The Benefits Of Sensory Play For Children

kid playing claydoe

Children love to play, to touch, to see, to smell. Always interacting with the world around them, children are using their senses to learn what that world has to offer. The benefits of sensory play for children are so important because it directly correlates with their developmental learning.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is doing an activity that will stimulate the senses. The five senses are taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. Sensory play also involves learning movement, spatial awareness, and balance.

Children learn about the world through their senses. This is because at a young age, learning is largely to do with our ability to use our senses to retain information. Using sensory play helps development in such a fun and enjoyable way for both child and adult.

What Does Sensory Play Look Like?

Sensory play can look like a whole lot of fun! The benefit of sensory play for children is that it’s learning in the most enjoyable way.

Sensory play is often thought to only be about feeling and picking things up. Although part of it, sensory play also utilises all the other senses, not just touch. Some activities will only include one sense but once combined with other activities, there will be an array of senses being used.

benefits of sensory play

The different types of sensory play are based on the five senses, plus movement and balance.

1. Touch – Tactile play.
Tactile play is when a child is using their hands to interact with and discover an object. When you envision what sensory play looks like, tactile play is probably the type that appears first in your mind. Tactile play helps a child learn about texture, vibrations, temperature, and pressure.  

2. Smell – Olfactory play.
Olfactory play is when a child is using their sense of smell to make a discovery. Note that it’s far harder to determine when a child is using their sense of smell. Children learn about different smells, what their preferences are, and what they might mean. A ‘bad’ smell usually indicates something undesirable, something they should stay away from. A good smell enforces the thought of something nice, and okay to interact with. An example of this is having kids smell flowers and discovering new scents one at a time.

3. Sight – Visual sensory play.
Visual sensory play helps children develop their sight and vision. Playing with colours and patterns helps the child to identify the differences between them. Moving objects at varying paces in different directions during play can also help hone their vision.

4. Taste – Taste sensory play.
Closely linked with olfactory play, taste sensory play helps children to identify the different tastes of the world. Kids are known to put anything and everything in their mouths. Keeping taste play slightly more controlled, an activity could be edible finger painting. After making sure they have well-washed hands, using different flavoured yogurts let them paint, tasting those ‘paints’ as they go, introducing new flavours to their palette.

5. Hearing – Auditory sensory play
A disruptive play for sure. Auditory sensory play helps children differentiate sounds. Developing their hearing and understanding. From squeaky toys to clanging pots and pans, as much noise as possible in this instance is better.

6. Movement and balance – Vestibular sensory play
The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, is where a person’s balance and movement come from. Getting your child rolling, jumping and swinging on anything and everything helps strengthen their vestibular system. Therefore, strengthening those essential motor skills.

what is sensory play?

What Are The Benefits of Sensory Play?

The benefits of sensory play are huge when it comes to your little ones learning. Sensory play helps vital development such as problem solving, brain development, and memory.

Other developmental sensory play benefits are:

  • Encouraging creative thinking and independent thinking. Getting them to make decisions based on prior outcomes.
  • Helping them understand that their actions have outcomes. For example, if they tip the container of water over, they are going to get wet.
  • Developing fine motor skills. This will come in handy when they need to start doing things, such as holding a pen.
  • Encourages the development of their communication and language skills. Sounds through sensory play help children start identifying onomatopoeia, ‘splash’ when they are playing with water, ‘thud’ when something drops.

How is Sensory Play Used in Early Childhood Learning?

Sensory play is used in many aspects of childhood learning. Depending on the childcare centre, activities are set each day that directly incorporate sensory activities. Purposely designed they encourage a wide selection of sensory play-based experiences.

Sensory play should be implemented from birth, but children are already engaging in the activity themselves. By having specific activities you are encouraging their development far quicker, exposing them to more sights and sounds than they might come across themselves, on an everyday occasion.

what does sensory play look like?

Sensory Play Activities You Can Do At Home

Involve some sensory activities into playtime at home, to see the sensory play benefits for yourself. The activities can be as simple or challenging as you like. Often using items you already have at home.

Some sensory play activities include:

Musical Instruments – Working with our hearing, create and play a concert at home with normal household items. You can create maracas from rice and two empty water bottles, or grab pots and pans from the kitchen. Drum up the afternoon with wonderful noisy play.

Playdough – Everyone loves playdough;young and old! If you don’t have any pre-bought play dough, you can make your own. Have fun manipulating the dough with your hands getting the child to pinch, pull and squeeze it into different shapes.

Water and Sand – If you have access to sand, fill a container with two parts sand and add one part water. Put different plastic toys in as well and let the children interact, swishing through the sand and moving the toys about.

Enrol your child into a childcare that values the benefits of sensory play. Eikoh Seminar has fantastic childcare centres across Sydney’s lower north shore. Find the centre that’s the best fit for you and your family.