Now we’re past Halloween and Fireworks night, the constant Christmas shopping emails are well underway. To help out, we’ve put together some ideas for presents to help create a sensational stash of presents for children with a range of needs, interests and developmental ages.
As therapists we often hear that finding Christmas presents can be a hard task, particularly adding in to the mix well meaning relatives and friends wanting to buy gifts too. So we’ve compiled our favourite toys and gifts below for a range of budgets and needs – AND we’ve made a Pinterest board with all the links to the toys we suggest.
Happy Senso foam. (£8 each from Southpaw). If you haven’t played with this – you should! A fun explosion of crackly foam that feels like popping candy. Loved by little and big people alike.
Bubbles. (Blizzard Bubbles from B&M £1.79, 3 years +). Always a winner. Great for little people to watch and work on hand eye coordination. Great for children at primary and secondary level to work on calming using breathing strategies and mindfulness.
Weighted lap pad (£43 from Sensory Direct) or weighted blanket (~£150 from Sensory Direct). Follow guidelines around safe use and weight recommendations (eg https://www.sensorydirect.com/media/wysiwyg/Blanketguidelines2017Capture.JPG). Or make your own / find a willing relative with a sewing machine and some festive goodwill!
Body sock. (£40 from Sensory Direct) you can buy these or again, these can be made! We have a tutorial on how to do this here.
Lycra tunnel (£50 from Amazon). These are probably the easiest items to make. Just buy a few meters of Lycra and sew up the long edge (check the diameter before you sew so that it will fit a small person through it!)
Peanut ball or gym ball. Peanut balls are great for children who need to move but may find a gym ball too challenging. Helps give vestibular and proprioceptive input, as well as deep pressure if used for rolling over hands and legs (with care!)
Vibrating cushion. Gives intense tactile input. This one has an on/ off button which means you don’t have to rely on children having enough strength to squeeze the cushion (as with other designs).
Chews. From vibrating Z vibes to ARC P’s, to cooler chewy toggles and pencil toppers, there’s a chew for everyone. A useful organising and calming strategy as chewing gives lots of proprioceptive (heavy muscle work) input into the jaw.
Bilibo – A great addition for any sensory kid who loves to spin! This simple toy encourages creative and sensory motor play. Most often used to sit in and spin, but can also be used to balance on, used as a bucket or pull along toy, a turtle shell, a helmet…
Bead curtain – One of the most overpriced pieces of sensory equipment, but so magical. It seems to be mesmerising for so many children at an early stage of development. The beads provide tactile, auditory and visual input that can be very calming. Nice to develop awareness of another as you can sit the other side and play too
Ikea egg chair – Long time favourite of the sensory child! It spins, has a cover to hide under and provides a great little escape place.
Ball run These can be another expensive investment in the grand scheme of toys. Cheaper versions can be found (or even made by some handy people!) Encourages hand eye coordination, visual tracking and turn taking.
Aqua Magic/ Water doodle mats – Great no-mess option to practice mark making. It just uses water and colour magically appears. Can be done lying on tummies for extra therapy points!
IKEA Egg chair (for smaller primary children) Long time favourite of the sensory child! It spins, has a cover to hide under and provides a great little escape place.
Find It Games – These are tubes filled with tiny plastic beads and objects to find. Great for occupying time when sat waiting or travelling – and a nice alternative to screen time.
Dark Den – or pop up tents. Creating a calm space for children to hang out in or calm down in is so helpful. The pop up dark den from Sensory Direct is one of our favourites as it collapses to a small size, but provides a good sized retreat that can be used with light up toys.
Light up toys These go really well with the dark den and provide visual input. Some children find this calming – don’t put all the lights on all at once unless you’re trying to alert someone!
Relax Kids This company have a great range of fun CDs and books with meditations designed for children. Fab to promote calm and relaxation.
Did you buy any of these? Already have them? Used it as inspiration? Let us know!