For our families, ‘the most wonderful time of the year,” must also include sensory friendly gifts. Our kids who thrive on familiarity and routine can be easily overwhelmed by all of the sights, sounds, and scents the season brings. As a parent to a child with autism and sensory processing challenges, trying to make the holidays special while maintaining a sense of peace and calm can be challenging. On top of that, the quest for the perfect present can also be a bit more daunting when you have these extra factors to consider. So I have put together a list of sensory friendly gift ideas that are both fun and functional to give you some ideas to help you find the perfect present!
Kids seem to love the compression sheet, which is a spandex sleeve that fits snugly on a mattress and creates a pouch that your child can crawl under. This sheet is an excellent gift for kids who crave deep pressure input such as massages or firm squeezes. In addition, It can help children who have trouble sleeping as it can provide a sense of calm and security. You can find an example of a compression sheet here.
This finger massager is another excellent gift for kids who seek out pressure input, especially on their hands. It is one of my son’s favorite sensory tools, and it’s one that I am known to borrow for myself from time to time! In addition to the calming input it provides, I’ve also found this a beneficial tool to use before completing fine motor work since it helps to bring awareness to the fingers.
This projector light does double duty by providing calming input for both the visual and auditory systems. In addition, it works via Bluetooth with any smartphone, so you can tailor the music to what your child prefers.
For those who may have oral sensory needs, a handheld chew or piece of chewelry can make an excellent gift. Ark Therapeutic offers a large variety of designs and toughness levels, so it’s easy to find something that will fit your child’s needs and personality. They even have some festive winter/holiday designs available too.
Fidget Noodles are a fun option for kids that crave visual and/or tactile stimulation. They provide a small amount of resistance when pulled. They help with developing hand strength and fine motor skills. As a bonus, they are also quiet! (Note: If your child tends to chew/mouth objects, be sure they use these with supervision since they could pose
Another fun idea that covers multiple senses and skills at once is this Aroma Dough. It is gluten and soy-free, so it is safe for children with sensitivities or allergies to those ingredients and scented with all-natural oils. Both the tactile sensation and the smell of this dough can be very calming and help children improve their focus. And modeling dough is always great for working on fine motor skills too!
A Body Sock is perfect for kids who crave deep pressure and need help with body awareness. It can help promote a feeling of calm, focus, and relaxation and is a great way to take a sensory break when feeling overwhelmed so that it can come in very handy for all of those holiday gatherings! Body Socks come in different sizes, so it’s essential to choose a size that will be big enough for your child to fit into but small enough to snugly fit so it will provide resistance when your child moves inside of it.
For those kiddos who need lots of movement and/or physical activity, an indoor swing may be just the thing to put a smile on their face. With this mounting style, you can hang a swing in a door frame and use it as a pull-up bar when you remove the swing. This Ceiling Raft Bar is more of a commitment both in cost and installation, but it also allows for a broader range of movement while swinging and for a greater variety of swing types that you can use to meet both sensory and other goals. My son has had the ceiling raft bar for over ten years now, and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made for him. (Note: Be sure to check the installation requirements before purchasing to ensure the swing works properly in your space.)
Another excellent option for kids who need movement and physical activity is this set of stepping stones. The activity possibilities with this one are endless! You can use them for obstacle courses, yoga sessions, and other exercises for balance and coordination. These steps are also excellent for tactile input and massages. They’re also lightweight and portable, which makes them great for both indoor and outdoor activities.
What’s In Ned’s Head is a fun game that works on visual and tactile discrimination. I love this gift idea because it promotes socialization in addition to working on tactile awareness and fine motor skills. You can switch it up by adding some of your own items to Ned’s Head. So it’s a game that can continue to change, and you can tailor it to your child in several ways.
I hope this list has been helpful. Hopefully, you have found at least one sensory-friendly gift idea that you can add to your list or suggest as an option for someone else to purchase.
Jennifer is an autism mom on a mission to help my son reach his full potential, to find joy in the journey, and to help other parents do the same! Have a conversation with Jennnifer by visiting her personal page.