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There has been an explosion of products offered under the description of sensory gifts over recent years and there are plenty of kids, teens and even adults who would love to receive one or several.

We’ve learned much about how our bodies and brains respond to sensory input in all forms. Our ability to calm down and regulate thoughts and emotions is improved or put in peril by what we see, feel, and hear around us.

While we can’t always control every source of input, we can mitigate the impact by changing our focus – and that’s where an array of sensory toys, fidget objects and other interesting resources come into play.

Sensory toys

Here are some real-world examples:

An eleven-year-old girl has been in foster care for a year after removal from a home where she experienced both physical and emotional abuse over a prolonged period of time. As would be expected, she has many signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of her senses are heightened. She reacts with discomfort to loud or repetitive sounds.

Previously homeschooled, she has to face public school for the first time where she experiences more sensory input than ever before. The trauma-aware teachers and counsellors give her opportunities to leave the classroom to find a quiet space. In between these breaks, she finds that a variety of fidget toys are helpful in giving attention to her self-directed sense of touch, which is calming in short doses. Having multiple sensory items available provides helpful support throughout the day.

A seventeen-year-old boy struggles to settle in to do homework tasks and also has difficulty falling asleep at night. Though his parents haven’t been able to pursue a diagnosis of ADHD, they take the advice of friends and buy him a few sensory-soothing items. A weighted heating pad that lays over his shoulders while he studies, a weighted blanket for his bed and a pillow that gently vibrates when squeezed. Of all the items, their teen is most appreciative of is the weighted blanket and ends up taking it with him to college later.

You may have noticed in therapists’ offices there are many sensory tools and gadgets available for clients. It’s shown in many situations to support people in releasing nervous energy and can help children relax and engage with the therapist sooner.

Kids and teens aren’t the only ones to find value in sensory items. Desk toys of all kinds have been popular for decades but have seen a surge in demand since more people are working from home.

A 45-year-old customer support manager has been working remotely since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. After 20 years of being surrounded by voices and the activity of the office, he found the peace and quiet of home overwhelming. He found an ambient sound generator online (ASoftMurmur.com) comforting and has appreciated a few desk items like a sand-filled Zen Garden and a set of fidget rings.

Who do you know who’d love to receive a sensory gift?

Here’s a list of sensory gift ideas, all available easily online:

Sand-Filled Zen Garden

Dog Clicker (Not for quiet spaces)

Weighted Blanket

Weighted Heating Pad

Vibrating Sensory Pillow

Fidget Slug Toy

Fidget Roller

Sensory Chew Necklaces

Spinner Rings Option One

Spinner Rings Option Two

Wooden Stacking Rocks

Magnetic Blocks

Something to keep in mind, if you find that someone you care about enjoys sensory toys – keep adding to their collection.

Variety is so appreciated, especially when you curate items of different textures and levels of sound. Think about quiet items when listening is crucial and noisier items when they’re wanting to burn off some nervous energy.

Fortunately, most sensory items aren’t expensive so don’t hesitate to experiment and see which items appeal to them. If you end up with some that don’t – consider donating to a local family crisis centre. There are people of all ages who’ll appreciate them when facing difficult situations.

Sensory toys, fidget objects and other interesting resources can help with difficult situations.

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