Top 10 Sensory Friendly Gifts for Kids

Gifts for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Gifts can be tricky for kids with sensory processing disorder. They like all the same things that other kids do, but when their world already seems overwhelming, a calming sensory-activity-based toy is really what they crave. Think simple. Make things as easy as possible on yourself this year and use the ideas below as your go-to Christmas shopping checklist.

1. Water Beads

These things are amazing. They start out as tiny little beads (about the size of a tip of a pen) but when you soak them in water for four to six hours, they expand to marble-looking bubbles. This will probably be one of your child’s favorite gifts because it is so unique. This Frog Life Cycle Pond Kit is one of my favorites. 

Pictured: Frog Life Cycle Pond Kit, $14.95,

2. Rice bucket with small toys

Just go to the dollar store and pick up a cheap shoe box container. Grab a (big) bag of rice and a few trinket-like toys. Dump the bag of rice in the shoebox container and hide the toys in the rice. This activity will keep your child busy for a long time.

3. Lego lunchbox

This one is awesome. Do you have any old-school lunch boxes lying around? The tin ones that your kids like to play with? Take a Lego base and score it to fit the inside lid of the lunchbox. Superglue this down. Add a few Lego pieces inside the box. Voila! Your child now has their very own Lego lunchbox to play with at home or on-the-go. 

4. Moon Sand

Hands-down, this is one of the best sensory-based activities you will ever come across. Moon Sand can be bought pretty much anywhere. All major retailers carry it so plan on spending around $10-20 for a nice-sized kit. Moon Sand is similar to Play-Doh but it feels like sand. When you pick it up with your hand, it falls through your fingers just like sand does but without the mess. This is also great for hiding toys in.

Pictured: Play Visions Sands Alive! Deluxe Starter Set, $24.99,

5. Play-Doh

A family favorite. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) like the way Play-Doh feels because it is relaxing. The feeling of squishing something and molding something into whatever your imagination will come up with is such a soothing activity for really anyone but, especially so for those who have a hard time processing things around them.

Pictured: Play-Doh Case of Colors, $7.99,

6. Stress ball

A simple stress ball is great for children with anxiety. This is also an ideal ‘tool’ to have in your child’s classroom. His teacher can store it in her desk and when she sees that your child is starting to feel overwhelmed, stressed or fidgety, she can give him the stress ball. This is a great way to get the child to refocus their attention without making a big deal about it in front of the rest of the class.

Pictured: Mini Neon Smile Face Relaxable Balls, $7.32,

7. Balloons

I had never thought of this one before but my son’s occupational therapist used it in one of his sessions. Buy a bag of regular old balloons. Blow them up. Let your child toss it in the air, swat it around and watch his face light up with a smile. Better yet, join in on the fun and take turns hitting it back and forth with each other.

Pictured: 144 Assorted Color Balloons, $5.98,

8. Gum, lollipops and Tic Tacs

These would make great stocking stuffers. They are small, practical pieces of candy that help with oral stimulation. I use these all the time with my son when he is having a hard time focusing. Whether it be him being hyper, moody or a little bit of both, he knows he can go to the pantry in our home and take one of these items whenever he needs to.

Pictured: Dum Dums Bag 13 oz, $2.99,

9. Electric toothbrush

There are so many cool toothbrushes out there for kids now. Chances are, your child has already showed you (and begged) for that new Barbie or Superman toothbrush. Use this as an opportunity to teach them about the right way to brush their teeth and invest in a quality, electric toothbrush. These are great for making sure your child is brushing their teeth for the suggested two minutes and the vibrating of the toothbrush head helps children actually feel the process of what they are doing.

Pictured: Philips Sonicare for Kids Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush, $39.95,

10. Seamless socks and tag-less shirts and pants

Clothes can feel like the end-all be-all for children with sensory processing disorder. Most families steer clear of asking friends and family to buy clothes for their child for Christmas because what feels good one day for your child, doesn’t always feel good the next day. Chances are, your child’s wardrobe consists of primarily seamless and tag-less items. Under Armor is a great brand because there are no tags on their clothes. Seamless socks can be found online and look for elastic-free pants so that your child doesn’t have to worry about getting their pants to “feel right.”

Pictured: Kids Seamless Sensitivity Socks – 6 Pack, $39,

Meagan Ruffing is a freelance parenting writer. She always has an arsenal of sensory-based activities and toys tucked away in her pantry. Follow her on social media to find out the latest information and tips and tricks on how to make your life easier with a child who has special needs. Visit her at