All toys are meant to give kids some kind of experience, whether it’s role-playing toys that fostering the imagination, outdoor toys that get them up and active, artsy toys help get their creative juices flowing or educational toys like STEM play sets that teach kids about certain educational topics. But sensory toys focus in on touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell and try to direct kids’ attention to one or more of those sensations.
For a building toy that provides some extra texture, Bristle Blocks come with interlocking pieces made of soft, rubbery spikes. The big bucket of pieces also encourages open-ended and imaginative play. Ages 2+
RELATED: The Best STEM Toys for Kids, According to the GH Parenting Lab
This set of four see-through balls come covered in nubs for a tactile sensation that babies don’t get from smooth ones. As they get older, they can also roll and track them, working on both gross and fine motor coordination. Ages 6 months+
Designed for kids with restless hands, this cube from Antsy Labs has six sides with different functions on each face. Some have buttons to push, switches to flip, wheels to roll, or toggles to click. And at 1.25″ cubed inches, it fits in the palm of a hand. Ages 6+
This is really two toys in one: Kids can dig through the Playfoam to find the collectible toy — and then use the compound to build, smush, and play. Bonus: It never dries out! Ages 5+
Kinetic Sand always feels like the perfect, wet, sand-castle-making sand from the best spot on the beach. With this kit, kids can use molds and tools to scoop, shape and squish the sand. It also comes with three pounds of sand! Ages 3+
For babies who need extra oral stimulation, this teether provides soothing vibrations when those little mouths bite down on the corn cob. It helps soothe sore gums when your baby is teething, but they might enjoy the sensation even when they’re not. Ages 6 months+
These bendable, waxy craft sticks are compact, so they’re great to stash in the car for long trips or keep in a backpack to pull out while you’re waiting at a doctor’s office or for your food at a restaurant. This kit also comes with a booklet of ideas for a craft projects. Ages 3+
Before including our favorite picks in an article, the Good Housekeeping Institute does rigorous toy testing to ensure we’re recommending only the best. Many of our choices come from our annual Toy Awards, where we test each item based on the following criteria:
✔️Safety: Our engineers and analysts make sure that each toy reaches all safety standards. They also assess things like pinch points and make sure toys won’t shatter into small pieces to pose a potential choking hazard.
✔️Ease of Use: We look at each toy to evaluate how simple it is to assemble, how well it’s constructed and how durable it is during play.
✔️Kid Approval: Aside from testing each toy for skill-building attributes, like how well it develops social-emotional skills, all our final decisions come from more than 100 children, ages 1 to 15, who assess the fun factor!