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Exploring Sensory Play: Engaging the Senses for Developmental Growth

As a parent, you’re constantly looking for new and exciting ways to engage your child's senses and promote their overall development.


One of the best ways to achieve this is through sensory play.


But what exactly is sensory play?


Sensory play involves engaging your child's senses - touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste - in a fun and interactive way. Allowing children to explore and learn about the world around them through their senses.


It can involve a wide range of activities and materials; from squishing and moulding playdough, to exploring different textures and scents.


In this blog, we’ll take a look as to what sensory play is; why it’s important; the benefits; and explore some ideas to incorporate into your routine - so that your child can benefit through each stage of their development.


The importance of sensory play for child development


Sensory play is not just about having fun; it also plays a crucial role in your child's development.


When children engage in sensory play, they are using their senses to gather information about the world, which helps them make sense of their surroundings. This information is then processed by their brain, allowing them to develop important skills and abilities.


One of the key benefits of sensory play is that it promotes cognitive development.


When children engage their senses, they are actively exploring and experimenting, which helps them develop problem-solving skills and enhances their ability to think creatively.


Sensory play also helps improve their memory and concentration, as they focus on the sensations they are experiencing.


What’s more, sensory play is essential for the development of fine and gross motor skills.


Activities such as pouring, scooping and squeezing help strengthen the muscles in their hands and fingers, improving their coordination and dexterity.


We’ll explore some sensory play ideas that incorporate this a little further on.


 two toddlers playing in a sandpit
Image by master1305 on Freepik

Benefits of sensory play


Engaging in sensory play offers a multitude of benefits for your child's development and overall well-being. Here are some of the key advantages:


Enhanced sensory processing:

Sensory play helps children develop their sensory processing skills, allowing them to better interpret and respond to sensory information in their environment; such as listening to nature as well as being able to hear any danger around them.


Language development:

Through sensory play, children are exposed to a variety of textures, sounds, and smells, which helps expand their vocabulary and improve their communication skills. They can also learn new words to describe the sensations they are experiencing.


Emotional regulation:

Sensory play provides a safe and calming outlet for children to explore and express their emotions. It can help them relax, reduce stress and anxiety, and regulate their emotions.


Social skills development:

Sensory play can be a great way for children to engage in cooperative play and develop social skills. When children engaged in sensory activities together, they learn to take turns, share materials, and communicate effectively with their peers.




Sensory play ideas for different senses


Now that we understand the importance and benefits of sensory play, let's explore some fun and creative sensory play ideas for each of the senses - touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste.


Touch


Sensory bins:

Fill a large plastic container with various materials such as rice, beans, or sand. Add small toys or objects for your child to search for and discover using their sense of touch.


Playdough:

Homemade or store-bought playdough is a versatile sensory material. Encourage your child to squeeze, mold, and create different shapes using their hands.


Water play:

Set up a water table or fill a bowl with water and provide cups, funnels, and sponges for your child to explore different water textures and temperatures.


two toddlers playing with playdough
Image by Freepik

Remember, touch doesn’t have to be with only hands, feet can also touch sensory objects: sand, grass, tiles etc


Sight


Rainbow sensory bottles:

Fill clear plastic bottles with water and add different colors of food coloring. Secure the lids tightly and let your child shake and observe the mesmerizing colors mixing together. Add in glitter and oil for a homemade lava lamp.


Nature scavenger hunt:

Take your child on a nature walk and challenge them to find different objects of various colors, such as leaves, flowers, or rocks. Encourage them to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature. You could create a walking stick-story - simply slide the leaf or flower onto the stick. Once home, you can ask your child to use the stick-story to retell your adventures.


Shadow play:

Use a flashlight to create shadows on a wall or a sheet. Encourage your child to experiment with different objects and shapes to create interesting shadow patterns. Finding some coloured tissue paper or coloured translucent pots/lids will allow the shadows to change colours.



Sound


Musical instruments:

Provide your child with a variety of musical instruments, such as drums, shakers, or xylophones. Encourage them to explore different sounds and rhythms by playing the instruments.


Sound jars:

Fill transparent jars with different materials, such as rice, beans, or bells. Seal them tightly and let your child shake and listen to the different sounds produced. Perfect homemade musical instruments using recycled objects.


Nature sounds:

Take your child on a listening walk in a park or garden. Encourage them to close their eyes and listen to the sounds of birds chirping, leaves rustling, or water flowing. Sometimes, it’s only when we take away one sense (by closing yor eyes), can we appreciate the sounds around us.



Smell


Scented playdough:

Add different scents, such as vanilla, lavender, or citrus, to homemade or store-bought playdough. Let your child explore and identify the different smells while playing.


Scented sensory bottles:

Fill small bottles with scented oils or extracts, such as peppermint or lemon (word of caution: only add a little). Secure the lids tightly and pierce holes in the lids; let your child smell and identify the different scents.


Herb garden:

Plant a small herb garden with aromatic herbs like basil, mint, or rosemary. Encourage your child to touch and smell the herbs, learning about different scents and their uses in cooking.



herbs in a containers
image by Freepik

Taste


Sensory snacks:

Prepare a variety of snacks with different tastes and textures, such as crunchy vegetables, juicy fruits, or smooth yogurt. Encourage your child to explore and describe the flavors they are experiencing.


Cooking and baking:

Involve your child in simple cooking or baking activities. Let them measure ingredients, mix, and taste their creations, engaging their sense of taste and smell. This is a great opportunity to incorporate any herbs you’ve grown from the smell suggestion.


Taste testing:

Blindfold your child and offer them small samples of different foods. Encourage them to guess the taste and discuss their preferences. Great one for kids and adults to take part in together - the kids love it when the adults tast something they don’t like.


Sensory play is a fantastic way to engage your child's senses and promote their overall development.


Through activities that stimulate their touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste, children can explore and learn about the world in a fun and interactive way.


The benefits of sensory play reach far beyond entertainment, as it enhances cognitive, motor, and social skills, while also promoting emotional well-being.


So, make time for sensory play in your child's daily routine and watch them thrive as they engage with their senses.


Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what sensory activities we are planning for the children.


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