Sensory toys for toddlers (with autism)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly referred to as Autism, is a range of conditions that are often influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Autism can be seen from an early age in toddlers, in fact, from 12 months onwards a child could start developing early signs of Autism. These indications could include a slow or low development in the speech or nonverbal communication, while also being characterized by the lack of social skills (skills that are somehow common according to their age, if they were developing normally), they tend to have repetitive behaviors and also have difficulties expressing their feelings or thoughts clearly, among others. Some children with ASD may need more support from their family, friends or teachers, and others may require less support. In fact, there are many ASD children who live an entirely independent life. Because of this, it is argued that each individual who has ASD also has a different personality that will have unique strengths, weaknesses, and challenges; thus every boy or girl with ASD will be completely unique within the spectrum.

ASD and playtime:

Children with autism are highly encouraged to play with sensory toys, especially during the early years, in order to perceive the world that surrounds them in a more light and positive way. Sensory toys can definitely help to curve the development of autism, especially if the ASD has been caught early on in time. As a matter of fact, early intervention, especially through the use of mechanisms such as sensory toys, can and will have a positive impact on an autistic child, as it will help them to have a broader understanding of the things and situations they are perceiving while also giving them tools to interact with others, and above all it will provide them with the opportunity to be a child who plays freely.
Indeed having an autistic child can present some difficulties at times, particularly when trying to find out what toys are appropriate for them, and which ones will bring them happiness to their lives. There is a lot of research that is backed up by doctors and therapists alike that suggest the use of sensory toys in order to stimulate an autistic child’s senses. These toys are therefore created with the special needs a child with ASD can possibly have, as they have been created to be safe and fun for your child to play with, while at the same time, it will spark a sense of calmness while encouraging their developmental growth. Generally speaking children with autism tend to have difficulty in their daily lives with sensory stimulation. This can often be related to diverse sensitivities that involved touch, noises, taste and textures. In other words, their senses can be increased or decreased by an external phenomenon. In this context, children tend to be picky eaters, or be really annoyed at some lights or sounds that come from the ‘outside world’. This could potentially be a hindrance whenever the child is trying to play as it could lead to anxiousness. Moreover, social communication, social interaction and social imagination are three distinct areas where ASD children tend to have problems. This is why their care provider must be aware at all times about the numerous ways in which they could involve a child with autism in a successful routine of playtime and share time with an autistic child.

Toys are all:

If your child has Autism he or she is still able to thrive and live a normal life, especially when you encourage them to play with the following sensory toys for toddlers:

Sensory Mini Mats: They not only improve tactile sensitives, but they are also fun to have around, especially as they come in many shapes and colors. You need at least a set of 4 mats in order to allow your ASD child to fully feel the different textures with either their hands or feet. These sensory mats are very useful as you could also place them on the wall and this way your child will see a different angle to them.

Playing tip: Ask your son or daughter to close their eyes and to describe whatever it is they feel when they run their hands or feet on the mats. Perhaps you could also participate in this fun activity and allow them to see you how do it and how much you enjoy spending time with them.

Balance boards: These types of boards usually help children improve their balancing skills while also providing great fun to them and to their parents. Actually, a balance board is good for any individual who is experiencing physical problems and wants to do some light exercise. Ask your child’s doctor first, but these boards are usually recommended as autistic children may also have impaired balance.

Playing tip: Make this a family time and game as these boards are a perfect way to spend a lovely afternoon.

Playing with sand: As parents, you will probably think that sand is one of the most difficult things to clean off of your child or their clothes. However, did you know that sand is one of the finest stimuli your child will encounter? They will be able to play with it for hours -well, at least a couple of minutes- while also being able to develop their fine motor skills if you add to the game to cups to play with.

Playing tip: You can mix and match games with your child, allow them to pour sand from one cup to another. Show them how to do it first, then let them do it. Sand offers a great tactile stimulation that will make them feel calmer and more relaxed.

Electric toys, such as an Electric Pet Dog: Interactive toys such as an Interactive Electric Pet Dog is a good toy to offer an autistic child, as the dog will automatically respond to the person’s touch, making it a great opportunity for your kid to emphasize with the toy. It is not only a tactile experience it is also a social and auditory sensory as your child will have to pay attention to the dog in order to understand and respond to the dog’s needs.

Playing tip: An Electric Pet Dog could possibly help your child to desensitize his or her hypersensitivity toward sound while also allowing them to be empathetic towards another being. Therefore, this type of toy could be used as a tool that will help you find out how your child is feeling, by asking the dog some questions and also obtaining some answers from your son or daughter.

Playdough: Did you know that playdough could offer your child a great way to explore textures while also developing their fine motor skills? Every time they use their fingers to either shape, mold or separate playdough, they are relying on their new set of skills that will eventually help them in other situations in life.

Playing tip: A fun way to spend an afternoon is making playdough from scratch. In fact, you could also ask your child whether he or she would like to help you in the process – this way they will also see the transformation that occurs to their toy from the beginning to end.

How to choose the right sensory toy for toddlers with Autism?

If you have a child with ASD, you may find yourself looking at a certain type of sensory toy and you’ll think it would be amazing for your child. However, as ASD has taught us, every kid reacts differently to whatever sensory input they are given. This could possibly mean that one toy will do wonders and work perfectly fine for a child but to others, another toy will be needed instead. This is a trial and error time for you to observe what your child truly enjoys and to see when they feel more calmed and comforted thanks to the toy they are playing with.

What will your child learn with the constant use of Sensory Toys for toddlers?

The more these types of toys are used the more you will see a change within the personality and actions of your child. It can be said that Sensory Toys often provide children with ASD the necessary occasions to develop some skills even further. So, what skills do sensory toys help to develop?

Self Control Skills: Sensory Toys for toddlers will show them the needed self-control skills in order to understand that rules do exist in the world.

Gross Motor Skills: Whenever they are physically active they will see an improvement in their gross motor skills. For example, the mini mats will allow them to jump or run from one mat onto the other, thus there will an increase in their physical activity.

Fine Motor Skills: Whenever the child has to pick up small items or toys, then they will be able to develop their fine motor skills. This will also help them to feed themselves, as they will reach out to their own food instead of waiting to be fed.

Social Skills: When kids play they are constantly -and unconsciously- planning, negotiating and sharing their views of the world that surrounds them. Sensory toys for toddlers with ASD are a great way to improve the social skills that are necessary to become less dependent in the future.

Pretend Play: One of the most important things a child must do in their day-to-day lives is to play around. Essentially, it can be said that children learn a great deal through playing. The constant use of sensory toys for toddlers with ASD allows them to expand their creative nature and abilities.

Sensory Toys are a form of therapy:

Occupational therapists, paediatricians, and social workers tend to recommend sensory toys for toddlers with autism as they offer a great opportunity for your child to focus, to remain calm and to try to understand stressful feelings that may arise in their daily lives. In addition, having a specific set of sensory toys will be beneficial for your child as they will decrease the amount of fear or discomfort that they are usually associated with by allowing play to come into their lives and have an important role in their developmental stages. Furthermore, because the sensory toys for toddlers with autism are presented in many shapes, colors and sizes then they become very appealing to children of all ages, making them a great way to stimulate their senses without being too overwhelming on the child, in fact, these types of toys are serving as a bridge to expose to sensory positive input to children with ASD and the way they react to the world that surrounds them.