Special Report: Sensory (Stim) Toys Review

img_6379Today I have a special guest assisting me on this blog: Thomas! Thomas would like to review his collection of stim toys. This blog is about him so it’s a great pleasure to have him as a guest contributor. The reviews below are in his own words, prompted by my questions, and with a little editing for flow.

For those not familiar with the term, a “stim toy” or sensory toy is something that stimulates the senses in some way. Autistic people can have either too much of a sensation or not enough and a stim toy can be used for either distracting, diverting energy, calming or providing a pleasurable sensation to an over-stimulated system, or to create a sensation in a system that feels under-stimulated and is craving. Sometimes a stim toy can be used for both on different occasions. A good example would be last year’s top crazes, the fidget cube and fidget spinner, which can be used by adults and children alike. A fidget cube has features that can stimulate to divert a surplus of energy but also some that can soothe. Likewise with the fidget spinner which makes a soothing sound and its weight is relaxing in my hand but I find the motion of spinning it to be stimulating. Not all “toys” are actually toys and some people prefer to use the term “gadget” for the older user but Tom’s collection is definitely toy-based due to his age, so we are using the term “stim toy” in this instance.

Not every toy is what I would view as a stim toy but they are toys that he has included because they all stimulate or relax him in some sensory way and therefore they are stim toys to him. As an autistic person Thomas is this family’s expert on autism so if he says he stims with it then it’s a stim toy.

So without any further ado, over to Tom for his comprehensive reviews of his stim toy collection. Take it away, Tom!

“These magnificent sensory toys are especially useful for people who like to stim.

  1. The camera
    You can press the little button on the side and if you look through the viewing hole you can see different jungle animal faces. It is good for stimming because when you press the little button it vibrates your finger as it pushes down and it makes a nice clicking sound. It’s very stimulating and dead easy to use.
  2. The reindeer
    If you give it a shake the nose goes through the reindeer’s hole. It’s very stimulating because it keeps you busy and you won’t even have a chance to think about food!
  3. The hand clapper
    This is very funny. If you shake it very fast it sounds like a round of applause for completing a level on a game or finishing a game. It makes a nice sound and vibrates my hand.
  4. Rubiks Cube
    The Rubiks Cube is a puzzle. I’ve already got a complete blue side. You have to try to get each colour complete on each side. I like it because it’s got a good weight when I chuck it from hand to hand. It’s colourful and looks like modern art. So how quick can you Rubik? I like twisting it, it relaxes me like all these other stim toys.
  5. The pop up people (Jumpies)
    I call these the Jumpies because that’s what my Nan calls them. I like them because they give me a big surprise when they pop up. They shoot up into the air like rockets. If I press them into my hand instead of on the floor, it feels good to press them against my hand and to feel the pressure as they pop back up again, like a good sting. I also like the “pop” sound when they pop up.
  6. Mr Ping from Kung Fu Panda
    I call this guy The Bread Duck because it looks like bread to me. I like the challenge of trying to get the bread into his hat if I can, and the feeling of shaking it and flipping my hand to move the bread on the string. It’s very funny to me as well seeing the bread flip up and down. I also twirl him on his string when I hold his bread bit and the twirling feels good.
  7. Fidget cube and fidget spinner (the Fidgets)
    These fidget toys are in my favourite pattern, camouflage. The cube has features for twisting, spinning, pressing, flicking and rolling. You can also chuck it in the air and catch it. It’s great for stopping getting bored while waiting for a bus or watching a TV program, or in school if the lesson is taking a long time. It keeps your hands busy and not fidgeting with other things that can cause trouble, like Blu Tac. Three of the buttons are clicky buttons and two are quiet so they don’t distract anyone else. The spinny circle keeps your finger or thumb busy. There’s a side with a dip to rub with your thumb that makes your thumb feel good. The spinny top knob bit feels nice when you roll it with your thumb. The switch is also nice to flick and it makes a really good sound too. You can flick it up or down. The last side has a metal ball bearing that is smooth and feels nice when you roll it with your thumb and also three little cogs that have ridges and feel good to roll. The spinner has buttons that you can press to light up as it spins, it looks like a disco. It also makes a lovely whirring sound when it spins and you can use it to fan yourself on a hot, sunny, summer’s day. I like the feeling when you push it to spin it. It keeps your finger busy.
  8. Chattering Teeth
    If you twist the wind up key and let it go, the teeth chatter. It makes a terrifying noise but it’s very funny watching them chatter. Twisting the key keeps your finger busy and I like the sound the twisting makes.
  9. Rubiks Snake
    The Rubiks Snake is useful for making shapes, twisting and turning like the Rubiks Cube (see no. 4). It’s in the shape of a dog right now but you can make other shapes too. I like the feeling of twisting and turning it and it keeps my hands busy.
  10. Phlat Balls
    I have a big one and a mini one. If you squish them they pop up like the Jumpies (see no. 5). The squishing keeps my hands busy and the popping up makes me jump. It’s terrifying fun! It might make you jump as well. It feels good for my feet too when I press them with my feet. I like the pressure and the resistance and keeping my hands and feet busy keeps me relaxed.
  11. Noise Snake Stick
    This makes a really funny noise when you tip it upside down and back again. If you jiggle it up and down it sounds like it’s laughing. It’s really cool. I like the sounds it makes and the vibration as the bit inside goes up and down.
  12. Spiky Flashing Ball
    This is an unusual green ball because it’s spiky. The spikes feel good in my hands when I roll it between my palms. It lights up in lots of colours when I bounce it and then flashes for a while before it stops. I like the colours but it can make me dizzy when if flashes. I also like it because it’s green and green’s my favourite colour.
  13. Spiky Stretch Ball
    I like this because it keeps my hands busy stretching it and pushing it back down. If I kick it, it springs up and then collapses down as it rolls. It’s stretchy, stimulating and fun but it makes me tired kicking it.
  14. Fluffy Ball
    This is soft and furry and tickly. It relaxes me but I wouldn’t like it tickled on any ticklish part of my body like my armpits or the back of my neck.
  15. Rainbow Slinky Spring
    This is good for stretching with. It is bright and colourful like my other stim toys. I like tipping it down the stairs and it’s good for playing catch with. I play with it round my Nan’s house and we throw it to each other and catch it. Each plastic coil makes a clacking noise when you throw the spring or tip it down the stairs.”

