Sensory Toys

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Sensory toys is a phrase that has become more prominent, especially over the past five years or so, as we have generally become more aware of their benefits and their importance to all children - especially those that are neurodiverse, with conditions such as autism.

So what are sensory toys? They include any toy that appeals to the senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing as well as movement and balance. They are especially popular for babies, as well as for children with additional needs, but with the rise in screen and digital play, and an increased awareness among parents about the importance of children experiencing ‘real-world’ sensations such as touch, sight and sounds, they are very much in the mainstream. Products such as comfort blankets are also considered to be sensory toys, as they offer soothing textures, soft fabrics and warmth. 

Sensory toys help babies and children learn and explore - they can even encourage the brain to build nerve connections - and have a host of other benefits. Including a selection of sensory toys in your retail setting will certainly add another dimension to your offering.

Why are sensory toys such good sellers?

Over the past few years, the awareness of the importance of toys that provide sensory feedback has increased, particularly with the rise of screen-based entertainment. The huge increase in interest of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) has seen YouTube filled with videos that show sensory experiences. It is thought that this and the heightened interest in toys such as squishies and fidget spinners is a direct response to the fact that children and adults are gaining less sensory feedback in the real world. For babies, sensory toys encourage the acquisition of early development skills - and these skills, including balance, strength and coordination help to give a child the confidence with which to explore the world around them.

Benefits of sensory toys

Did you know that sensory play can actually prompt the brain to build nerve connections? From the time they are born, babies and children make sense of the world around them using their senses - taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. Any toys that can engage those senses will help little ones to learn more about their surroundings. Another benefit of sensory toys is that they aid the learning process. You learn better and are able to retain more if the senses are engaged. Repeat the experience and your brain is triggered - for instance, the smell of a sponge cake baking might take you back to your childhood and a visit to your grandmother. Products such as comfort blankets are also an example of sensory toys as they offer different textures that appeal to the sense of touch, as well as prompting fond memories of comfort and warmth. 

Sensory toys can help babies and very small children to experience touch in different ways - different textures help to heighten their awareness of touch. Encouraging touching, squeezing and stroking can develop fine motor skills, which are essential for learning to write. Sensory toys can also help with concentration skills - they can be useful at school, especially for children with SEN. Because sensory toys can encourage confidence they can be a useful tool in combating anxiety - and they can also help to reduce side effects of anxiety, such as thumb sucking or nail biting. Interestingly, language skills can also be improved by the use of sensory toys - experiencing new sounds, tastes and textures helps small children to learn to communicate better.

What does sensory play do?

Sensory toys can help children to discover scientific processes while they are playing, as they learn to explore, create and investigate. As they continue to do this, and as they get older, their brain will continue to create stronger connections, which will allow it to both process and respond to sensory information. Sensory play can also help a child to cope with different sounds, smells, tastes and textures. For example, children who struggle with the texture of different foods can explore this by messy play - playing with Plasticine and other substances, so that they become familiar with the different textures and learn to cope with them. Similarly, exploring different sounds can help a child to manage when confronted by different sounds, rather than being overwhelmed by them. Sensory play allows babies and children to develop an understanding and trust of a texture, sound or smell or even movement. This allows the brain to create positive pathways that tell the brain that these sensory experiences are safe and positive. So clever!