Whether you’re the proud parent or caregiver of an infant or of a budding preschooler–especially if your child has special needs–sensory or tactile toys will form an integral part of your playroom arsenal. Sensory toys may encourage children to touch and feel with their fingers, listen for calming sounds, or watch soothing displays of light and color. So, what makes a really great sensory toy? The best sensory toys will be age-appropriate and stimulate at least one of a child’s five senses to boost cognitive and motor skill development.
To help you choose the best sensory toy for your child, I’ve compiled a list of the three best sensory toys for 2018.
Bonus read – The Best Hand Held Toys for 2018
1. Musical Boat Owl Crib Toy and Soother
Best for newborns and infants, this crib attachment by Taf Toys projects small stars onto the wall while playing a soft lullaby. What makes this one of the best sensory toys is that it clips onto the side of your baby’s crib rather than hanging above it. This means that since newborns often tend to look to the side rather than straight up, it is more likely to catch and maintain their attention.
You can also place the Musical Boat toy on a changing table to keep baby occupied during changing. Remove the boat attachment and set it on the floor to encourage crawling.
The downside? Since it doesn’t have a timer, you’ll need to activate the sound and light function yourself. That is if your baby isn’t yet old enough to press the button. However, this is a small price to pay to keep your baby busy, entertained, and stimulated. In the crib, the changing table, or on the floor for tummy time.
Visit the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for more information about safe sleeping practices for newborns and infants.
The reviews are great as well. Moms are finding that it’s their go-to crib toy, even more so than traditional hanging mobiles. Parents love that it can be used in three different situations, even when baby has begun to crawl. Some parents have suggested that the lullaby is not always loud enough, but it does have the intended soothing effect.
You can purchase this item at Amazon, eBay, and Sears for between $30 and $40.
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2. Water Beads for Kids
Water beads are recommended for older children who can be trusted not to ingest small parts. They are made of extremely absorbent polymers. Also, they expand when you add water to become soft and just slimy enough to be fun. Have children separate them by color, or just toss them in a basin and let them squish the balls with their hands or feet for a great tactile experience. Since water beads are 100% non-toxic, I consider them one of the best sensory toys around.
This toy is especially beneficial for certain special needs children, such as those who have been identified as being on the Autism spectrum. HealthyChildren.org is a great resource for additional information on the topic of caring for and stimulating special needs children.
Parents and teachers alike love this one! Preschool teachers are calling this toy a great addition to any sensory table setup. Students love splashing the beads and squeezing them with their hands and feet. Special education teachers agree. They set up tubs of the beads with small cups, and the children scoop and pour as a calming activity.For parents, it’s a one-of-a-kind activity that feels great not only for
For parents, it’s a one-of-a-kind activity. It feels great not only for children but for adults as well. It helps to cultivate quality family time in the process. The beads can be used as stress relievers and even as introductory science activities. Children watch them grow from hard marbles to soft, squishy balls.
Brand names for this product include Orbeez and Sensory Jungle. Buy them at Amazon, Etsy or Autism Sensory Toys for between $5 and $10 per 8,000 count package.
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The Bilibo by Kid-O is recommended for children two years of age and up. Kids can use this as a rocking chair, as a tunnel, or even for sledding down small hills. Made of non-toxic, colorful hard plastic, this toy is a durable addition to your playroom. Not only does it promote balance and hand-eye coordination, but also imaginative and social play. This is also a toy that can grow with your child, making it another of the best sensory toys of the year.
What are parents and teachers saying about the Bilibo? Those who work with elementary school children note that even their biggest kids can sit in the Bilibo and rock. Teachers use them in their classrooms to help calm children by giving them sensory input.
Even parents who were skeptical about the toy’s value admit that it has provided endless entertainment for imaginative play as well as for sensory purposes. Parents are also impressed by how sturdy the Bilibo is, some going as far as standing on it to test its strength. Moms and dads agree that their kids love to sit in, spin around in, and be pushed across floors in this sensory toy. Another tip? If you have one for each child, they stack on top of one another for easy storage.
Find these for sale at Buy Buy Baby, Amazon and FatBrain Toys for between $26 and $33 per seat.
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Whatever toy you choose, always read the manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure that it is appropriate for your child’s age and skill level. Great sensory toys are adaptable, act to calm and soothe your child and promote the development of gross and fine motor skills. However, the best sensory toys are always those your child loves best and interacts with the most.
Have you tried any of the toys on our list of the top three of the best sensory toys of 2018? Does your child have a favorite sensory toy that we didn’t mention here? Be sure to share your experiences, thoughts, and questions about this year’s best sensory toys with us!