A selection of some of the best toys for autistic kids

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Play is an important part of childhood — and it’s not just fun and games. Play lets children be creative and run with their imaginations.

For autistic children, play provides important sensory input, which simply means engagement with the five senses. (Don’t forget balance and body awareness, too!)

It gives children with the condition an opportunity to connect with peers, practice motor skills, and learn more about the world around them.

Autistic children may also have difficulties with sensory processing. This means they may have trouble processing sights, sounds, smells, textures, or anything else that stimulates the senses.

Play-based interventions may be helpful for sensory processing, as well as social and communication skills. Making time for play doesn’t just have to be between parents and their children. Studies have explored the value of play among children of all abilities (including exposing children who are on the spectrum and children who are not).

As a result, you may want to explore toys that speak to your child’s proprioception (sense of their body’s movement and position), vestibular input (sense of their head’s position and movement), and tactile stimulation (sense of touch on their skin).

When looking for toys for autistic children, it’s important to keep some things in mind. It’s not that your child won’t enjoy any type of toy. Instead, it’s about finding what toy most engages your child and what may help them work on certain skills.

“Your child’s development stage may be delayed. It is possible that a same-aged child with a different age group will not find a toy that works.”

What type of toys do the trick?

  • To enhance proprioception. Find toys like jump ropes, modeling clay, weighted balls, or bean bags, and toys that provide a hugging sensation, like a large bean bag chair.
  • To strengthen the vestibular sense. Try toys that rock, spin, swing, or involve some other motion, like a trampoline.
  • To practice tactile stimulation. Shop for toys with different textures, as well as finger paints, play scarves, bubbles, and sand and water toys.

Aside from sensory toys, other good choices involve toys that work on language development (particularly if your little one is nonverbal) as well as fine and gross motor skills.

You may also want to search for musical instruments, sorting toys that soothe your child, or toys designed for “stimming” (self-stimulation, like rocking) or fidgeting. Games that get kids working together and honing social skills are another solid option.

If you just look up toys for children with special needs, you will find a long list. We have categorized some of the most popular toys and included ratings based on their usefulness, quality, and fun factor.

The following toys are praised by both caregivers and therapists. Some are designed specifically for children with special needs.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $25
  • $$ = $25–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

The best toys for kids with disabilities.

Melissa & Doug See & Spell Learning Toy

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 4–6 years

The puzzle set includes eight different words and 50 letter pieces. Kids work on a lot of skills at once.

Melissa & Doug includes this toy on its best toys list for autistic children. Parents say this is a wonderful way to get kids interested in short words. One mom shares that her son is “on the spectrum and nonverbal at the moment… every day [he] does one word [and] pronounces the letters.”

The company also carries a line of sound puzzles that feature farm animals, zoo animals, vehicles, musical instruments, and more.

Lucas the Lion Loves the Tiny Talker

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 8–12 years

The board book has a small talker device that is similar to an alternative communication device. The story follows a lion named Lucas who cannot speak. Lucas can find the words he needs when his mother gives him a Tiny Talker.

Children can see the symbols in the story and match them with sound buttons. One parent says that this book helped her communicate with her son for the first time. She says the smile on his face makes it worth it.

Best sensory toys for autistic kids

Fat Brain Toys Teeter Popper

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 3–10 years

A parent says this toy is a must try for their child with special needs. The Teeter Popper makes her child lie on the floor to play, but she loves the noises and rocking motion. She loves that he is working on his muscles while he plays.

Some parents say that this toy is better suited for preschoolers and older children than toddlers. It requires a good amount of stability and balance.

Harkla Compression Therapy Swing

  • Price: $$$
  • Ages: 3 years and older

The swing is sturdy enough for kids of all ages. It produces a hug-like calming effect through compression of the sides. The Harkla provides sensory input whenever your child needs it.

The parents say the system is secure. Attach the included carabiner to the ceiling joist and hang the swing. It works on ceilings of different heights, and it comes with an extension.

A reviewer says that her son had less meltdowns after installing the swing.

Neliblu Wacky Tracks Snap and Click Fidget Toys

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

You may have heard of a spinner. The idea with these chains is similar. They are a toy that can help reduce stress and increase focus.

Each link of 24 in a chain moves and locks into five different positions, making a clicking noise. There are four people.

Reviewers say these are a hit with their children with special needs and that many of them like breaking the chains and forming them into bigger shapes.

This toy is best for kids older than 12 years old. The links are stiff and difficult to move for small hands, which could pose a hazard to little ones.

Creature Comforts Weighted Sensory Turtle Lap Pad

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 3 years and older

Some people with a neurological condition likeaustical and sensory disorders can benefit from weight. This is true for kids. A weighted lap pad can be used by parents, caregivers, and kids.

The handmade weighted lap pad is filled with millet. That provides about 2 pounds of weight for the entire unit.

