I currently work with preschoolers, ages 3-5. Many are non-verbal/low-verbal, many are on the autism spectrum, and I have a slew of initial evaluations that walk into my room. To keep all of these little ones interested, happy, and engaged, I have a treasure chest of fun, unique toys that I can almost guarantee they don’t have at home.
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That is key when working with this population – making sure that the toys in my speech room aren’t old hat before they even walk into my room. When they see this closed treasure chest, it totally piques their interest. Then – I open it!
My absolute favorite fidget/sensory toy is a spinning top. It’s SO motivating for 99% of kids (that 1% think it’s too loud) and it’s great for me because it’s too difficult for them to work themselves. This requires them to ask for help. I can model the core words/phrases “put in” and “turn” while I get it ready and then we both wait eagerly for the core word “go!” These are two of my favorites.
The rainbow one does not play music, so it’s better for those with sound sensitivities.
This elephant is my second favorite toy.
I actually found it in a grocery store (Harris Teeter) when i lived in Virginia. It was just sitting on top of an absurdly full shopping cart at the front of the store. You know, one of those where they’re like, “Let’s just chuck all this random crap that we only have 1 or 2 of in here and mark it 99 cents. Some poor soul will buy them eventually.” Well, insert me – poor soul willing to pay 99 cents for this gross, rubbery, pink elephant with purple polka dots. (I’m a little ashamed to admit that for the longest time I called it a pig because it’s pink. Whoops.) When you squeeze it, it squeals and the trunk and tail extend. It may even be a dog toy for all I know? It’s lost a little bit of the seal so the trunk and tail don’t stay out for every long. Kids freak over it anyway. It’s great to squeeze in on top of their heads, in their bellies, etc. when you have a kid who likes that sort of “roughhousing”. Unfortunately I can’t provide a link to this one because it was such a random find. But keep an eye out for super weird dog toys!
Next are these balls. They either feel weird, light up, or both. All of these were purchased on Amazon. I love that they come in multi-packs because you can split them with a coworker, send them home as holiday or end of year gifts, or just keep them as backup in case a little friend pops them.
These tangle toys are fun for even me! They’re very easy to clean and super engaging. I bought a 3-pack of the mini ones.
Kids also LOVE these “pop tubes”. I feel like this is something only a special educator has ever seen. Parents are always in awe of how much kids love these things. They can expand or compress, link together, be twisted into shapes, and they make a fun noise.
These come in a multi-pack which makes them great for requesting using color+noun phrases.
I learned about this ball at a PECS training. They called it an “orbiter” ball but it took me WAY too long to search Amazon using that as a search term.
They light up, but my only complaint is that they shipped able to light up (didn’t have one of those pull tabs to “turn it on”) so they have sort of ran out of batteries quickly. And you can’t replace the batteries :-/ Kids love them, though, and they bounce all crazy.
These types of glitter balls can often be found in the Target dollar spot. Keep your eye out! They’re like glitter sensory bottles in that the glitter settles after a while. They’re super fun to shake!
We all learned about the importance of echo microphones in grad school (or even undergrad).
I’ve found that the good quality ones are hard to come by. I love buying in bulk!
These are possibly the cheapest, most easy to come-by toys in my treasure chest. It’s a New Year’s Eve noise maker. There are a ton of variety of these; they come in many shapes and colors.
Many people know this one. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve snagged one at the annual ASHA convention. There’s also a DIY version using PVC pipes. Many think it’s just for auditory feedback for artic therapy, but it’s also very motivating and fun just to talk into and make silly sounds.
Below are some other fun sensory toys that I’ve used throughout the years:
I hope you’ve found something new to engage your students!