Why read: Read all about the benefits of sensory play and how you can easily set up sensory play activities at home to train your child’s senses from an early age.
For your easy shopping, this post contains affiliate links. If you click highlighted links or pictures and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Sensory play for kids isn’t something that only needs to be practiced at school.
We, as parents, need to understand the importance of training children’s senses from an early age as well.
It’s scientifically proven that we can remember better when we use our senses to understand things.
Sensory play is important for children for many reasons.
It helps to develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills. It also promotes language development, early math skills, and scientific exploration. Sensory play can be used to calm a child or to help them focus.
Plus, it’s just plain fun!
And though learning through senses comes naturally to kids, parents need to create a favorable environment around the house to encourage sensory play.
So let’s understand what sensory play is and what some benefits of sensory play are for your child’s healthy academic, motor, and emotional development.
What Is A Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any activity that engages a child’s five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. It can be as simple as exploring different textures with their hands, listening to different kinds of music, or playing in a sandbox.
The sky is the limit when it comes to planning sensory play activities for your child.
You need to take into consideration their age and skill levels before deciding on the kind of play that’ll benefit them.
Make sure to choose materials that encourage safe play while learning several new things and engaging different senses.
Sensory play can differ based on every child’s unique needs, developmental level, and how much you are willing to invest into preparation.
- 15+ Fun Activities For Preschoolers For When You’re Stuck At Home
- Easy DIY Paper Tulip Craft To Make With Kids
Benefits of Sensory Play for Children
The best way for small kids to learn and explore the world around them is by engaging all of their senses. Thus sensory play is an important part of a child’s development.
Here are some of the benefits of sensory play in the early years for your child:
1. Stimulates the brain
When babies are born most of the brain’s 100 billion neurons are not yet connected in networks. Sensory play helps with brain stimulation and building those neural connections. From birth to around age 3, babies develop more than a million neural connections per second. That’s why this period of brain formation is so crucial for proper brain stimulation and has a lifelong effect.
2. Promotes language skills
Sensory play helps babies to develop their communication skills. They learn to express themselves through sounds, gestures, and body language.
3. Trains Several Senses At Once
Sensory bins are ideal for stimulating your child’s multiple senses at once. And they are very easy to put together. All you need is a large bin filled with some pantry staples (beans, rice, lentils, whatever you have to spare). Add some spoons, funnels, cups, little toys. And voila, your child can reap the benefits of sensory bins!
4. Develops fine motor skills
As your child handles different textures and materials, they develop the muscles and grasp patterns of their hands. Later on, this will help with important life skills such as using utensils, writing, cutting with scissors, etc.
5. Boosts creativity
Sensory play provides opportunities for children to be creative. There are no right or wrong answers here or ways to play, so children can let their imaginations run wild.
6. Supports emotional development
Sensory activities can provide a safe outlet for big emotions such as frustration, anger, and fear. Squeezing a sensory toy can help a child with blowing off steam and calming down. This is especially beneficial for kids that are on the spectrum of autism or have sensory processing challenges and require occupational therapy.
7. Builds social skills
Sensory play is a great way for children to interact with others. They can learn to share, take turns, and cooperate as they play together, especially with siblings.
8. Aids in enhancing Memory
Research has shown that children who engage in sensory play have better memory recall than those who don’t.
9. Makes Learning Fun
It’s a proven fact that kids learn the best through play. If your child lacks knowledge in certain areas, sensory play can encourage her interest in learning new things. Ditch the standard way and teach your little one letters and numbers by finger drawing in the sand, for instance.
10. Provides Opportunity For Thinking and Problem Solving
Through sensory play, kids learn to think critically and investigate different solutions to a problem. A simple activity like hiding a small toy in a container filled with sand, for example, will have your toddler think of different ways how to get to it.
11. Helps With Focus
A great way to help a child that often struggles with focusing on one task is by introducing the sensory play. It’s all about the immersive experience of concentrating on one activity at a time and encouraging mindfulness.
12. Raises Surrounding Awareness
From a young age, kids need to learn to be aware of their surroundings. Sensory play helps the child with concentration and filtering surrounding noise. It also helps them learn more about themselves, understand more about their own strengths and weaknesses, and also how to use those for their benefit.
