What is Sensory Play?
In essence, sensory play includes play that engages any of your child’s senses. This includes touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. But it also covers movement, balance, and spatial awareness. When a child is born, their senses aren’t fully developed. They only mature over time as babies, toddlers, and preschoolers explore the sensory world around them. Each new experience they have with a different sense builds nerve connections that grow the architecture of their brain.
Benefits of Sensory Play for Babies
Babies learn and develop new connections in their brain through play. Sensory play also helps babies to learn more about the world around them and supports language development as they learn to respond to different stimuli. Babies can enjoy simple sensory play such as touching different objects and surfaces and hearing how different materials create varied sounds.
Benefits of Sensory Play for Toddlers
Toddlers are usually developing their thinking abilities and will start trying to do things for themselves. They are learning about concepts, like time and opposites, so activities that compare light and dark, and sorting colours, will encourage toddlers in their exploration.
Benefits of Sensory Play for Preschoolers
Preschoolers will often be exploring more independently and further developing language. Playing with musical instruments, and creating and building different shapes with various objects and materials, will further encourage these developments.
Overall Benefits of Sensory Play
Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem solving and creativity. It helps to build nerve connections in the brain and encourages the development of language and motor skills. There are many benefits that may go unnoticed, such as the development of abilities to focus and block out distractions.
Sensory play is an important part of childhood and, within reason, there are really no limits to what you can use in sensory activities. Nature can often be your best friend when it comes to sensory play!
What are the Characteristics of Sensory Play?
The different characteristics of sensory play align to the five common senses, along with two additional senses related to balance and proprioception (the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body).
1. Tactile Play
This is probably the type of play you’re most likely to think of when we talk about sensory play. Any time you see children exploring an object with their hands, they’re using tactile play. From tactile play, children can learn about pressure, temperature, vibrations, and so much more.