A selection of some of the best toys for autistic kidsShare on Pinterest

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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 also gives autistic children an opportunity to connect with peers (social skills), practice motor skills, and develop a better understanding of 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.

Also keep in mind your child’s developmental stage (which may be delayed). Toys that are usually appropriate for certain age groups may or may not work for a same-aged autistic child.

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 simply look up “toys for autistic children,” you’ll likely find an overwhelmingly long list. We’ve categorized some of the most popular toys and included ratings based on their usefulness, quality, and — well — fun factor.

The following toys earn high marks from both caregivers and therapists. Some are even designed specifically or have been designated by the manufacturer as a good pick for autistic children.

Pricing guide

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

Best toys for autistic kids who are nonverbal

Melissa & Doug See & Spell Learning Toy

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 4–6 years

This puzzle set includes eight different 3- to 4-letter words (pig, bus, bird, fish, sun, cake, etc.) and 50 letter pieces. Kids work on vocabulary building, spelling, and fine motor skills all 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

This board book has an integrated “tiny talker device” that’s similar to an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. While that may not seem very toy-like, the story follows a lion named Lucas who cannot talk. As the story goes on, Lucas’ mother gives him a Tiny Talker, and he can then find the words he needs.

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

Best sensory toys for autistic kids

Fat Brain Toys Teeter Popper

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 3–10 years

One parent says this toy is a “must try” for autistic kids. Her 4-year-old child, who previously would lie on the floor to play, loves the suction cup noises and rocking motion the Teeter Popper provides. She loves that he’s working his muscles and is stimulated while he plays.

One thing to note: Some parents mention that this toy might be better suited for preschoolers and older children instead of toddlers. They say it requires a good amount of stability and balance.

Harkla Compression Therapy Swing

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

With a weight limit of 200 pounds, this swing is sturdy enough for kids of all ages. It produces a hug-like calming effect through compression of the cocooned sides — almost like swaddling. When this is combined with the swinging motion, the Harkla provides vestibular sensory input whenever your child needs it.

Parents say the bracketing hanging system is high quality and secure. You just screw it into the ceiling joist and attach the included carabiner to it, then hang the swing. It also comes with an extender so it works on ceilings of different heights.

One reviewer says that just a week after installing this swing, her son experienced fewer meltdowns.

Neliblu Wacky Tracks Snap and Click Fidget Toys

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

You’ve likely heard of a fidget spinner. The idea with these snap-and-click chains is similar. They’re a tactile fidget toy that may help reduce stress or anxiety, and increase your child’s focus and attention.

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

Reviewers say these are a hit with their autistic kids and that many of their little ones like breaking the chains, connecting them, and forming them into bigger shapes.

This toy is best for older kids, though. The links may be stiff and difficult to move for small hands, and the pieces of the links are quite small, which could pose a choking hazard for little ones.

Creature Comforts Weighted Sensory Turtle Lap Pad

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

Weight is known to help some autistic people, because it can provide a calming effect as well as sensory and tactile input. This is especially true for kids. So a toy-like weighted lap pad you can use anywhere can be a tool for parents, caregivers, and kids.

This turtle-shaped weighted lap pad is handmade and filled with millet, or birdseed. That provides about 2 pounds of weight for the entire unit.

The pad has different materials on the exterior for tactile and sensory input. Available in assorted colors, it’s geared toward children over the age of 3, especially school-age kids. It’s easy to take it to school, home, or anywhere you go.

Best games for autistic kids

Didax Social Skills Board Games

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 7–11 years

This set of six games by Didax includes the topics of how others feel, acting out, manners, mountain of emotions, what you should do, and what makes a good friend.

Play is encouraged in small groups where elementary-age kids work together to learn social skills.

While these topics are important to all children, one reviewer says that she bought them for her 7-year-old and that they’re “especially good for children on the autism spectrum.”

BMAG Counting Bears Game

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

This colorful game includes 90 bears — 60 little and 30 big — 6 sorting cups, 2 large tweezers, and 11 cards for play. Kids can play this game alone or work together for more teamwork and social interaction.

Sorting the bears by color helps with fine motor skills and may be soothing to some children. It can also be used to introduce mathematical concepts.

One reviewer shares that her autistic daughter loves this game and that it captures her attention quite well. It has even become a part of her regular therapy sessions.

