8 Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers

by Rachel Sokol

8 Best Sensory Toys for Toddlers
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Whenever I purchase a gift for my own kids, or my friend’s kids, I panic. I oftentimes struggle to find the RIGHT toy—I want something the child will really love, but is also educational and beneficial to their development.


That’s why I am partial to sensory toy that stimulate one or more of the five senses: see, hear, touch, taste, smell. (Sensory toys tend to be very colorful, too.) They stimulate a child cognitively (the development of knowledge, skills, and problem-solving) and/or physically (work the muscles in the eyes, hands, fingers, and more).


Overall, when I purchase a sensory item, I feel great knowing it’s not just a run-of-the-mill toy; it’s contributing to my cutie’s little brain and body development. Some sensory toys are specifically geared for children with autism; they’ve been constructed from A to Z with tons of input from autism educators (ABA therapists), occupational therapists, and special education teachers. These toys are oftentimes sold by independent toy manufacturers.


Since playtime is so crucial when it comes to a child’s development, even at an early age, when it comes to stimulation, purchase one of these sensory-oriented toys for the sweet infant or toddler in your life.

1 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Step2 Splish Splash Seas Water Table


“One of my favorite sensory toys is a water table,” says Diana Fitts, a Southern California-based licensed Occupational Therapist and founder of The Sensory Toolbox. “Splashing in a water table can help kids become used to unexpected and surprising sensory sensations as the water droplets hit their skin.” This one, which must be hand-assembled, is one of her recommendations. “I love that this table is a multi-sensory experience with bright colors to look at and various-sized objects to touch and play with.” Comes with 10 accessories and an umbrella for shading your kiddos from the sun if used outdoors.

2 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Learning Resources Spike Hedgehog


My toddler's occupational therapist encourages playtime with this toy: it’s exercise for the fingers and hands and teaches toddlers how to fit items into coordinating holes of a certain size. The spikes (quills) of this hedgehog are make of sturdy plastic that fit into holes at the back of the animal. Thus, when your child pushes the plastic spikes into the hedgehog’s holes, they’re exercising their hand, finger, and arm muscles, which builds fine motor skills. (For example, my child struggled with the pincer grip, and this toy helper her understand the best way, for her, to insert the quills using 2 fingers.) Additionally, this toy teaches kids about colors, counting, and sorting, and the quills are easy for small hands to hold. Hedgehog is about 6” wide.

3 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

LeapFrog Spin and Sing Alphabet Zoo


Another recommendation from Fitts, this toy engages multiple sense at once with its bright colors, flashing lights, loud songs, and spinning movement. “Toys that engage multiple sense like this, such as sight, hearing, and touch, can help kids learn to understand how their senses work.” An Amazon’s Choice toy with more than 700 reviews, it makes animal noises, recites the alphabet, teaches toddlers how to spin, push, and slide, lights up in a variety of colors, and plays music such as the tune, “Old Mc Donald.” States one online fan: “There are setting options (ABCs, Animals, Music) that (my child) can flip between with ease.” A safe LED helps the toy ‘light up’ in gentle, bright colors. Note: 3 AA batteries required.

4 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Creativity For Kids Mini Narwal Plush


This brand carries a wide range of unique projects for older kids, as well as sensory-oriented toys for younger kids. This plush is recommended for kids 5 and up, however, my 2.5-year-old has this toy and loves it—it’s chock-full of sensory integration and may be a nice match for toddler. There are 5 different animals available, but I’m highlighting the narwal in particular because who doesn’t love narwals, right? This plushie has extremely soft sequins your child can brush their small hands over for a smooth, unique sensation. The sequins are not only soft, but secure and pretty sturdy, so there is a strong chance they won’t fall off the stuffed animal. Kids can cuddle with their toy narwal, and enjoy the soft sequin sensation on their body as they nap. Overall, this toy provides both visual and tactile benefits to youngsters. 4"W x 6"H x 5.34" D

5 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Sassy Development Bumpy Ball


My older daughter was once gifted this, and I was baffled until I eventually realized its sensory genius. This ball does not roll or bounce in the traditional sense. Rather, it offers a sensory experience for kids and zeroes in on fine motor skills and visual tracking. With its colorful fabric bumps and one plastic ‘bump’ with beads inside that roll around, (Note: this part is very sturdy; so no worries about the mini beads inside falling out) this toy is easy for kids to grasp and explore different colors, shapes, and even sounds, since each bump has a different look and feel. An Amazon’s Choice product, one reviewer notes it “keeps baby occupied,” and is recommended for babies 6 months and up. It’s made of durable fabric that can be gnawed on by child and still remain intact.

6 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Crayola Washable Finger Paints


I know, I know...paint is messy. But hear me out: finger paint is not only a creative way for toddlers to make art, but also prepares them for the different textures they’ll feel on their delicate skin. “As with the dirt, paint helps your child get used to being messy,” says Fitts. “Paint also has a nice, slippery texture that contrasts well with the roughness of the paper.” As your child starts attending birthday parties and preK, chances are they’ll make projects with paints, glue, pom-poms and more, and it can be beneficial for their development to expose them to different  textures at an early age. Same goes for the feel of cotton, sand, felt, shaving cream, slime, and more. These particular paints are non-toxic and wash off easily—but I’d put a smock, on your kiddos, just to be extra, extra safe.  

7 of 8 Image Credits: Target

Fat Brain Toys Dimpl


This sensory toy is great for dexterity and in a gadget-filled world, a simple toy can be wonderful. However, don’t be fooled—this toy is anything but simple. It contains soft, silicone bubbles built into a sturdy plastic frame and encourages sensory exploration, fine motor skills and cause-effect learning in which a child learns, "if I touch or push this, this will happen." When kids push one of the 5 bubbles all the way, and note it pops out on the other side, it’s an exciting find. This award-winning toy has been safety-tested and is BPA free—the bubbles are made of 100% food-grade silicone and high-quality plastic, so you can breathe easy when handing it to your infant or toddler.

8 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Battat Bristle Blocks


These textured blocks are soft and rubbery, connect together at various angles, and emphasize hand-eye coordination. This collection includes 53 chunky blocks which includes the following: some flowers, ferns, and jungle animals. These block help kids focus, which can improve their memories, and, of course, encourages creativity and curiosity. Says one Amazon reviewer: “The blocks are great quality—the colors are gorgeous, as always with Battat toys, the plastic is hard and durable while edges are nice and rounded (for when we inevitably step on one in the dark...), and the pieces fit together very easily. This particular set is a great starter, as it offers a variety of blocks.”