Some children are not just born with physical challenges but also sensory processing disorders. For example, they may be oversensitive to sound or touch and become easily overwhelmed by strong smells or lights. These conditions may cause them to act out, making it difficult for parents to discipline and teach their kids.
Others have tons of energy or anxiety that they channel through movement. They may constantly be on the go or have difficulty sitting still and focusing.
Sensory toys can serve as their outlet to release their energy positively and constructively. So whether you are a parent or a teacher that wants to help children with special needs, having a calming or fidgeting toy on hand can make a big difference in their behaviour.
Calming Toys as Sensory Tools
Calming toys are considered to be sensory tools, as they are designed to target the specific conditions that some children with special needs suffer from. Depending on the child’s symptoms, calming toys can provide different types of input that helps to soothe and relax them.
- Sight: Some calming toys have visual effects that can be soothing. For instance, some children may find flashing lights or moving patterns relaxing and enjoyable, as they are visually stimulating without overwhelming.
- Sound: Other calming toys make noise, which can help to block out unwanted sounds that may be agitating to the child. Bells, whistles, music boxes, or even a traditional ticking clock can serve as white noise to block out other sounds and relaxes the child.
- Touch: Soft, fluffy, hard, or even textured materials can all be used in calming toys to provide different types of tactile input. This type of input can help the child to feel grounded and focused, as they are constantly touching or holding the toy.
- Taste: Toys that bring oral input can be very calming for some children. Teeth rings and other chewy toys can help children self-regulate and stay calm.
- Smell: Aromatherapy is a popular way to relax, and some calming toys use this method to provide a calming effect.
How Do Calming Toys Help Children With Special Needs?
Sensory and calming toys provide the stimulation that some special-needs children crave while also helping to soothe and focus them. Kids are often distracted by their environment, and these toys can help calm them and refocus their attention.
These toys allow kids to explore and experiment in a safe and controlled way. They can also help to build confidence and self-esteem, as well as social skills. Parents and teachers should always work with kids to help them learn how to use their toys properly. Your input on using the toy will ensure that it is being used in the most effective way possible.
Things To Consider When Choosing a Calming Toy for Kids With Special Needs
Every calming toy provides unique sensory experiences. Make sure to properly assess your child’s needs and pick the right toy for their condition.
- Consider what type of sensation your child responds to before making a purchase. For example, do they prefer hard or soft textures? Do they like to chew?
- What sensory system does your child need to calm? Is it their proprioceptive, vestibular, or visual system? By identifying this, you can narrow down your options and choose a toy that targets the right system.
- If you have a family therapist, they may be able to give you more specific advice on what type of toy would benefit your child the most. Feel free to ask them as they would have more experience working with kids who have special needs.