Best musical toys for autistic kids

Edushape Rainbomaker

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 1-8 years

This 16-inch musical rainmaker stick is designed for kids ages 1 year and up. The plastic beads gather in one end and — when turned over — cascade down the plastic tubing to create the sound of rain.

It’s a soothing sound, and several reviewers note they bought this toy specifically for their autistic children. One parent shares that her son “can literally play with it ALL day. It’s pretty hard looking for toys for him due to his sensory issues; however, this toy caught his absolute attention once taken out of the box!”

It can be used well past the recommended age-of-use range, as older children and older adults may find it engaging.

Rhythm Tech Cabasa

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: N/A

This pick isn’t a toy — it’s an actual musical instrument called a cabasa that’s traditionally used in Latin jazz music. Still, its soothing percussive swish is appealing to adults and kids, musicians and nonmusicians alike.

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

There’s no actual suggested age range, but you should make sure your child can firmly grip and control the instrument so they will not hurt themselves playing with it.

It’s 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

Between the music, the lighting, and the active motion, this handheld two-piece tambourine can provide a solid musical outlet for children of most ages.

With a touch of a button, the lighted tambourines turn on. There are three different settings. Each package includes four tambourines in different colors. It does contain small parts that could pose a choking hazard, so it’s best for children over three years.

These handheld tambourines are also great for playing in the dark, or bringing along if you plan to be out and about with your child during the evening.

Best toys for autistic preschoolers

Fat Brain Toys Squigz 2.0

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

This 36-piece building set is made of silicone pieces that connect via suction cup. With all the bright colors and bendy shapes, you really can make anything or just enjoy the popping sounds of the pieces pulling apart.

One reviewer says that she learned about Squigz from her child’s occupational therapist. They’re great for building hand strength or sticking on different levels to work on your little one’s squatting or bending. A convenient plus: They can be washed in your dishwasher.

Keep in mind that for autistic children who may have developmental delays, this toy could present a choking hazard, depending on their age.

Educational Insights Teachable Touchables Texture Squares

  • Price: $$
  • Ages: 3–5 years

Little kids will love these crinkly, slippery, silky, scratchy, and soft squares. The textures may help build tactile awareness and even their budding vocabulary skills. Plus, they’re small so children can handle them easily.

In each set, there are 10 different textures that come in pairs, for a total of 20 squares in all. Reviewers say the textures and included activities are wonderful for kids with sensory issues. Others say they’re useful for all sorts of open-ended play throughout the day.

Linzy Toys Education Bear

  • Price: $
  • Ages: 3 years and older

Your child can practice dressing this cute bear from head to toe, which will also build various skills. There are fabrics of a variety of textures along with snaps, buttons, zippers, Velcro, and more.

Reviewers say their kids enjoy dressing and cuddling it over and over again. One parent shares that her daughter “is very much into textures and, having autism, really likes the soft fabric of the doll. It helps her with her motor skills as well.”

Be cautious when using this toy: If pieces come off the bear, they could pose a choking hazard.

ECR4Kids Assorted Colors Sand and Water Adjustable Activity Play Table Center

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

Sensory bins are a useful toy for all kids. If your autistic child does best with tactile play, these sensory bins are a great idea. The removable basins can be filled with anything (slime, sensory sand, rice) and easily cleaned, ready to be filled up with more goodies for more fun.

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

A slip-free grip on the bottom helps them stay put, and they link so the bins can’t come apart. Need a quick cleanup? Lids pop on top so you can keep the materials inside protected.

What toys are best for older autistic kids?

Older autistic children may like toys that let them use their fingers and hands to fidget. Try to get an idea of your child’s interests, and then explore and research toys related to that interest.

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.

However, some nonverbal children may become 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 hypersensitive or hyposensitive to stimulation can guide toy choices. A child who’s highly stimulated may do better with calming toys. A child who’s hyposensitive may connect more with brightly colored toys that have light and sound.

In the end, your child is going to enjoy toys that cater to their unique interests and needs. If your child receives early intervention services, talk with your therapist to see if there are any toys they suggest adding to your home collection.

Otherwise, focus on toys that speak to sensory needs, fine and gross motor skills, as well as language development and social development. Above all else — have fun!