Holidays can be hard for those who have different sensory needs than the average person.  We talked about holiday routine and schedule changes as well as holiday activities for those who are more sensitive in this post, and today we’re going to talk about gifts that not only are fun to give, but they also will be loved by the sensitive child as they uniquely fit their needs and personality.

sensory gift notes

You will see the ‘seeking’ gifts are more lively than the ‘avoidant’ gifts.  Usually children seek more in one area, and avoid in another, so you will most likely have two or more categories to choose from.

***Not sure where your child falls? Take this 2-minute Sensory Quiz.

When passing this along to friends and family, be sure to note your child’s preferences in the Facebook post or email.

Since these children are usually more prone to frustration than others, choose quality over quantity of gifts.  A couple gifts that are well-made and work as expected is going to provide hours of joy and play, rather than a bunch of gifts that may break more easily, especially when played with over and over and over.

Visually Seeking Gifts

  1. Light Sabers are beyond fun for the Star Wars fans who love visual input.
  2. A Lite Brite is so colorful! Cool transparent pegs that plug into a board to make them light up? I always wanted one of those as a kid, even without sensory issues.
  3. Projection lights come in all sorts of themes and colors and are fun for all ages.
  4. For the families tired of buying more batteries, a rechargeable lantern/flashlight (best for those who also are tactile seeking- the winding mechanism provides a small amount of resistance that they will love.  It also is a ‘nice two-handed activity’ as our occupational therapist would say.)
  5. A kaleidoscope is a low-tech classic that provides all sorts of visual stimulation.

Visually Avoidant Gifts

  1. Sunglasses allow the child to reduce the amount of visual input at will, and are fun and stylish as well.
  2. Soft cloths to drape are a Waldorf-inspired way to soften harsh corners (just thumbtack so they cover the upper corners in a room.  They also are pleasing for visually avoidant children to play with.
  3. Masks that cover the face (not for children who are tactile avoidant as well) can provide a welcome break from visual stimulation as they limit peripheral vision, along with lots of fun
  4. A salt lamp can be a soft light source for these children in place of a more harsh overhead light or table lamp.  We have one in each bathroom as well as the kids’ bedrooms.

Auditory Seeking Gifts

  1. Drums– we have this set and they are much less loud than others, yet still contain lots of fun.
  2. Maracas to shake and dance with .
  3. A wind up music box provides both resistance for our tactile seekers and sound for the auditory seekers.  A jack-in-the box is good for those who seek sensory input in all areas.
  4. Animal sound maker makes a mechanical (no batteries!) sound with less need to touch than the wind up music box.

Auditory Avoidant Gifts

  1. Scarves and earmuffs can cover sensitive ears.
  2. Noise-canceling headphones are often welcome.
  3. Soft silks are fun to play with, and delightfully silent
  4. Thick rugs, and cloth wall hangings are lovely to look at and also absorb sound (choose a soothing pattern or bold one, depending on whether your child avoids or seeks visual stimulation).

Tactile Seeking Gifts

  1. Heavy babies (weighted dolls) provide more tactile input for those who love tactile experiences and mimicking mommy and daddy.
  2. Kenetic sand and silly putty provide different sensory inputs, a bottle of natural lotion can be a fun way to finger paint on the table without too much color or toxins.  Older children will love polymer clay to make keepsake creations.
  3. This group loves a sensory table.  Beans on one side, unpopped popcorn on the other are easier to manage in the house than sand and water.  Scoops, funnels, and figures to bury are wonderful additions.
  4. Magnetic blocks provide that loved resistance as they are pulled apart, and the soothing colors are wonderful for those who are visually avoidant.
  5. A trampoline and cocoon swing both provide sensory feedback and a way to get energy out.  A cocoon swing or hammock have the added benefit of blocking out some visual stimulation for those who are stressed out by it.

Tactile Avoidant Gifts

  1. This group loves to watch or hear, without having to touch things constantly.  Wind up music players are out (too much touching!), but a screen that runs for a few minutes at a time or portable music player can be a great gift!
  2. As far as building materials go, less resistance and smooth textures are the way to go with this group.  They tend to prefer Brio and smooth blocks (the heaviness of solid wood blocks can be calming) over rougher blocks or legos that require force to stick together.

Related articles:

Calming Sensory Activities for Visually Seeking Children

Calming Sensory Activities for Visually Avoidant Children

Why Sensory Integration May Be Causing Your Child’s Meltdowns

Sensory Friendly Holiday Activities to Avoid Meltdowns

L-Carnosine, the Amino Acid Supplement for Sensory Support

The GAPS Diet for Sensory Kids, Toddlers, and Picky Eaters

Grain-Free Holiday Desserts, Breakfasts, and Side Dishes

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