13. Brings Comfort
It’s kind of underrated how calming and comfortable sensory playing can be for overstimulated and overwhelmed kids. Mindless tasks like sorting things, running their hands through sand or beans, etc can bring a ton of comfort to your child. And sometimes, comfort is more of a priority than ensuring that they are learning something new!
How To Set Up Sensory Play
Parents often dread sensory play because it can get, well, messy! But with all the benefits of sensory play, it’s crucial to provide plenty of opportunities for your child to play messy.
You just need to set up a place where you can manage the mess. Choose a place where you are least likely to get stressed when something spills or a mess is made.
The backyard or balcony is the best place for sensory play, of course. All the sand, hand painting, and shaving cream art are easy to wash off with the hose if the play happens outdoors.
Other places to consider are the kitchen floor, and dining room table. Or you could simply use a plastic mat and easel that are brought out as needed.
Think about what works for you in terms of your sanity as well as sustainability.
In addition, ideally, you would choose a preschool that provides lots of opportunities for sensory play. Tour the school and ask for information on what they offer in terms of sensory activities. Maybe they have special sensory rooms or sensory tables set up or even small sensory bins would work too. Anything that would offer lots of sensory integration for kids.
If you’re looking for ways to engage your child in sensory play, there are many easy and affordable activities you can do at home.
Invest in a sensory play table once or this smaller and more affordable toddler sensory table and let your child enjoy messy play for years to come.
Sensory play tables are great for both outdoors when the weather is good and indoors when it’s cold outside. Ideally, choose a table with a lid so that you can store it in the backyard.
Another great option to invest in is a Montessori sensory bin with tools.
Sensory Play Activity Ideas For You To Try
If you’re looking for ways to engage your child in sensory play, there are many easy and affordable activities you can do at home. Here are a few ideas:
- Set up a sensory bin. Have your child rip all the benefits of sensory play by setting up a sensory bin. You can use the sensory play tables mentioned above or a large plastic bin. There are many materials you can fill the bin with such as sand, rice, beans, flour, water beads, to name a few. For a more cost-effective option use anything found in nature like rocks, twigs, mud, pebbles, or just water. Add some small animal toys, cups and spoons, containers of different size. For babies and toddlers who still mouth everything new they come across you can make “edible sand”. Just blend a box of cheerios or crackers in a blender and add the powder to the bin. Viola! Your toddler can mouth the “edible sand” and work on sensory stimulation of taste too.
- Make homemade sensory bottles. Fill bottles with different materials such as water, glitter, and food coloring. These can be used to explore light and sound and are ideal for baby sensory play.
- Let your child play with food. Most babies and toddlers love getting messy with their food! It lets them explore different textures and tastes with foods like mashed potatoes, yogurt, or pudding. Plus, they are more willing to try new tastes when the food is presented in the way of play. Choose a good baby-led weaning high chair and cleaning all the mess after your little one’s experiments with food would be so much easier.
- Make homemade instruments. Use empty containers and wooden spoons to make shakers, drums, and xylophones. This is a great way to way for babies to develop their sense of hearing. They can also learn about cause and effect by seeing how their actions make the instrument produce sound.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Collect leaves, stones, and flowers on a walk or hike. Touch and smell them with your child.
- Get muddy in the garden. Plant seeds with your child, water the soil, let her get muddy and watch seeds grow day after day.
- Organize water play. Do you have a backyard with a sprinkling system? Turn on the sprinkles and let your child play. Don’t have sprinkles, how about a small inflatable pool? Or go splash in the puddles after some rain. And when it’s cold you can always fill up a tub with warm water, add some toys and let your kids play.
- Use slime, modeling clay, play-doh. All of these materials are great to work on fine motor skills as well as explore different textures and colors. Plus, they promote creativity. Kids can mold the clay into different shapes and figures.
One Last Thing
As you can see, the importance of sensory play for children are undisputable. When children are engaged in sensory activities, they are using all of their senses to explore the world around them. This helps to lay the foundation for later success in school and in life.
I’ve listed just a few ideas for sensory play activities. There are endless possibilities when it comes to raising your little one’s sensory awareness.
Even with little or zero budget to spend, you can always make a sensory play happen with what you already have at home. This is how your child will train his senses from early childhood and learn a great deal while having fun.
Do you have favorite sensory play activity that I haven’t listed? Please share it in the comments to inspire fellow parents.