Learning & Development, Sensory Play

A School Guide: What Is Sensory Play?

Red Monkey Play Mascot in an outdoor school playground with sensory play equipment

Education is pivotal for children and their development, especially during their early stages of life when their brains are constantly developing and are in need of continual stimulation. Therefore, as a parent or teacher, you will definitely feel the urge to actively teach your children as often as possible. 

However, there are many things that can’t be easily taught, at least not through spoken words and traditional teaching methods. Have you ever tried to describe the smell of grass or the feel of sand between your toes, for example? These concepts are hard to teach to children, especially something as abstract as the senses, so they must be experienced first-hand through touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and feeling, to truly experience these things, which is the ultimate aim of children’s sensory play experiences!

In this school’s guide, we’re going to share with you what is sensory play, what are the benefits of sensory play and take you through a couple of our Top-Rated Sensory Play Equipment that you could incorporate into your school.

What Is Sensory Play?

Sensory play consists of any form of play that stimulates the five senses and encourages sensory exploration of the world around us through touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. Anything that provides your child with stimulation for their senses, whether focusing on one sense or several at the same time and the chance to explore those things in their own way, can be considered sensory play. 

The most important thing is to offer them experiences they may not get through other games and classes, whilst providing a safe and enriching environment for young children to discover the world for themselves, in their own creative and unique ways.

Why Is Sensory Play Important?

It is important for children in their early years 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 babies, for example, use a number of senses simultaneously. The more senses that are being used and stimulated, the easier it is for the little ones to integrate the information their senses are receiving, so they can start to understand the world around them. Therefore, teachers and parents should always encourage any activities that can stimulate multiple senses.

Sensory play also provides the opportunity to foster a natural curiosity about the world and channel it from an early age. Your child can learn about different materials, smells, and tastes, but they can also get to grips with what their bodies can do, along with developing the much-needed confidence to do so.

This natural exploration and self-discovery promote a love of learning and critical thinking, so by gifting your 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, and the 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 the 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, so moving on, you need to know a number of sensory play activities that you could use. Children love sensory play games, as they involve lots of fun things such as messy play with equipment like our Large Messy Play Table.

Here are a number of different activities you can undertake to offer your children specific sensory experiences. 

Taste

  • Food buffet: make a tasting platter of novel fruits (like papaya, mango, star fruit, pomegranates, and 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, any strong food helps wake up their taste buds and broaden their taste palate

Smell

  • Smencil test: close your eyes and try to guess the scent of each smelling pencil
  • Shopping smells: visit the soap counter at the store and let your toddlers smell a variety of soaps and pick a favourite smell

Touch

  • Sensory bins: create theme-based shoe boxes, for instance, labelled Nature, Beach, Buttons, or Treasures, and when your toddlers find 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, as this is a great sensory activity for touch-sensitive kids with an aversion to certain fabrics; this helps them get comfortable, and with repetition, can desensitise them to certain touch sensations

Sight

  • Dark vs Light: walk with your toddlers from a brightly lit room into a dark room, and 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?

Sound

  • Play The Listening Game: sit quietly with your children for 1 minute, then talk about what sounds they’ve heard; any fire engine siren? wind blowing?
  • Create pleasant sounds: get a white noise machine, tabletop zen water fountain, or small aquarium

Sensory Play Equipment

The best time in which students can get the chance to play is during their break time at school. These times are very important, especially for children, as they can play and explore with their peers in fun ways. This play is often carried out in the outdoor school playground, so these spaces should be optimised for sensory play opportunities. At Red Monkey Play, we are school playground equipment design specialists and we can make sure your outdoor spaces do just that!

We can design and create rich Sensory Playground Equipment and unique play areas, such as gardens full of herbs, plants, cascading water, and various places for bugs to find a new home with our Bug City. Children can explore natural flowers as if they were growing in a meadow whilst using sundials to tell the time, and catching water to compare rainfall in different months of the year.

Additionally, they can use their artistic skills to sketch or paint the scenery, capturing the flowers in season. We also create many Wet Pour Sensory Paths of different textures, allowing children to imagine they are walking with the dinosaurs or becoming Dorothy following the yellow brick road. 

Besides engaging children’s physical senses with our traditional Wooden Playground Equipment, these play structures are fitted with stations equipped to make musical instrument noises when interacting with different Play Panels, or even training to become a master musician with The Rustic Music Centre. For the little ones more inclined towards playing with water or sand, we have numerous Water Play and Sand Play equipment options that your children will adore. 

If you want to find out more about our sensory play equipment, make sure to check our Buyer’s Guide To Sensory Play Equipment, packed with valuable information to help you create your ideal sensory play area for your students. Additionally, head over to another great article to find out about How To Improve Child Development With Sensory Playground Equipment!

Get In Touch Today

We hope by now you have a better understanding of what is sensory play, and that you are ready to explore how you could enhance your children’s learning and development.

With a wide variety of different outdoor playground equipment options, we can ensure your school’s outdoor play spaces are perfect for the development of your students. At Red Monkey Play, we focus on creating playgrounds and environments that develop crucial skills, encourage learning, and help children reach their goals. 

We capture children’s imaginations and attention through exciting playground equipment whilst maintaining a safe, natural, and environmentally friendly playground. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to book a FREE Consultation with us, please contact us, and one of our friendly team members will be happy to assist you. 

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