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Every year, a growing number of children are being diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD. The condition, also called Sensory Integration Disorder, causes children to display traits such as “sensory seeking,” and to become easily “overstimulated.” The great news for parents, is that a lot of light is being shone on SPD and the sweet, often passionate kids who are diagnosed with it. I am a parent of an SPD kid, and some days can be extremely hard to get through, while others are borderline hysterical (in a funny sort of way). We want to share with you some of the best toys for Sensory Processing Disorder kids!
One way to help these little ones deal with the way their brains process stimuli, is to provide them with toys and play things that can give them the “stimulus” they need, in the hopes that they don’t get frustrated and have a meltdown seeking it in other places.
Our seven-year-old is intelligent, funny, zany, and most definitely a sensory seeker. It always surprised me that a kid who hated loud noises would take such pleasure in creating deafening sounds by banging things, throwing things down, or even just screaming for fun. That is where the “seeking” part comes into play. If you surprised him with a “BOO!” from around the corner, he may break into tears and tell you he hates you. But if he is in control of the noise, it gives him some sort of satisfaction.
Luckily, there are plenty of toys and gadgets that help kids like mine! Below you’ll find a solid list of the perfect types of toys for SPD kids.
Touch and Feel Puzzles
These puzzles are very similar to those that many toddlers enjoy (and enjoy chewing on). But for the SPD kid, having a puzzle with the extra bumps and crinkly pieces really satisfies their desire to be stimulated. Also, we know that puzzles are good for children in general, so this is probably the best way to go.
As adults, we call them “stress balls.” They can do wonders for people who are under pressure. But these can be great for the kid with sensory issues who is feeling a little wound up. Many are prickly, some are smooth, some are bouncy, and some feel like bean bags–but they all provide excellent sensory stimulus.
Often called “chewies,” these are really more for comfort and less for play. Some are shaped like little animals and can be worn on a wrist or around your neck. They are durable and non-toxic, and are designed to be chewed. Some children do this to calm their nerves, but it’s a great way for a kid with a sensory disorder who needs to sit still for an event or class.
Think Playdough, or Kinetic Sand. These toys are absolutely EPIC for kids in need. There are basically no rules, no order, just play! It allows them the stimulus of grasping, squeezing, and building all at once.
Water / Play Tables
These tables allow sensory seekers to make a huge mess–without REALLY making a huge mess. Some are partitioned to allow for water, sand, or whatever you want to pour in! It’s fun to fill them with beads, plastic balls, or anything else. They usually come with something you can pour the material through, which spins, or makes sound effects.
The one gift that can make a mom cringe when unwrapped at a birthday party! But that awesome box of toy instruments might just be the perfect thing for an SPD kid. They get to be loud and obnoxious, while also getting the satisfaction they need. There are a ton of varieties available, with horns, guitars, and drums…lots and lots of drums.
These are just a few of the best toy categories for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. Many parents have experimented with several toys until they find what really helps their little one get through the day. The objective is always to help them prevent meltdowns, mischief, or distractions by satisfying their need to sensory seek. What works for your little one might not be ideal for another. So play, experiment, and have fun!
For more, see our article entitled “Homeschooling Sensory Processing Disorder Kids.”