The Importance of Sensory Play + Ideas to get you started!

If you've ever found yourself wondering what sensory play is, why you should care, and what is the real point... you aren't alone. Sensory play is a very new concept for many parents. With the amount of sensory play activities we regularly engage in, I thought it was time to talk about the importance of engaging in sensory play. I've even included some sensory play ideas to get you started below!

Importance of sensory play and sensory play ideas





Sensory play is more than just a fun activity to kill some time (or get a few minutes to yourself!). It has an array of benefits to children and there are so many fun ways to really engage in them too! The possibilities for sensory play is nearly endless.

If you're new to the idea of introducing sensory play on a regular basis, we hope this post helps!



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What is Sensory Play?


First things first - what is sensory play? Sensory play sounds like gibberish if you've never came across it. In short, sensory play is any activity that stimulates senses and encourages children to explore the environment around them.

If it's an activity that involves different textures, smells, bright colours, different sounds, etc - they are likely engaging in sensory play already!

Some examples of sensory play includes exploring colour with rainbow rice, exploring texture with fluffy soap foam, or exploring smell with apple scented playdough. Many activities even explore more than one of the 5 sense; taste, hear, smell, touch and see!


Why is Sensory Play Important?


Now that you understand WHAT it is, you might be wondering why it's so important. There seems to be a real uptick in popularity lately - and for good reason!

The importance of sensory play can really be summarised down to brain development. By stimulating senses, it encourages healthy brain development in a variety of ways. After all, we aren't born with developed senses. That's something we learn by exploring the world around us!

If that's a bit confusing, don't worry. I'll explain this a bit more...



Benefits of Sensory Play


Truth be told that there are LOTS of benefits to sensory play well beyond what I'm about to list here. The human brain is a very complex beast so we could go on for a while explaining how stimulating senses benefits children while they play.

Motor Skills: Forming motor skills is a huge one when children are developing and it is important from a very young age. Whether we're talking about gross motor skills or fine motor skills - sensory play certainly helps! When kids are using tweezers to pick up water beads in a sensory bin, they're practicing fine motor. When they're jumping up to pop a bubble during a foam activity, they're practicing gross motor.

5 Senses:
Sensory play also helps children explore hard and soft, hot and cold, loud and quiet, and many other senses. Exploring their environment in this way helps children to develop all their senses as they grow and learn.

Problem Solving: Children will learn how to solve problems and notice cause and effect with sensory play. Present a problem with various materials to provide a solution, and you get to watch their brains at work! This can be done through sorting different materials or dumping a cup full of water or rice to see what happens, and so much more.

Imagination: Because of how open-ended sensory play is, it really encourages the use of your imagination. By setting out supplies and letting children go wild, THEY get to decide how to play. Maybe they'll make a frog jump, or pretend play that a dump truck is filling a hole with fake dirt.

Language: As children describe what they're doing, they develop language skills too. You can encourage this by asking engaging questions or simply by stating what you see them doing. Try introducing new vocabulary as you play,  for example during space themed play you might say, 'oh look you have the bigger rocket, can you find the smaller rocket?', or you might name items that may be unknown to your child like astronaut or satellite.

Learning Through Play: Sensory play promotes learning in so many ways too! Practice writing with rainbow rice, learn about apples with playdough, or learn how to use scissors by practicing fine motor skills. These are only a few examples as learning is all around us so long as we know where to look. The best part is that children will have no idea they are learning, they just know they are having fun!

Enjoyment: The pure JOY that comes from kids during these activities is such a benefit on its own. I am yet to set up a sensory play activity that doesn't ignite pure excitement. When you create activities centred around current interests, that just adds to it, too! And nothing beats seeing a child excited while you know they're learning at the same time.

Concentration: Another thing I've really noticed is how FOCUSED kids get during play. Fine motor activities take an incredible amount of focus as they learn to make small grips. Or the focus of dumping, scooping, and pouring sensory bin fillers. Children generally stay engaged for a good chunk of time because of how focused they are!

Calming: If you ever notice your child is overstimulated, having trouble regulating emotions, or seems to be all over the place... it's likely that sensory play can help. I definitely notice a huge difference when we bust out the sensory activities. Stimulating senses can have such a calming effect!

Sensory Play Ideas


Now that you understand sensory play and the real benefits of it, how about some ideas to engage in play regularly? I'll explain each one below.

sensory play


Sensory Bins: These are literal bins with various materials and toys to invite children to play. Typically, you'll start with a filler such as rice or beans and add other supplies to add to the fun. Examples include a frog pond sensory binlemon water sensory bin, rainbow spaghetti or a dinosaur sensory bin.

Playdough: I'm sure we're all familiar with playdough. Homemade playdough recipes can add so much more fun than just coloured ones from the store. They can be used for themed activities such as cake mix playdoughrainbow playdough, or apple scented playdough.

Sensory Bottles:
Sensory bottles are the ultimate calming sensory play activity. You add water, oil or clear glue to a bottle along with various little toys and they are so calming! Some examples include a rainbow water bead bottle, shamrock bottle, or an ocean in a bottle.

Sensory Bags:
Sensory bags add another layer as you can squish them in your hands and feel the interesting textures! Great for babies who are exploring touch. Examples include rainbow sensory bags, pumpkin sensory bags, and spider sensory bags.

Slime:
We all know what slime is, I'm sure. This one is really heavy on texture, especially since you can make so many variations of it! Sticky, fluffy, and everything in between. Some examples include colour changing slime, rainbow slime, and even edible marshmallow slime.

Oobleck:
Oobleck is another texture-based activity that is really fun to explore. It's made with cornflour and water that then turns into a not quite solid, but not quite liquid texture. It mimics quicksand and changes from a liquid to a solid based on the amount of pressure applied. Try this frozen oobleck activity if you'd like to check it out!

Sand/Water Activity:
Exploring sand and water is a GREAT sensory play activity. Play with them separately or together! Playing with sand and water together really leans into the scientific side of things as children get to see what happens when they add more water. Check out these water play activities.

Sensory Walk:
A sensory walk is SUCH a cool way to explore texture in a different way. Setup a variety of things for kids to step in - water beads, pure water, sand, etc... and let them explore. It can be fun to explore the sense of touch with your feet rather than your hands. 

sensory play



Conclusion


In summary, sensory play is a great way for kids to explore their senses using the environment around them. They can learn about touch, sound, sight, smell, and even taste!

The benefits of sensory play are endless but some big ones include problem solving, imagination, language skill development, and practicing motor skills! There are so many awesome benefits to engaging in sensory play.

If you want to get started, try setting up a sensory bin, playing with playdough, or exploring the texture of oobleck! There are so many fun ways to engage in sensory play so see how you can have fun.

sensory play ideas

Do you engage in sensory play in your home? What are some of your favourite sensory play ideas?

Importance of sensory play and sensory play ideas


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