Look. Listen. Touch. Smell. Taste.
These are just five fundamental elements of life that we often take for granted.
Each of us will experience them in slightly different ways, and some will suffer additional challenges or certain limitations to one or more senses, but we will all go through life engaging with the world in large part, through our senses.
Today, there are a large number of sensory play ideas and sensory materials that can be used to engage young children, many aimed at helping them experiment with the key attributes associated with the five predominant senses as they grow, both in home and educational environments.
These methods tend to recruit a variety of textures, substances, ingredients and props, which come together to create an overall awareness and stimulation of the core senses.
Sensory Play is a non-traditional method of learning and exploration, which enables a child to learn through all five senses.
Sensory play is being utilised more than ever before in a range of scenarios and settings, as many adopt a more proactive stance in empowering and facilitating children to use their senses to develop a variety of skills at the beginning of their life journey.
Why Sensory Play Is So Important
Children of all ages need to feel, see, taste, touch and hear in order to learn. However, as children grow, educational settings require more reading and writing, which can be quite demanding and overwhelming for young children who are still learning how to listen and speak.
Most children also have a hard time staying still for long periods. Sensory play is active and engaging, getting them moving as they explore new textures, tastes and sounds.
Play is very important for child development as it stimulates all the senses and enlarges a child’s perception of his or her surroundings. Children learn through their senses by touching, tasting, seeing emotions on others’ faces, listening to sounds and talking with others.
Sensory play can create an opportunity for children to work on their own individual skills such as:
- Social skills
- Communication and language skills
- Sensory and gross motor skills
- Fine motor skills
- Cognitive skills
It also encourages children’s:
- Brain development
- Cognitive development
- Scientific thinking
- Sensory development
- Vestibular system
Sensory play is beneficial to all children, but may be especially valuable for children who have intellectual disabilities, due to the nature of this type of play.
A variety of activities and using different items, will help children learn and increase their understanding of the world around them.
Sensory play includes but is not limited to:
- Water play
- Sand play
- Imaginative play
- Musical instruments
- Using different shapes and different objects
- Finger painting
- Sensory bags
- Interaction with animals
All of the above offer different stimuli and developmental opportunities, helping to encourage children to discover their surroundings.
Benefits Of Sensory Play
Children who have a variety of sensory experiences, learn to use their senses in different ways. For example, they can feel that something is wet and notice that it feels cold on the skin and that water disappears when it is dry.
The benefits of sensory play in early childhood are immense and there is no right or wrong way to engage sensory activities.
No matter what the child’s age group, child’s development stage or learning style, they will all benefit from sensory stimulation and sensory play based learning.
Let’s take a look at a few benefits of Sensory Play:
- Helps build nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, which triggers a child’s inclination for and ability in competing for more complex learning tasks
- Supports language development, cognitive growth, motor skills, problem-solving skills and social interaction
- Aids in developing and enhancing memory function
- Is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
- Helps children learn vitally important sensory attributes such as hot, cold, sticky, dry, etc
Increased concentration and focus is a major benefit of sensory play, as the child has to listen intently for any clues in order to solve the story. This helps with developing multi-tasking skills, as they maintain their attention on the story instead of being easily distracted by other things going on around them.
It’s also worth noting that sensory play can go one step further when involving children who suffer from medical conditions which they’re either born with or develop at a later stage. These include deafness, blindness and a variety of other illnesses or challenges, which can restrict their ability to learn and develop certain skills.
Sensory play helps children, even adults, learn the meanings of descriptive words through repetition.
For example, you can make up a story using different textures, such as a soft, furry dog animal. Be sure to describe what the dog feels like and how it makes you feel when you touch its fur, then your child can hold on to a stuffed animal and tell him or her about the texture.
Sensory play also helps children learn how to express themselves in different ways such as crying, laughing and smiling, and is an effective way to convey your child’s emotions.
What Is Sensory Play Commonly Known As?
Sensory Play has a number of titles, including but not limited to:
- Sensory Activities
- Sensory Play Activities
- Sensory Learning
- Auditory Play
- Tactile Play
…. and are commonly associated with sensory play ideas such as sensory tables and themed sensory bins which can include different materials that encourage sensory exploration of some, if not all of the five senses (depending on the sensory activity and materials used).
The more often children engage in sensory exploration activities, the more likely they will be successful learners.
Early childhood education is important when it comes to a child’s senses, developing language and brain development, as children explore their multiple senses through the benefits of sensory play.
Allowing children to explore their surroundings through creative ways is part of learning in their early years.
Here at Creative Play, we’re passionate about building play spaces that are inclusive for all children, and we believe that sensory play activities, products and approaches, really come into their own with individuals or groups who may struggle to grasp certain skills or actions, whatever the reason may be.
We ensure the highest levels of thought and care go into each of the items we create, with our full range of sensory play items available here.
We guarantee that any item you receive will look fantastic and offer lasting quality.
We’re highly passionate about sensory play and we’d love to talk to you about how we can support your children with their sensory play needs.
We love to see young people learning and enjoying themselves with our equipment, and our team is more than happy to chat to you by phone or email today.
Why not read our other blogs about Sensory Play….Our New Water & Sand Play Range!
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