Sense-ational ASTRA Marketplace!

July 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM Leave a comment


First of all thanks to all attendees of the Connect Children with Special Needs to Toys and Games on Your Shelves session in Nashville.   I hope you’ve had a chance to download the handouts. I welcome any feedback, questions or input you might have on these materials.


After the presentation, our focus went to checking out the products from manufacturers and looking for those that might develop special skills.   We were not disappointed! One of the categories we felt was well represented in the products we saw was sensory play toys.


What is sensory play?   The simple answer is that it is play that allows children to focus, explore, engage, activate and possibly be delighted by their five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.  


Why are sensory experiences important?

Sensory play encourages children to explore through their senses and through this exploration they come to better understand the world around them. Some children with disabilities may have an aversion to or over-active sensory preference. Other children may need more sensory input in order to register it.


You can think of sensory input in the same way you think of providing nutrition to kids and look for way to enrich a child’s sensory diet. For example newborns crave oral exploration and everything seems to end up in their mouths. They then begin to explore picking things up, letting them fall and enjoy the sensory experience of touching, watching and hearing things drop to the floor.


Every person has preferences in the sensory input they choose to rely on most when processing information and learning. Encouraging children to explore sensory play helps them hone in on their preferred learning technique and develop new ones.


Children with special needs are not the only ones who benefit from sensory play—all children benefit. Here are ten reasons why:


  1. Allows kids to explore new things
  2. Assists them in understanding objects
  3. Helps interpret experiences
  4. Stimulates memory
  5. Facilitates the collection of data
  6. Accelerates learning
  7. Develops the sense they are using
  8. Creates body awareness
  9. Soothes and provides solace
  10. Stimulates, wakes up and excites


Here are a few sense-sational products we found in the aisles of the ASTRA Marketplace:


  • Rubbabu Inc. Balls, Playsets- Rubbabu flocked products feel like crushed velvet and provide you with a tactile touch while playing. The play sets offer different sets like trains, farm animals, etc. with play mats that correspond with the toys.
  • Waba Fun Bubber- silky, ultra-light compound that is fun to explore and mold.
  • Waba Fun Kinetic Sand- feels just like wet beach sand that you can explore and mold, doesn’t stick or stain and is easy to clean up
  • Hygloss Products Dough Language Kits- Activity cards with dough that you shape to make the letters, numbers, etc. on the cards. Great for tactile learning.
  • Glittertoos- Glitter Tattoos. Got a smiley face in blue and green on my arm to really experience this from the tickle of the glue and glitter to the tactile feel of the brush on my skin.


Lastly, don’t forget to check out and order your Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs through ASTRA. It’s a great resource to have on hand when customers come into your stores needing special assistance.


This article was written by Ellen Metrick, Director of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek, is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit for a complete listing of toys and find us on Facebook!

 Source: Published on American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) 


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July 2014


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