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The Difference Between Sensory, Fidget, & ASMR Toys

Mar 15, 2022

If you have visited a toy store recently, you have probably seen the words “sensory”, “fidget” and “ASMR” posted. But, what do these terms mean as they relate to toys and what do they offer that is different from many of the toys on the market? Explore these new toy categories in this guide and discover which term is best to search for your next purchase.

Sensory Toys
When you think of sensory toys, bright colors, different textures, varying sounds, and delightful smells likely come to mind. This is because the word “sensory” implies the item is engaging one or more of the senses. In other words, these toys tend to offer attention-grabbing colors, textures that may not be readily available to touch otherwise, sounds that are pleasing or intriguing, and invigorating, comforting, or calming scents. These toys can be used as a reward, calming activity, or learning opportunity.

Who Plays with Sensory Toys
The short answer as with most any toy is, of course, everyone. However, sensory toys are most popular with babies and toddlers as well as children with such diagnoses as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, sensory processing disorders, and high levels of anxiety. As a result, available sensory toys and DIY activity sets often cater to the diverse interests of children of all ages to enjoy.

An autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a natural response to a certain sound or sight. It is that tingling sensation on the back of your neck when you hear a sound like a whisper close to your ear. While some find the sensation annoying, others find it pleasing and soothing. In fact, many use it to help them sleep better at night by playing the sound of crunching leaves, white noise, laughter, or tapping. Therefore, ASMR toys and activities are gaining in popularity as they are designed to incorporate the most commonly associated sights and sounds with ASMR in order to prompt a pleasing experience.

Who Plays with ASMR Toys and Activities
While ASMR sensations often travel down the neck to one’s arms and legs, it is not the same response as getting “chills” where one can see visible goosebumps on the arms and their heart rate may increase. In other words, the primary purpose of ASMR toys is to produce a comforting and pleasurable experience, not excite the individual. Therefore, ASMR toys and activities are excellent options for anyone wishing to remain relaxed and focused while at school, at work, or just before going to bed.

Fidget Toys
If you see the word “fidget” on the packaging of a toy, it means that the item is helpful for those individuals who have a lot of anxiety or difficulty staying still and/or focused. Fidget toys allow movement usually with one hand without causing interruptions in a school classroom. Also, since these toys are not typically thought-provoking puzzles that require intense concentration, they allow the individual a chance to focus more on learning while still being able to receive the reward of producing movement.

Who Plays with Fidget Toys
Although most people love a good fidget buster now and then, these toys are ideal for those who struggle to stay seated and/or focused in a classroom or at the office. They often tend to be toys that adults enjoy as much as children, and they are typically small enough to fit into any backpack, purse, or laptop bag. These items are commonly also classified as sensory toys or ASMR toys, since they often include textures like beads or sand, visually satisfying movement, and are designed for a repetitive soothing action.

Where to Find Top Trends in Sensory, Fidget, & ASMR Toys and DIY Activities
Walking into most toy stores, you will likely find an assortment of sensory, ASMR, and fidget-labeled products. From pop-ups and magic sand mixtures to colorful toys that squish, stretch, and/or crunch, there are many items readily available on the market today. To make sure you find the best products for your child or your own soothing and refocusing needs, it may help to try a handful of items that offer different sounds, colors, and textures to see which becomes the lucky favorite(s). Once you know the sights, sounds, and textures to use, you can search for similar toys and kits to add interest with something new to switch out or a reward item suggestion.