Sensory Tools
for Toddlers
to help them thrive.

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The latest from Dr. Eva, DPT and Dr. Yana, DDS, and Kristi, EDL.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are sensory toys for toddlers?

Sensory toys are playthings designed to stimulate a child's senses, including touch, sight, sound, and sometimes even smell and taste. These toys can include a wide variety of items such as textured balls, light-up toys, musical instruments, and scented playdough.

Why are sensory toys important for toddlers?

Sensory toys play a crucial role in a toddler's development. They help stimulate and develop the senses, which is essential for cognitive, motor, and language skills. Sensory play also encourages exploration, problem-solving, and creative thinking.

Are sensory toys good for toddlers?

Yes, sensory toys are beneficial for toddlers. They provide opportunities for learning and development through hands-on, engaging play. Sensory toys can help improve fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and concentration. They also offer a calming, focused activity for toddlers.

What are sensory friendly toys?

Sensory-friendly toys are designed to provide a comfortable and engaging experience for children with sensory processing difficulties. These toys often have softer textures, muted colors, and produce gentle sounds or no noise at all. They allow for a more relaxed and focused playtime.

When should I start using sensory toys?

You can introduce sensory toys as early as infancy, but they become particularly important during the toddler years (ages 1-3). This is a time of rapid brain development, and sensory play helps support this growth. It's never too early to start providing sensory-rich experiences for your child.

How can I help my toddler with sensory needs? 

Offer a variety of sensory experiences through play, such as playing with sand, water, finger paints, and playdough. Provide toys with different textures, shapes, and sounds. Create a calm, organized space for sensory play. Be attentive to your toddler's responses and preferences, and adjust activities as needed.

What are some examples of sensory play?

Some examples of sensory play include: Playing with sand, rice, or dry pasta Finger painting with different colors and textures Exploring a sensory bin filled with water, soap, and sponges Playing musical instruments or making sound shakers Engaging with scented playdough or scented markers

Are sensory toys only for children with special needs?

No, all children can benefit from sensory toys and sensory play. While they can be particularly helpful for children with sensory processing issues, autism, or developmental delays, sensory experiences are important for every child's growth and development.

How do I choose the right sensory toy for my toddler?

Consider your child's age, interests, and sensory preferences when selecting toys. Look for toys that offer a variety of sensory experiences - texture, light, sound, color, and movement. Choose toys that are safe and appropriate for your child's developmental stage. Observe your child's response to different sensory stimuli and adjust toy selections accordingly.

Are there any safety concerns with sensory toys?

Yes, there are safety concerns to keep in mind when using sensory toys. It's crucial to ensure that children are always supervised during playtime. This allows parents or caregivers to monitor the child's interaction with the toy, ensuring they are using it safely and appropriately. Some sensory toys may have small parts that could pose a choking hazard, so it's essential to choose age-appropriate toys and keep a watchful eye during play.

Can sensory toys help with my toddler's development?

Sensory toys can be incredibly beneficial for toddlers' development. At this age, children are actively exploring their environment and learning through their senses. Sensory toys provide opportunities for toddlers to engage with different textures, colors, sounds, and shapes, which helps stimulate their senses and support their cognitive development. Through sensory play, toddlers can develop important skills such as problem-solving, fine motor coordination, and language development. Sensory toys can also help toddlers regulate their emotions and improve their focus and attention span. By offering a variety of sensory experiences, you can support your toddler's overall growth and development.

Are there any specific benefits of different types of sensory toys?

Yes, different types of sensory toys offer specific benefits tailored to various aspects of a child's development. Textured toys, for example, can enhance tactile sensitivity and fine motor skills, helping children learn about various textures and improve their dexterity. Light-up toys and items with bright colors stimulate visual processing and can capture a child's attention, aiding in focus and concentration. Musical instruments and toys that produce sounds encourage auditory processing and can improve language skills by familiarizing children with different pitches and tones. Scented toys can enhance smell differentiation and memory recall, providing a unique way to learn about the world. Each type of sensory toy engages a different sensory pathway, supporting comprehensive developmental growth in children.

Can I make my own sensory toys at home?

Absolutely! You can create your own sensory toys using everyday household items. For example, instead of using sand for sensory play, you can use different types of cereals. The varied textures and shapes of the cereal can provide an engaging sensory experience. Additionally, you can use the same cereal for a focused activity, such as pouring it into a container with a smaller opening. This helps develop fine motor skills and concentration. Other household items like rice, pasta, or even shaving cream can be used to create fun and stimulating sensory play experiences.

Can sensory toys be used as a tool for children with ADHD?

Absolutely. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can greatly benefit from the use of sensory toys. These toys can aid in improving focus, decreasing hyperactivity, and managing impulsivity by providing a constructive outlet for their energy. Sensory toys that encourage active engagement can help children with ADHD develop better concentration and attention span.

Can I use sensory toys for therapeutic purposes?

Yes, sensory toys can serve as an excellent tool for therapeutic purposes. Many therapists use sensory toys to support children with developmental delays, sensory processing challenges, and anxiety disorders. Sensory toys can help these children explore their senses in a safe, structured way, enhancing their ability to process sensory information and regulate their emotional responses.

How often should I rotate sensory toys for my toddler? 

Rotating sensory toys every few weeks is a good practice. This keeps the selection fresh and engaging for your toddler, ensuring they remain interested and challenging their senses in new ways. Pay attention to your child's current interests and developmental needs when deciding which toys to introduce or rotate out. Keeping a rotation will also help you identify which sensory experiences your toddler prefers and benefits from the most.