Gifts can be tricky for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), like my son Dylan. Sure, they like all the same things that other kids do, but when their world already seems overwhelming, a calming sensory-activity toy is really what they crave. Think simple. Check out these top 10 gifts for your sensory-seeking child.

Water Beads
Water beads 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 4-6 hours, they expand to marble-looking bubbles. These could be one of your child’s favorite gifts because they are unique.

Rice Bucket with Small Toys
Go to the dollar store and get a shoebox-sized container. Grab a (big) bag of rice and a few trinket-type toys (cars, plastic figures, a shell, etc.). Dump the bag of rice in the container and hide the toys in the rice. Finding (and re-hiding) the small toys will likely keep your child entertained for a long time.

Lego Lunchbox
A Lego lunchbox is awesome! If you have an old-school tin lunchbox lying around, it’s perfect for this project, but a plastic one would work, too. Cut a Lego baseplate to fit inside the lunchbox lid and superglue it down. Put a few Lego pieces inside the box. Voila! Your child now has their own Lego lunchbox to play with at home or on-the-go.

Moon Sand
Moon Sand one of the best sensory activities you will find. Moon Sand is similar to playdough, but it feels like sand. When you pick it up, it falls through your fingers just like sand does, but without the mess. Moon Sand is also great for hiding toys in. It can be purchased pretty at most major retailers—but it’s also easy to make by combining flour and oil (some people use vegetable oil, others use baby oil).

Children with SPD like the way playdough feels because it is relaxing. The feeling of squishing and molding something into whatever you imagine is a soothing activity for anyone, but especially for those who have difficulty processing things around them. Playdough is a family favorite.

Stress Ball
A simple stress ball is great for children with anxiety. It’s also an ideal “tool” to have in your child’s classroom. The teacher can store it in her desk and when your child starts to feel overwhelmed, stressed or fidgety, she can give him the stress ball. It’s a great way to get a child to refocus his attention without disrupting the rest of the class.

I had not thought of balloons until my son’s occupational therapist used them in one of his sessions. Blow up a balloon and let your child toss it in the air and swat it around. Better yet, join the fun and take turns hitting it back and forth to each other.

Gum, Lollipops and Tic-Tacs
These small pieces of candy help with oral stimulation. I give them to my son when he is having a hard time focusing. He knows he can get one from the pantry whenever he needs to. They also make great stocking stuffers!

Electric Toothbrush
An electric toothbrush is great for making sure your child is brushing his teeth for the suggested two minutes—and the vibrating of the toothbrush helps kids feel what they are doing. Teach your child the right way to brush his teeth and consider investing in a good-quality electric toothbrush.

Seamless Socks and Tag-less Clothing
Clothes can feel like the be-all and end-all for children with SPD. Most families steer clear of asking friends and family to buy clothes for their child, because what feels good one day doesn’t always feel good the next. Seamless and tagless clothing is a big help. Not sure where to look? Under Armour clothing has no tags. Seamless socks can be found online. If your child worries about his pants “feeling right,” consider elastic-free pants.

Whether it’s Christmas or an upcoming birthday, make things easy for yourself and use this list to help with gift-giving.


Meagan Ruffing is a freelance writer who always has an arsenal of sensory-based activities and toys tucked away in her pantry.


Want more gift ideas? Discover kid-tested, parent-approved toys for kids of all abilities!