Holiday Toy Guide!

The holidays are in full swing which means every day my inbox is flooded with emails from companies looking to sell their wares– not to mention the million catalogs that seem to get delivered on a daily basis! With so many options, it can be challenging to figure out what to buy your kids that will hopefully meet the toy trifecta – is developmentally appropriate, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and won’t break in a hot minute.  I’m a big fan of products made from wood or sustainable materials as well, so that is always a bonus for me.   

There are certain things that we use in our practice to help make the work we do fun while also tackling any challenges a child may be experiencing and I thought it would be helpful to share some of these ideas here. 

Toys for children with sensory processing challenges:

  • Spinners or ‘fidget spinners’ have become popular in the last few years with most children but have actually been used for a long time for children with autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Spinners keep kids hands busy and come in many different shapes and sizes, so a smaller one can often be used more discretely in a classroom setting. 
  • If constant spinning is not your thing, there are also many other types of toys that can be used to keep hands busy.  The stress ball is one and can actually be made easily at home and what I also like about these is that they help with hand strength. These make great stocking stuffers or Chanukah presents!
  • Fidget cubes are also a popular choice as they have several different sides with a variety of activities such as buttons to push, switches to flip and different textures. They typically do not emit a sound so this also makes the an ideal toy for school or a public setting. 
  • Wikki Stix have always provided a tactile and sensory experience, ideal for fine motor skills, kinesthetic learning, working with the visually impaired, as well as the entire autism spectrum. Here is a kit with components designed for all of these activities!
  • Sensory Sacks – The smooth, stretchy material provides the deep pressure that sensory-seeking kids crave. You’ll get soothing compression and resistance around your whole body. The movement tool helps children learn spatial awareness and relax. Helps kids learn to self regulate and transition from hyper to calm, from sad to happy, from distracted to alert.

Toys for children to develop speech and language skills:

  • Sometimes it’s just good to go back to the basics like these sorting and nesting toys. These seemingly simple toys actually are helping development in so many ways  – including speech and language development. You can work on concepts of size, color, order, counting and so much more. You’re also working on visual and spatial perception, fine and gross motor skills. There are many different types out there – have fun!
  • Another old time favorite are the wooden puzzles or magnet sets that can help with letter recognition and sounds. They are typically very durable and easy to clean and come in so many different shapes and sizes! You can get ones that are just colorful letters and sound out words and names or my favorite – the farm animals that make sounds! These can also help with fine motor manipulation at the same time.  
  • Books, books and more books! Can you tell I am a fan of books? Receptive language starts before expressive language, so reading to your child is helping even if they are not responding. Choose books that repeat words or phrases such as Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Eric Carle. 

Toys for movement and balance:

  • It is normal for kids to seek out vestibular (movement based) experiences as part of their natural development, so it’s always helpful to find safe ways to do provide those opportunities.  This Jump-o-lene  is a nice alternative for ages 3-6 to the standard trampoline. It can be used indoors or outdoors and you can also use it as a ballpit.
  • This Rody Horse by Gymnic is a adorable and also helps promote balance and coordination. It comes in many different cute colors and patterns and is made from strong, latex and BPA free vinyl.
  • Monkey Balance Boards are a great way to work on balance and helps with gross motor skill development. Recommended for ages 3 and up.
  • This Sit & Spin was one of my favorites growing up and is still awesome. It’s great because the child can spin themselves by pulling their body around the wheel while also engaging in heavy work (which can help decrease the risk of overstimulation from spinning) and developing important skills like left-right (bilateral) coordination, core stability (in the tummy, back, and neck), and upper body strength.

We hope that you find this helpful and we here at Galvin Therapy Center are always here to answer questions or you can always try out some of these things with us prior to purchasing them. We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season, full of fun and laughter!


Ark Therapeutic –

Autism Parenting Magazine –

Mama OT –

Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support –

Yoga Pants and Pearls –

Note: We were not compensated in any way for the recommendations or products linked to in the above post nor are we promoting them as substitutions for professional therapeutic assistance when needed.

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