I hope you find the above reviews useful and informative. I notice that Thomas values colour, sound and pressure in his toys but the one thing that keeps coming up is the fact that many of the toys keep his hands busy. It seems that he still needs to use up excess energy, energy that he used to expend when he was younger by bouncing on the furniture, tipping everything out of drawers and stripping the bedsheets and covers off all the beds! I’m glad he’s progressed to calmer and less distracting (for me) activities. He also mentions that they relax him, again soothing an excessively active system. Something that doesn’t surprise me is that the anticipation of waiting for pop-up toys to jump or teeth to chatter is difficult for him, he often puts his hands over his ears when he has to wait for something to happen that he knows will surprise him, but I am surprised that both times he uses the word “terrifying” and yet still finds it fun. I imagine it’s the same drive to be scared and yet entertained that tempts us to ride on rollercoasters and other amusement park rides. Sometimes fear is fun, in small and safe doses.

Most of these toys were bought cheaply from charity shops, mainstream supermarkets, the bargain bins of various stores or EBay; we only bought the Fidget Cube from a dedicated source and the Phlat Balls from a toy shop. You don’t have to spend a lot of money setting up a sensory toy collection so long as you choose age-appropriate toys. We haven’t included the old faithful of bubbles, for example. Bubble wands and bubble liquid are easy to obtain and they are a fantastic sensory toy, providing visual stimulation, using up energy to chase and pop them, providing a feeling of popping and slight wetness, and so on. Bubble tubes are also a lot of fun and not necessarily expensive. It may take some trial and error to find what works for your child but I am sure you can find a decent selection and discover what to avoid. For example, Thomas does not like sticky or covered hands, he isn’t fond of Play-Doh or Plasticine, paint, dough, flour or slime. He will not play with a toy that feels wet, slimy or sandy. He prefers things that click, vibrate or can be manipulated in some way.

I hope you enjoyed Tom’s reviews. He will return in the future to provide the occasional “from the horse’s mouth” reports and opinion pieces. Thank you, Thomas, for your educational reviews today.

So to all of you fidgeters, flappers, chewers and slime fiends, happy stimming!


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