.
Vibrating Toothbrush. Tons of options and characters available. A more intense, therapeutic oral motor tool (called a Z-Vibe) is available through ARK Therapeutic. Read my post about different types of Z-Vibe tips and attachments HERE. Carolyn from The Pleasantest Thing is a big fan of the Z-Vibe! I wouldn’t recommend going the Z-Vibe route unless your child is under the supervision of an OT or Speech Therapist so they can show you how to use it so it will help your child.
Chew Stixx Oral Chew. This is just one of many handheld chewy-type products made by Chew Stixx. I am also a HUGE fan of the oral motor products offered by ARK Therapeutic, particularly their Sensory Chews for babies and older kids (found here).
All of the necklaces below may be good for kiddos who chew with minimal to moderate intensity. Chewable necklaces may not be thick and strong enough to withstand severely intense chewing. For example, I once worked with a two-year-old who regularly chewed through the soles of shoes. If that is the case, your young one may require something super strong like the sensory chewy tools found through ARK Therapeutic HERE.
Chewigem. Several colors and styles available for both girls and boys. Search “Chewigem” on Amazon to find more results, or visit chewigem.com to see all styles and learn more about using chewable jewelry for kids who chew on clothes, blankets, toys, pencils, and more.
Chewy Skool Kid Necklace. Several colors available. Good option for a boy. Recommended by Carolyn from The Pleasantest Thing.
Kids who seek tactile (touch-based) input are the ones you often see touching everything in sight, finding different textures and materials to rub, excessively touching people’s faces and jewelry, and unable to get enough “messy play”.
MESSY PLAY PRODUCTS
Finger Paints. You can buy them or simply use yogurt, pudding, or make your own homemade version. Homemade finger paint recipes range from those that are taste-safe and require cornstarch, taste-safe and don’t require cornstarch, taste-safe but not meant to be eaten, and more.
Play Dough. Again, buy the pre-made stuff or make your own with this basic recipe I use all the time. Check out the Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book from Nurture Store and follow the huge collaborative Play Dough Pinterest board for a ridiculous amount of ideas for how to play with play dough.
Kinetic Sand. Looks like brown sugar, squishable and moldable like play dough, sticks to itself but isn’t sticky. This is my go-to sensory sand at work and at home! Read my post on the benefits of using Kinetic Sand here. Now available in original brown, as well as colors such as blue and pink. You can buy just the box of sand or building and molding kit that comes with a sand tray and molds (as shown below)!
Living Sands. This stuff is crazy awesome. Similar to Kinetic Sand, but fluffier. Read my review of Living Sands here.
Moon Sand. Several colors are available if you search Amazon, or find out how to make your own with some easy recipes. Better yet, learn how to make taste-safe Moon Sand (for babies or those who put stuff in their mouth) thanks to Teach Me Mommy.
Instant Snow. Looks real, lasts a long time. Or you can make your own by using a diaper. Seriously! Learn how here.
Sensory Play Table. Versatile piece of equipment for many different kinds of sensory play! Learn 10 ways to use a sensory play table by reading my post here, and learn how to make your own sensory play table thanks to Mama Papa Bubba and Pink Oatmeal. Follow my Sensory Play Ideas board or the collaborative Kids Sensory Play board on Pinterest for tons of great ideas that can be used in a sensory play table!
LIGHT AND DEEP TOUCH
Ball Pit. Playing in a ball pit is a mix of tactile and proprioceptive input. You can buy an actual ball pit like the one pictured below. Or you can simply put a bunch of ball pit balls in your child’s Pack n Play, empty baby pool, or even empty bathtub. Supervise as needed. Too much fun!
Fidget toys can occupy the hands and help focus the brain.
Gifts for kids who are visual seekers. Kids who seek visual (sight-based) input are the ones who find opportunities to watch objects and lights spin, move, flash, and flicker. Visual input that is slow and rhythmic can provide calming, regulating input and can actually influence a child’s respiration rate and heart rate. Why do you think they have fish tanks (visually calming objects) in stressful places likes the lobbies of doctors’ and dentists’ offices? A kid-friendly example of a visually calming object is a glitter calm-down bottle (read my explanation of why calm-down bottles help kids calm and regulate).
Gifts for kids who are auditory seekers. Kids who are auditory (sound-based) seekers are those who always want things louder, and they tend to like to make that noise themselves.
Gifts for kids who are olfactory seekers. Kids who seek olfactory (smell-based) input, are the ones who find opportunities to smell things whenever they can. They really appreciate and benefit from scented products.
Scented Play Dough. I absolutely cannot get enough of the magnificent scented dough sold at Lakeshore Learning. Or learn how to make your own by using this basic recipe and then adding either several drops of scented extract (such as peppermint, vanilla, lemon, etc.) or just mixing in a packet of scented Kool-Aid powder (it acts as both a scent and a color).
Colored Smencils. What elementary school-aged kid wouldn’t want their colored pencil artwork to smell like cotton candy?! Keep in mind that scents like cinnamon and mint (both of which are included in this pack) can help increase your child’s ability to stay alert and focused while working.
Scratch and Sniff Stickers. Classic.
Scented Loomi Bandz. Have you been around elementary and middle schools lately? These Loomi Bandz are all the rage. Kids loop ’em together to make bracelets. Even the teachers are wearing them. And apparently these scented Loomi Bandz smell amazing!
I know this is a HUGE list, but guess what? There are so many more great products out there for sensory seekers that I didn’t even have a chance to include yet! Did I miss one of your child’s favorite sensory seeking toys? Let me know by leaving a comment! I will be coming back and adding products to this list as I find and learn about more, so don’t be shy. Thanks for reading and I really hope you (I mean, your child!) will have a great time exploring all the wonderful, creative, fun sensory integration products out there!
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It’s so important to remember that ALL children (and adults, for that matter) have sensory needs, and there are many simple tools out there for supporting those sensory needs!
First is a great book and resource called Sensory Processing 101. Written collaboratively by pediatric occupational therapists and a former teacher, this book provides easy-to-understand information about what “sensory” means, plus great ideas for fun sensory activities to promote healthy development of all the senses!
Project Sensory’s mission is to provide parents, educators, and caregivers with the resources, support and tools they need to help their children succeed at home and school. The goal is to spread awareness of the importance of the sensory needs of ALL children.
The Sensory Fix™ toolkit is a handpicked kit filled to the brim with over 15 sensory tools to help your child organize his or her sensory systems. It includes a simple-to-use companion guide that visually shows how each item in the kit can support your child’s sensory needs, and a chart that matches everyday kid behaviors to tools in the kit.
The kit comes with a 1-year membership to Project Sensory’s exclusive printables club. As part of the Printables Club, members will receive a monthly newsletter with exclusive printables only available to them, one video, and a sensory tip they can use NOW. In addition, all printables added during the duration of the 1-year membership will be free to you (excluding any ebooks).
And you know what else? One Sensory Fix™ kit will be donated to a classroom in need for every 20 kits purchased. How awesome is that?!
So pop over to Project Sensory to find out what is in each kit and learn more about how to support the sensory needs of the kid(s) in your life.
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