Education is pivotal for children and their development. In the early stages of their lives, their brains are constantly developing and need continual stimulation. Therefore, as a parent or teacher, you will definitely feel the urge to teach children actively as often as possible.
There are some things that can’t easily be taught, however. Not through the spoken word and traditional teaching methods at least. Have you ever tried to describe the smell of grass or the feel of sand between your toes for example?
Concepts are hard to teach to children, especially something as abstract as the senses. Some things need to be experienced first hand. they require touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and feeling in order to truly experience these things. That is the ultimate aim of child sensory play experiences.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any form of play that stimulates the five senses and encourages sensory exploration. It is the exploration of the world through any of the 5 senses: touch; smell; sight; hearing and taste.
Anything that provides your child with stimulation for their senses, whether focusing on one sense or several and the chance to explore those things in their own way, can be considered sensory play.
The idea is to give them experiences they may not get through other games and classes, providing a safe and enriching environment for young children to discover the world for themselves.
Why is Sensory Play Important?
It is important for those in early childhood as they explore and learn about the world using their whole body and all their senses. As adults, we tend to rely on just one or two senses at a time but for babies, they use a number of senses simultaneously.
The more senses that are being used and stimulated, the easier it is for them to integrate the information the senses are receiving and start to understand the world around them. So teachers and parents should encourage activities that stimulate multiple senses.
Sensory play also provides the opportunity to foster this natural curiosity about the world and channel it from an early age. Your child gets to learn about different materials, smells and tastes but they also get to grips with what their bodies can do, along with the confidence to do so.
This natural exploration and self-discovery promotes a love of learning and critical thinking; by gifting students with sensory play, you are simultaneously gifting them with a firm foundation on which to build all their learning experiences.
The Key Benefits of Sensory Play in Child Development
Giving children a greater sense of the world and how it works is invaluable. There are a number of different studies which support the importance of sensory play. These reasons can be identified by a number of key benefits recognised by education authorities and publications.
- Brain Development: Sensory play builds nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, which trigger a child’s inclination for and ability in completing more complex learning tasks
- Social Development: Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction
- Improved Memory: Sensory play aids in developing and enhancing memory functioning
- Good for Anxious Students: Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
- Teaches Important Senses: Sensory play helps children learn vitally important sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry, etc)
What are Some Sensory Activities?
Now you know exactly how useful sensory play can be for young children, you need to know a number of sensory play activities to use. Children love sensory play games, as they involve lots of fun things such as messy play, so these games will go down as a hit.
Here are a number of different activities you can undertake to give children specific sensory experiences.
- Food buffet: Make a tasting platter of novel fruits (like papaya, mango, star fruit, pomegranates, kiwi) for your toddler to try.
- Strong-tasting foods: Try eating some strong tasting foods (like peppermint or herbs), and then introduce a novel, milder vegetable or fruit. For children with under-sensitive taste buds, the strong food helps wake-up their taste buds and broaden the child’s palate.
- Smencil Test: Close your eyes and try to guess the scent of each smelling pencil.
- Shopping Smells: Visit the soap counter at the store. Let your toddler smell a variety of soaps, and pick a favourite smell.
Touch / Tactile
- Sensory Bins: Create theme-based shoe boxes, for instance, labelled Nature, Beach, Buttons, or Treasures. When your toddler finds a new item, help them sort it into the appropriate box.
- Texture Gloves: Tickle your child’s arms wearing fuzzy, scratchy, rubbery, or soft gloves. This is a great sensory activity for touch-sensitive kids with an aversion to certain fabrics. It helps them get comfortable, and with repetition, can desensitise them to certain touch sensations.
Sight / Visual
- Dark vs Light: Walk with your toddler from a brightly lit room into a dark room. Experiment with different light levels, and even coloured light bulbs.
- Visit the Art Museum: Talk about the colours, textures and shapes within the pictures. Does your child stare at any particular artwork more than another?
- Play the Listening Game: Sit quietly with your child for 1 minute, then talk about what sounds you heard. Fire engine siren? Wind blowing?
- Create Pleasant Sounds: Get a white noise machine, tabletop zen water fountain, or small aquarium.
Playground Equipment and Sensory Play
One time students and children get a chance to play is during break time at school. These times are important, especially for children, as they can play and explore with their peers.
This play often is carried out in the school playground, so these spaces should be optimised for sensory play opportunities. Here at Red Monkey Play, we are school playground equipment design specialists and we can make sure your outdoor spaces do just that.
We can create rich sensory playground equipment and areas, such as gardens, full of herbs and plans, cascading water and places for bugs to find a new home. Children can explore natural flowers as if they were growing in a meadow. They can use sundials to tell the time and catch water to compare rainfall in different months of the year. They can use their artistic skills to sketch or paint the scenery, capturing the flowers in season. We create pathways of different textures, allowing children to imagine they are walking with the dinosaurs or becoming Dorothy following the yellow brick road.
As well as engaging physical senses with traditional wooden climbing frames, the structures are fitted with stations are equipped to make musical instrument noises when interacting with different panels. This alongside a series of vibrant colours allows multiple senses to be stimulated simultaneously.
Get in Touch Today
With a number of different outdoor playground equipment options, we can ensure your outdoor spaces are perfect for the development of students. We focus on creating playgrounds and environments that develop crucial skills, encourage learning and reaching goals.
We capture children’s imaginations and attention through exciting playground equipment, whilst maintaining a safe, natural and environmentally friendly playground. Get in touch today!