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How Do Sensory Toys Help Kids with Autism?

November 24, 2021

sensory and tactile toys for autism in the uk

Supporting your child’s sensory exploration is extremely important as they grow and develop. Sensory toys are a great way to help your little one to learn more about the world around them. This is especially important for children with autism.

Often, children with autism can get easily overwhelmed in noisy or busy environments. Providing them with the right types of sensory toys offers lots of distraction and stimulation to keep them occupied during these times.

Sensory toys are designed to stimulate your child’s five senses with different lights, textures, noises, scents, and temperatures. Many of these sensory toys can stimulate multiple senses at once to keep your child engaged while they learn and develop new skills. 

They enable them to open up and feel comfortable exploring their surroundings through activating each of their key senses. It’s important that any sensory toys given to young children with autism don’t stimulate too many senses at once, as this might cause autistic children to feel stressed or anxious.

Benefits of Using Sensory Toys for Autism

There are so many incredible benefits of using sensory toys for children with autism, including the following.

Enhanced Physical Development

Explorative play can contribute to your child’s physical development. It can help to develop their gross motor skills, fine motor skills, coordination, and balance all at once.

Fine motor skills are those that require the coordination of smaller groups to complete tasks that involve writing, typing, gripping, or squeezing. Gross motor skills use larger muscle groups and are required for walking, running, and jumping.

When children are touching, pulling, gripping, and pressing lots of different toys, they are fine-tuning their coordination and motor skills. Alongside this, sensory toys that contain multiple textures can further stimulate your child’s sense of touch and help them learn to distinguish between the way different materials feel in their hands.

Sensory play is in and of itself a form of physical play. Your little one is up and about, moving around and activating their muscles in new ways. This can contribute to healthy physical growth during their early years.

Many children with autism struggle with movement and coordination, and this often leads to them remaining somewhat sedentary. Sensory toys can encourage them to move around and explore more of their surroundings, which promotes the development of key motor skills and physical capability.

Sensory toys for autism may also reduce hypermobility and apraxia, both of which are common problems in autistic individuals.

Improved Cognitive Development

Autism is a cognitive disability. Therefore, providing stimulation through sensory play for children with autism is important for their development. In particular, toys that stimulate the frontal lobe are super helpful!

Frontal lobe stimulation can be done in lots of different ways by activating one of the five senses. It might be an engaging puzzle, some textured bumpy balls, or an interactive sensory board.

By introducing this sort of play to your autistic child at an early age, you can enhance their cognitive development and help them to think rationally. Sensory toys can also boost your child's problem-solving skills, especially if these toys involve puzzles or games that require a bit of thinking!

Development of Social Skills

Social situations can often cause autistic children to feel overwhelmed and they can have difficulty interpreting other people’s feelings. Using calming toys can ease their nerves and make them feel more comfortable exploring and playing with others around them.

Although sensory play may not seem directly related to social skills, activating each of the five senses can contribute to healthy growth and development overall for children. In turn, this can boost their confidence in social scenarios and may encourage them to participate in group activities.

Firstly, sensory toys can be shared between children as they play. It may help to reduce their social anxiety by encouraging social interaction and communication. It helps them to learn about giving, taking, and sharing toys.

Whether your little one is playing with fidget toys or sensory light toys, it can stimulate your child’s brain in new ways by activating their senses. This can promote the development of neural pathways and connections within the brain, which further enhances their physical, cognitive, and social abilities.

By learning to identify different stimuli in the world around them through explorative sensory play, it may reduce the amount of stress that your child feels in certain social situations where there is a lot going on.

Relaxation and Comfort During Difficult Times

Autistic children can often get aggressive or upset when placed in situations that they don’t feel comfortable being in. They may start to have melt-downs, where they begin to hit out at you, shout, or cry. This can be difficult for you to watch as a parent or guardian and may lead to a negative experience for everybody involved.

When your child starts to feel agitated and starts to get worked up, providing them with calming toys can be a saviour! This is especially helpful if you’re in a public situation and you have limited methods of calming your child down.

Whether you use sensory boards (link to blog 4) or chewing necklaces during these melt-downs can help to calm your child down by providing some much-needed distraction. Keeping a sensory toy or two with you at all times when you're out and about with your child ensures you can keep them calm even in anxiety-provoking situations.

 Sensory Play Activity Ideas for Autistic Children

Now we’ve gone through all of the amazing benefits that the use of sensory toys has for autism, let’s delve into some of the best ways to promote sensory play.

How can you encourage your little one to play with these sensory toys and interact with the things and people in their environment?

Here are some great sensory toys (link to blog 1) and activities you provide for your child to get them involved!

Fidget Toys

Fidget toys (link to blog 3), like our Simple Dimple Pop It or the Rainbow Bubble Push Pop It, are wonderful to provide a soothing distraction for those with autism. The different colours and textures can provide some much-needed stress relief to reduce symptoms and anxiety and help your child feel more comfortable.

Our brand-new sensory fidget kit has just been released and it’s already super popular! It’s the perfect way to keep your child occupied for hours with lots of engaging components and toys combined in one package! Why not grab it for your kid’s Christmas stocking this year?

Chewing Toys

Toys that are created to stimulate the taste receptors are often referred to as chewing toys. They can come in lots of different forms, including dolls, necklaces, and teething rings.

They are designed to be placed in between your toddler’s or young child’s teeth to soothe their gums as they’re teething but they can be used at any stage of their development.

For children with autism, chewing on something can relieve anxiety and help them to feel more at ease.

Sensory Light Toys

Toys that light up in lots of different exciting colours can keep your child engaged in their play. Sensory light toys can take on various forms, including light-up puzzle games, bright scented playdough, flashing sensory boards, or our neon drawing glowpad.

Arts and Crafts

Arts and craft activities are an amazing way to activate multiple senses and promote cognitive and emotional development. If your child struggles to express their feelings, they can learn to communicate visually through their arty creations.

Whether they’re using pens, pencils, paints, glitters, sequins, beads, or fabrics, they can develop key creativity skills whilst having lots of fun at home.

Our Gigantic Rainy Day Activity Craft Box is the perfect solution to keep your child occupied on a cold and rainy winter’s day (or a warm summer’s day)! With several different arty activities for them to enjoy, they will be engaged for hours. They might even make you a lovely homemade card to place in your home!

Movement Play

Movement is a vital part of growth and development. If your child finds it difficult to exercise, using sensory toys can encourage them to get moving!

Movement play can promote the development of gross motor skills and fine motor skills, and it’s a great way to get your child working on their balance and coordination.

This form of sensory play can involve lots of different activities. Here at KeepEmQuiet, we stock a range of toys that promote movement, from light-up LED scooters to the Flashing Monster Space Hopper. You can also get involved and join in on the fun to spend quality time with your little one.

Final Thoughts

Sensory toys are extremely beneficial for every child, but especially those who are diagnosed with autism.

As the parent, guardian, or carer of an autistic child, you can use a variety of calming toys to provide distraction for your child whilst also encouraging positive growth and development across all aspects of their health, including physical, emotional, and social.

Take a look at the sensory toys we’ve got in our store and see which ones your child would love to play with!

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