Avoid Overwhelm: A Gift Guide For Kids With Sensory Needs

As a counterpart to the previous post, Ten Gifts For Your ADHD Child That Might Buy You Five Minutes of Sanity, this gift guide is loaded with presents that are perfectly suited for children with special sensory needs. While your little shopper might be on the autism spectrum, have Sensory Processing Disorder (like our son), or simply struggle with distractions from things like itchy tags in their clothes, this list is for you!

Each item has been tested and kid approved in our own home. We live tiny so it must fit into our less than 300 square foot lifestyle and still make the cut of awesome gifts we wouldn’t end up donating a week later. So get your pen and paper ready (or your phone’s notepad, if you’re fancy), and get ready for the sensory must-haves this holiday season!

Super Fun

  1. Kinetic Sand-This item has kept our son busy for hours on end. It has also helped tremendously with his tactile needs. He struggles with anything that feels odd to him as his SPD tends to make him feel overwhelmed. This sand is cool to the touch and we have even incorporated it into Roadschooling lessons where he becomes an architect or an archaeologist. The possibilities are endless! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  2. Fiber Optic Light-Our kids sleep with a nightlight. Going tiny requires each item in our home to pull double duty. This light reminds me of when I was a kid at the circus and we’d buy the overpriced fiber optic wands to wave around when the lights went out. The feeling of the fibrous strands is great for tactile function and the sight sensory is beautiful with the changing colors without bright, flashing lights that tend to overwhelm. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  3. Lava Lamp-Another night light option, this old school lamp serves multiple purposes in our house. The slow moving colors and ever changing shapes of the “lava” inside are an excellent calming tool for those with kids who have meltdowns. Our son’s SPD is partnered with ODD, ADHD, and GAD so he can have rage episodes lasting hours. This lamp is quiet, soothing, and can hold his attention without demanding a response from him. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  4. Green Kid Craft Subscription-Craft time can be beautiful or it can be a disaster, and I am not referring to a mess of construction paper and crayon shrapnel on the floor. For our son, getting his hands covered in glue and glitter can push him right over the proverbial edge. These craft kits are delivered to your door with your affordable subscription. This pumps our kids up to receive mail addressed to them. The crafts are created from recycled materials and push our son’s sensory needs in a great way. This one came highly encouraged by his Occupational Therapist as well since it helped him make gains on his OT tactile goals.
  5. Groovy Lab In A Box Kits-Maybe your kids aren’t ready for Biology dissection or the smells that come with mixing things in a lab. Our son’s olfactory needs are kept in check with these kid-friendly science experiments that pair wonderfully with his Roadschooling lessons and also make for super fun Saturday adventures! The hands-on learning challenges him in a great way and he loves it. Our one year old daughter even gets in on the messy fun!
  6. Body Sox-Possibly the most hilariously awesome gift of all time, these sensory socks cover your child’s entire body, less their heads. This applies gentle pressure when they stretch out their arms and legs, protects their exposed body parts from touching surfaces, and allows them to curl up and be “hugged” by the stretchy fabric. As an added bonus, they look hilarious so it is super fun for the whole family to participate. Our family all rocks these puppies and we laugh until our bellies hurt! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!


  1. Chewelery-Our son goes through phases where he chews. It might be a month where he chews his shirts, a few weeks of biting his lips, another time he spent several months biting his fingers; it never ends. These wearable, chewable toys can mix in to what other kids are wearing already but they are safe and non toxic for our chewers and won’t cost me a mile high dental bill later. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  2. Under Huggers-Admittedly, we are just trying this one out. However, we have used normal compression tops in the past and they do not provide enough gentle pressure to give our son any relief. These shirts are form-fitting and apply the right amount of pressure spread out over the back, shoulders, and abdomen to provide comfort throughout the day and be hidden under the child’s regular, everyday apparel.
  3. Seamless Clothes-I cannot say enough about this new line of seamless clothing at Target. Our son will legitimately tear off clothing with an itchy tag, folded over seems, or socks who become mildly crooked inside of his shoe. The ability to purchase affordable, stylish clothing for our kids that will not be a constant “itchy sweater sensation” for them is wonderful. We no longer engage in early morning arguments as he rips off shirt after shirt because they “feel funny” or changes shorts because “they touch his knees too much”. This one item has literally saved us hours of hostility and made peace (in at least one area) in our home.
  4. Compression Leggings-Two words: life changing. Even though leggings are usually reserved for girls over being a gender neutral staple wardrobe piece, we reserve the opinion that it is all in the delivery. Our son’s need for both gentle compression and soft, tagless fabric almost requires leggings. So, we packaged them in the idea of “muscle pants”. He. Loves. Them. We have to do laundry more often because he wants to wear them both to bed at night as well as under his shorts or regular pants during the day. This may have been our most brilliant parenting win to date! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  5. Gloves-Some parents choose to still fight this battle, but we gave up on it long ago. Come Midwestern blizzard or Arizona heatwave, our son is wearing gloves 85% of the time. We do not allow gloves inside restaurants, at mealtimes, or when doing hygiene activities like brushing teeth, etc. We used to notice people staring or sharing their unsolicited opinions, but hey, gloves are his jam. So what! We have found that the compression of these slim fit batting gloves give our son better dexterity for things like completing schoolwork and playing outside. Plus, he thinks they look like ninja hands and we think that is awesome! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  6. Wireless Headphones-These are a game changer if your child has auditory sensitivities such as to loud noises, crowd of people, high pitches sounds, sirens, or music. Our son can blast the music in the car with his dad and rock out, but when we go to church, he covers his ears and curls into a ball on the seat. These headphones are Blu Tooth ready and can be used with radios, video games, and other devices, but what we love about them is that their padded parts offer comfort to wear them in any situation to provide less sensory input for his ears. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!

