Sensory toys provide excellent tools for children with special needs to develop their exploratory learning. They can increase interest and attention and make it easier to discover different sights, sounds, smells and textures. In short, sensory toys and gifts can be powerful tools to help children develop important skills. So, what are good gifts for children with special needs? Read our guide below to discover some gift ideas! 

Benefits of sensory play 

Sensory play for children with special needs and complex issues encourages learning through exploration, creativity and problem solving. It also helps to build nerve connections in the brain and helps to develop language and motor skills. 

Sensory play can be an incredibly important part of childhood and there is an abundance of things you can use for sensory activities. 

What is sensory play?

Essentially, sensory play is play that engages any of a child’s senses (smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing). It covers the main senses as well as movement, balance and spatial awareness. Each new experience a child has with the different senses builds nerve connections within their brain, helping to develop each sense. 

Good gifts for children with special needs

With Christmas approaching, you’ll have to start thinking about picking up some good gifts for children with special needs. Here’s a list of some ideas you could consider: 

  • Playdough 
  • Paint 
  • Tactile sensory ball 
  • Puzzle boards 
  • Pop-up tunnel


One of the best sensory gifts you could pick up for a child is playdough. A few tubs of different-coloured playdough can be great for sensory play. 

The child will use their sense of touch the most with playdough, but scented playdough will also trigger their sense of smell. Encouraging  them to craft the playdough into different shapes and moulds uses their creative imagination. 


Similar to playdough, paint could also be a good idea as a gift for children and teenagers with special needs. Paintbrushes are great for fine motor skills, but letting them freely use their hands to paint can provide great sensory play too. 

They could dip their hands in the paint and go from there or use the brushes to paint onto their hands. This will trigger their touch senses greatly and provide excellent sensory stimulation. It may also kick off a hobby for them. 

Tactile sensory ball

If you’ve noticed your child needs to improve their hand-eye coordination, consider picking up a tactile sensory ball for them. A tactile ball offers great sensory stimulation during play. They could roll it around the house or throw it back and forth with you to improve their hand-eye coordination and motor skills. 

Puzzle boards 

Puzzle and pattern boards are great gift ideas for children with special needs and complex issues. Tactile and durable enough in their hands, they should find it enjoyable and easy to take the tasks on. 

Not only will they provide entertainment with colourful patterns that unfold in front of their eyes, but puzzle boards also encourage them to use their problem-solving skills. 

Pop-up tunnel

Promote playfulness and adventure with a pop-up tunnel. It may seem simple to us, but to children a pop-up tunnel to hide in and crawl through – either on their own or with siblings or friends – provides a great opportunity for sensory play. Consider this simple gift idea to help stimulate their senses. 

Sensory support services at Seashell 

Seashell is a charity dedicated to providing a creative, happy and secure environment for children and young people with complex needs and additional communication challenges from across the UK. Throughout the year, we provide care for many individuals, including sensory services. 

We provide a wide range of sensory support services at Seashell, including training from our team of experts. 

If you’d like some more information about our sensory services for children with special needs, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100, or email us at