Sensory Toys for ADHD
People with ADHD often have difficulty processing sensory information and can easily be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells and feelings that are part of everyday life. Sensory toys can be used to help develop the senses while blocking out some of the "background noise" that can be so distracting and distressing.
Let’s take a closer look at sensory toys for ADHD and how they can help.
What Are Sensory Toys for ADHD?
As the name suggests, sensory toys are toys that stimulate one of more of the senses. As well as the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, this includes the senses of balance and body awareness. Body awareness means knowing where your body is in relation to its surroundings and is sometimes known as proprioception.
Sensory toys for ADHD are designed to engage the senses. Many of them are visually stimulating or tactile, but there are also sensory toys that are designed to work with the senses of sound, smell and even taste. A wide range of sensory toys for ADHD are available to suit people with a variety of needs.
How Can Sensory Toys for ADHD Help?
The senses are an important part of a child’s development. They help them to explore and understand the world around them and encourage good cognitive, language, motor, social and problem-solving skills. Even adults tend to learn better when their senses are engaged, and this may be especially important for people with ADHD.
People with ADHD often have trouble focusing on one task at a time. They might find they concentrate better when tapping a foot, chewing a pen or playing with something that occupies their hands. Sensory toys can help to improve concentration by training the senses to block out some of the distractions of a busy classroom or office environment.
Sensory toys for ADHD can also help people with sensory processing disorder (SPD), a condition that can often accompany ADHD. People affected by SPD can find the sights and sounds of everyday life overstimulating, which can lead to anxiety and behavioral outbursts. For example, a child with SPD may refuse to eat a varied diet, or throw a tantrum when touched in a particular way.
By stimulating the senses in a fun and controlled manner, sensory toys can help combat these issues. They help improve focus and attentiveness, reduce impulsive behavior, and bring about an overall state of calm.
How Do Sensory Toys for ADHD Work?
Sensory toys for ADHD work by allowing the person playing with them to engage their senses in a controlled and enjoyable way. This can promote better sensory integration in everyday life to reduce anxiety and distress.
Sensory toys also provide just enough stimulation to improve skills such as focus, learning and memory. Sensory toys can not only help people with ADHD cope better with external stimuli, but they can also improve the senses of balance and body awareness in a fun and creative way.
The best types of sensory toys for ADHD depend very much on the individual and their unique needs. Fortunately, there is a huge range of products available to suit every requirement and budget, so there is bound to be the ideal sensory toy for you out there.
Types of Sensory Toys for ADHD
There are various types of sensory toys for ADHD and these are designed to stimulate different senses. Some are geared toward children, but others can be equally enjoyed by adults too.
Toys that are designed to stimulate the sense of sight work by either using bright, contrasting colors, or stationary or moving lights. They include sensory toys such as:
- Light-up spinners
- Fiber-optic lights
- Sensory projectors
- Reflective pebbles or balls
- Ooze tubes
The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy for ADHD is to provide adults and children with strategies and skills to help cope with the symptoms of ADHD.
Toys that are made to stimulate the sense of sound might include those that rattle, crinkle, whistle or chime. They include:
- Musical instruments
Toys that engage the sense of touch are also extremely popular. They include toys with different textures that feel satisfying to hold or touch.
Weighted blankets and body socks also fall under this category and provide pressure, which can be extremely calming for people with ADHD. Some other examples of sensory toys for touch include:
- Sensory mats
- Stress balls
- Silly putty
- Koosh balls
Although it is more unusual to find sensory toys that work with the senses of smell and taste, they do exist. Some popular examples include:
- Scented markers
- Scented dough
- Scented squishies
- Scented or flavored chew toys
Finally, sensory toys that engage the senses of balance and proprioception are also available. These include:
- Balance balls
- Balance beams
- Wobble boards
- Bilibo seats
Many sensory toys for ADHD also incorporate multiple senses. For example, water beads both look and feel soothing to play with and kinetic sand can occupy both the eyes and hands. If you have the budget, you can even invest in a "sensory den" that incorporates a variety of toys to stimulate multiple senses simultaneously.
Your occupational therapist can help you identify your own or your child’s sensory needs and choose the most appropriate sensory toys for you.