Often, we all fantasize about going back to being kids. In retrospect, we look at youth as a carefree time, one in which life was primarily centered around fun. There was no pressure regarding picking a career with purpose, longevity, and room to grow. No deadlines for rent, or utility bill, no car payments or cell phone charges. It’s easy to romanticize that time of our lives. And indeed, many of the stresses we face today were absent back then. But being a kid was never a truly easy job.
Children are faced with plenty of stressful factors in their day-to-day lives. We take for granted the skills that come easily to us now, but were a monumental struggle back then. Helping your children manage stress can seem like a full-time job. But there are plenty of techniques to employ that will help them achieve a little “serenity now.” Among our favorites is a tool we employ even as grown ups: the stress ball. Lots of companies have seized on the opportunity to diversify and glam up the regular, boring old stress ball. Kids’ stress toys today come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Below, we’ve gathered 10 of our favorites. We think your kids (and you) will appreciate them too. (There’s no shame in borrowing one of these now and then—we get it. You have stress to cope with, too.)
Best Stress Relief Balls for Kids in 2018
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best Stress Balls for Kids
Proven to Calm
The top reason to buy your child a stress ball is to help them relax. Whether your kid uses it as a distraction or a sensory tool, they both lead to calmness. So it makes sense that we’d only allow balls on this list that are actually relaxing to use. When stress balls first became popular they were made with pellets inside like you’d expect to find in a bean bag chair. These hacky sack-type balls were calming just to toss around. When the benefits to corporate executives became clear, the main criteria was that it allowed for the same pressure as kneading a soft dough.
When deciding if a ball was calming or not we asked ourselves questions like: Does it allow compression? Is it stretchy? Have children with sensory differences found it to be relaxing? If the answer to those was “yes,” we could bet that other kids would find the ball to be calming. We also knew that though that may be the logical conclusion, children are individuals with their own preferences.
At the end of the day, the real experts are the parents. So we took into consideration what reviews said and provided the kind of info on this page that we think others would need to choose a ball for their child. We know that not every child will love each ball and that’s ok because we trust that as a parent you can choose a couple to try.
Giving a child a toy only to have it broken after a couple of uses is extremely frustrating. That’s why we wanted to be sure that every stress ball on this list was made with materials that are durable. Since the purpose of these is to squeeze, stretch, bounce, and push on them, they need to withstand all the ways a child may use them. So how did we come up with a way to choose only balls that are durable? Honestly, it’s one of the trickiest criteria to define. We started with the understanding that how a child uses a ball varies. Without knowing all the variables like use frequency, the age of the child, etc. we had to use logic to narrow down the materials.
There are balls that had to be left off the list because although they had cool transparent features we knew those surfaces wouldn’t hold up to regular use. Some balls we added to the list since they came in a set of multiples. We figure that would help offset any frustration in case that a child wore them out. Ultimately we deferred to the wisdom of parents who’d left detailed feedback on the products. We know that if several parents have the same experience it’s logical others would as well.
We believe that in order for kids to reap the benefits of a stress ball, it needs to be used. Whether any toy is used really relies on the first impression. If it isn’t immediately fun then your kid is far less likely to ever try it again. When this list was created, we knew that the kind of stress balls that are common for adults may not be suitable for kids. While what makes them fun varies, there are some universal “rules’’ that toy companies have long understood.
Bright colors, expressive faces, and familiar characters are all features that would make a stress ball fun for kids. Everything on this list looks like it was made for children. To us, that’s a sign that we were able to choose the balls that your child will actually use long enough to benefit from them.
Anyone that’s visited a mattress store knows that people’s preferred level of resistance varies. This list has the kind of variety you’d find at a mattress showroom. We know that finding the right resistance is crucial to your child benefitting from using a stress ball. So we included a variety from super-soft to hard. Keep in mind that your child may need to try a ball before they know that they need softer or firmer material. It was our goal to provide enough information for you to make an educated guess but we know a certain amount of trial and error may need to take place before the perfect fit is found.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If I buy a set of stress balls that have various resistance levels, how do I choose which to have my child start with?
A: We’d recommend starting with the least amount of resistance. This is based on the fact that the stress relief really comes from the physical act of manipulating the material. It’s why the really squeezy slow-rise foam balls are popular.
Q: What if my kid doesn’t show interest in the ball?
A: One great way to inspire a child to use it is to do so yourself. You could also integrate the stress ball into an activity that you know your child DOES enjoy. Ultimately every child has their own preferences so trying different textures and resistance levels may be necessary.
Q: How are these different than other toys?
A: Theoretically, the only difference is their intended use. Balls that provide the resistance that helps kids relax and focus may even be sold in toy sections of online stores. We’d argue that they should be as fun as a traditional toy because that makes it possible for your child to experience the benefits.
Q: Which balls are best for kids who still put items in their mouth?
A: That’s an important question. We’d suggest choosing a ball that is too large to place in your child’s mouth. This is especially important to reduce the choking hazard. As always we suggest careful supervision and to discard any broken balls.
Q: Should I buy a ball that’s small enough to fit inside my child’s palm?
A: That depends on how old your child is. While we understand that a smaller ball may be your first choice, they CAN present more of a choking hazard for young children. Keep in mind that the benefit comes from the squeezing motion which can be done even if the ball is as large as your child’s closed fist.
Q: If my child has low muscle tone would using a stress ball help improve her strength?
A: Absolutely. The motion is commonly used in therapy for children who need help building their strength. We’d recommend asking your child’s medical experts about the size and resistance level they’d recommend, then revisit this list to purchase one that’s more likely to fit your child’s needs.
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