Large Items

  1. Weighted Blanket-We put off this purchase for a long time because of the initial cost (Ranging from $80-$200) but they are worth every penny. With special focus on children dealing with both tactile sensory needs and anxiety disorders, the pressure provided by these pellet-filled blankets is perfect both for calming him during and after a meltdown as well as the end of the day for bedtime.  I have anxiety myself and when I have felt particularly overwhelmed, my son’s blanket, spread over my chest and midsection have provided great relief. *Disclaimer: Be sure to research the weight needed for your child’s size. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  2. Pod Swing Chair-With the simple requirement of an eye bolt or hook from the ceiling, these swing chairs are an awesome investment for both fun and sensory relief. Check the weight rating, but both of our kids enjoy this seat for swinging, reading, and spinning. They also make adult versions, hint, hint! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  3. Ball Pit-Fun for every age, the ball pit was a key component to our son’s Occupational Therapy success. It isn’t a space saver so it is an outdoor toy for us, but it is fun for both our toddler and our school-ager. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  4. Sit N Spin-This old school toy is best for outdoor use but it is certainly able to be set up in a larger living or bedroom. This allows him to spin at his own pace, laugh, and play with his sister in an activity they both enjoy. Kids on the spectrum generally enjoy the sensation of spinning. Our son loves it! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  5. Balance Board- This is a GREAT gift for both children with extra energy (like our son’s severe ADHD) as well as those who have tactile issues. This allows our son to rock, stand, balance, and sway all while reading or watching TV. This is also a great aid in dexterity and practice for sports like skateboarding and snowboarding. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  6. Scooter Board-I remember using these in elementary gym class but they are still super hip! Many OTs use these boards to assist in movement, dexterity, and burning up extra energy. The only clause to this gift is that it requires a flat surface. You want to be mindful of tiny fingers and toes with these wheeled carts because they can be ran over, but when used carefully, they can provide hours of energy burning fun. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  7. Sand and Water Table-We love the versatility this table offers over ones that have space for water only. While our son doesn’t like to get his hands dirty when he is eating, he loves to dig in the dirt like most boys. This half sand, half water table allows both of our kids the ability to play around outside, make a mess, get dirty, with no worries. We also like to pack it with snow in the winter and bring it inside so they can play without being exposed to the cold. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!

Small Gifties

  1. Koosh Ball-The tactile sensation offered by these vintage toys is great as well as their ability to be thrown like a real ball without breaking things, should it be thrown during a rage episode. These come in a variety of colors and sizes and the smaller ones are perfect for little hands! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  2. Sensory Brush-We were gifted this from our son’s Occupational Therapist as something else to add to our bag of tricks. We looked at it funny at first because it looked and seemed a little ridiculous. But if you are parenting a child with special needs of any kind, you are likely to try most anything. This little brush filled with soft, plastic bristles is to be applied with pressure to arms, legs, back, and chest using firm strokes in one direction about ten times on each appendage. We use this first thing in the morning and last thing during his bedtime routine. As someone without a doctorate, I can’t explain the science behind it but, as a mom, I can tell you it works. The pressure and feeling of the bristles somehow relax and calm our boy and we are grateful for it. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  3. Water Beads-These little colorful beads are so cool! We did a science experiment during one of our son’s Roadschool lessons on water. You take the tiny plastic beads and submerge them in water and wait. It is a similar idea to the animals and things you can add to water and watch grow but there are hundreds of them. Once fully grown, they feel wet even when they aren’t so they are great for sensory play! They don’t make a mess and it is easy to hide smaller items like matchbox cars and things inside and have your kids dig around on a sensory scavenger hunt. These would make excellent stocking stuffers! Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  4. Instant Snow-I was hesitant on this one because I imagined the spray snow of the 90s storefront window displays at Christmas time, but it isn’t the same at all. This uses the technology of the expanding material inside a diaper (yes, you read that right) to create cold, white material that looks like snow only lasts longer! This is a particularly great item for those living in warmer temps where the kids are less likely to experience snow. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!
  5. Scalp Massager-This is the ULTIMATE stocking stuffer for kids with tactile sensory needs (And adults who want a cheap way to relax). This little $5 investment is made of metal prongs with plastic tips that are pushed over the surface of the scalp providing a calming and relaxation sensation. Our son responds so well to positive touch that the gentle pressure and calming comfort of this massager gives him relief from near meltdowns. Click HERE to buy what we’ve used and loved!

Shopping for kids can be hard, especially when they have specific needs. This list is not, by any means, conclusive, but it is a great start to any Christmas list with a special emphasis on meeting sensory needs.

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3 Replies to “Avoid Overwhelm: A Gift Guide For Kids With Sensory Needs”

  1. Great list, Mama! I have used many of these things with my daughter and would love to try a weighted blanket. I’ll bet that would make her sleep much better. Thanks so much for sharing ideas to make our sweet kids more comfortable in a loud, scratchy world!

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