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What is Sensory Play?
June 30, 2023
Squish, splash, shake, scoop! From the moment they’re born, children use their senses to discover the world around them. Sensory play is one of the most effective ways to help promote curiosity within a child’s environment, stimulating their five (5) senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste. Read more on its types and the benefits of including sensory play in your child’s daily activities:
Benefits of sensory play
Babies learn and develop through play, which supports language development as they learn to respond to different stimuli. Simple sensory play, such as touching a variety of objects and hearing various sounds, will help make these new connections.
Toddlers begin to develop by using their thinking skills when they try to do things themselves. Activities that teach concepts, such as sorting colors and patterns, will encourage toddlers during their exploration.
Preschoolers tend to explore their senses independently by playing musical instruments, creating art, building with various toys, and more.
4 types of sensory play
Tactile play: Soft, rough or sharp? Tactile play is the type of sensory play you are probably most familiar with and is taking place anytime a child is using their hands when exploring an object they are using a form of tactile play. Tactile play allows children to learn about pressure, temperature, vibrations, and more. One way to incorporate tactile play into your day-to-day life is to let your child get messy. Simple activities, like playing with shaving cream, finger painting, and playing with water, are great forms of tactile play.
Auditory sensory play: Boom! Pow! Crash! Typically not the favorite type of sensory play for parents, but to children this helps develop their hearing and differentiate sounds. Simple household items, such as a wooden spoon and saucepan, will allow your child to explore sound through play. Another way to engage in auditory sensory play is to play a game of hide and seek with sounds. The child that is seeking can make a call and each hider responds to their own sound. The seeker can follow the sounds to locate each hider.
Visual sensory play: Visual play helps develop your child’s sight and assists with hand-eye coordination. Identifying different colors and patterns is a great way to engage in visual sensory play. Playing “I Spy” is a great way to engage children in visual sensory play. This fun and simple activity can be done inside or outside. For a fun twist, give your child a category and let them come up with the items for you to find.
Olfactory and taste sensory play: Olfactory relates to the sense of smell, which is directly related to taste. Children develop these senses through activities that encourage the exploration of taste and smell. A great way to engage children in olfactory and taste sensory play is to cook together! Make something where children can take part in the process. Cooking gives children the chance to smell, stir, slice, spread, and pour ingredients to make something they will enjoy. When the food is ready, taste it together and talk about how it tastes!
All in all, it is extremely important for parents, educators, and caregivers to prioritize sensory play for kids of all ages by providing them with safe and engaging activities that encourage growth, curiosity and creativity.
Need some activity inspiration? Try this No-Mess Sensory Play Activity.
No-Mess Sensory Play: Stained Glass
This painting activity allows toddlers to create without the mess or worry of trying to eat the paint!
Here’s what you’ll need: ● Wax paper ● Non-toxic finger paint ● Ziplock bag ● Sharpie ● Scissors
Here’s how to play:
Cut your wax paper to fit inside the ziplock bag
Draw a fun design with the sharpie
Put a dollop of each of the paint colors on the wax paper
Carefully put the wax paper into the ziplock bag
Let your child create and have fun playing, feeling, and seeing what happens!
When they’re finished, carefully remove the painted wax paper from the ziplock bag.
Let dry and tape to a window.
Bonus activity: See what happens when the light hits the “stained glass.” Describe or have your child describe what they see!
For more ideas of how to teach kids about kindness, compassion and curiosity, follow Curious B.E.I.N.G.s on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to the Curious B.E.I.N.G.s newsletter.