The pad has different materials on it. It is geared towards children over the age of 3, especially school-age kids. It is easy to take it to school, home or anywhere you go.

There are games for kids with special needs.

Didax Social Skills Board Games

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 7–11 years

The topics of how others feel, acting out, manners, and mountain of emotions are included in this set of six games.

Small groups of kids are encouraged to play and learn.

One reviewer says that the topics are especially good for children on the spectrum, and that she bought them for her 7-year-old.

BMAG Counting Bears Game

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

The game includes 90 bears, 6 sorting cups, 2 large tweezers, and 11 cards. Kids can play this game alone or work together.

Fine motor skills are improved by sorting the bears by color. It can be used to introduce concepts.

One reviewer says that her daughter loves the game and that it captures her attention. It has become part of her therapy sessions.

Musical toys for kids with special needs.

Edushape Rainbomaker

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 1-8 years

The musical rainmaker stick is for kids 1 year and up. The plastic beads gather in one end and cascade down the plastic tubing to make a sound of rain.

Reviewers say that the toy is specifically for their children with special needs. One parent says that her son can play with it all day. It is hard to find toys for him due to his sensory issues, but this toy caught his attention once it was out of the box.

It can be used past the recommended age of use for older children and adults.

Rhythm Tech Cabasa

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: N/A

The cabasa is a musical instrument that is used in Latin jazz music. It is appealing to adults and kids, musicians and non musicians alike.

It comes with two egg shakers so children can play with different types of percussion.

“You should make sure your child can grip and control the instrument so they don’t hurt themselves playing with it.”

It is a good investment because it can grow with your child and you can make music with them when you trade off playing the cabasa or egg shaker.

Reviewers say this instrument is “perfect for family music time” because it’s both versatile and durable. For autistic kids, it provides tactile stimulation that music therapy group Wholesome Harmonies says it uses to “access sensory channels, modify state, and provide sensory stimulation for neuronal growth.”

LED Tambourine Musical Flashing Tambourine Handheld Percussion Instrument

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

The handheld two-piece tambourine can provide a solid musical outlet for children of most ages.

The tambourines turn on with a touch of a button. There are three different settings. Each package has four tambourines. It is best for children over three years because it contains small parts that could be a hazard.

If you plan to be out and about with your child during the evening, you can bring along these handheld tambourines.

The best toys for children with special needs.

Fat Brain Toys Squigz 2.0

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 3 years and older

Silicone pieces connect via a cup. You can make anything with the bright colors and bendy shapes.

“One reviewer says she learned about Squigz from her child’s occupational therapist. They are great for building hand strength or working on bending for your child. They can be washed in the dishwasher.”

This toy could be dangerous for children with special needs, as it could be a choking hazard for their age.

Educational Insights Teachable Touchables Texture Squares

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 3–5 years

These squares are soft and slippery and will be great for little kids. The texture may help build their skills. They are small so children can handle them easily.

Each set has 10 different textures that are in pairs, for a total of 20 squares. The reviewers say the activities are great for kids with sensory issues. Others say they are useful for all sorts of open-ended play.

Linzy Toys Education Bear

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

Your child can dress this cute bear from head to toe, which will help them with various skills. There are fabrics of a variety of colors.

Reviewers say that their kids love dressing up and cuddling it. One parent shared that her daughter is very much into texture and likes the soft fabric of the doll. It helps her with her motor skills.

If pieces from the bear come off, they could pose a hazard.

ECR4Kids Assorted Colors Sand and Water Adjustable Activity Play Table Center

  • Price: $$$
  • Ages: 3 years and older

Sensory bins are a great toy for kids. These sensory bins are a great idea if your child is on the spectrum. The basins can be filled with anything, and they are easy to clean.

They come in three different heights so they can handle your child when they get bigger. Choose from a two- or four-bin option. Depending on your child, you may be able to introduce it sooner.

“They link so the bins can’t come apart, because of a slip-free grip on the bottom. Need a quick clean up? The materials inside are protected by the lid.”

What toys are best for older autistic kids?

“Older children with special needs may like toys that let them use their hands and fingers. Try to get an idea of your child’s interests and then explore and research toys related to that.”

What are the best types of toys for nonverbal autistic kids?

Nonverbal children may best connect with toys that encourage them to speak or express themselves. Pretend play can also be useful.

Some children with no speech may be frustrated with toys that encourage speech and prefer toys that involve communication modes other than speech.

Are there types of toys that autistic kids should not play with?

Knowing if your child is hyposensitive can help guide toy choices. A child who is highly stimulated may benefit from calming toys. A child who is hyposensitive may connect with brightly colored toys.

Your child is going to enjoy toys that cater to their interests. If your child receives early intervention services, you should talk to your therapist to see if there are any toys that they suggest adding to your home collection.

Focus on toys that speak to sensory needs, fine and gross motor skills, as well as language development and social development. Have fun!