Being a parent can be overwhelming, all you want is to be a support to your child in their early stages of development.
Children change so rapidly during their first three years of life and having an understanding of how you as a parent can naturally enable them in a fun and engaging way would be beneficial to both you and your child.
Sensory play is a great way to interact with your child. But what are the best sensory play ideas? And what is sensory play?
Sensory play has been around for years and for some children it is a type of play that occurs without any parent leading the way but for others, they may need to be provided with a space for growth and development.
By actively engaging your child in sensory play you will be able to see the benefits in a matter of weeks as your child grows before your eyes.
What Is Sensory Play?
Sensory play consists of any activity that naturally engages your child’s developing senses of hearing, sight, taste, smell, touch, movement, and balance.
Often when you think of educating our child we think about teaching them the alphabet and numbers but taking the time to engage in sensory play with your child is a great way to develop your bond while also giving the child a safe space to learn and grow in.
This type of play encourages the child to play, investigate, create and also discover new sensations.
Sensory play should be introduced in the first three years of a child’s life as this is a core time within their development.
As children get older, especially developing from toddlers to preschoolers, they take in vast amounts of information and turn all of this new information that they learn into working knowledge about their environment and the surrounding world around them.
Parents can gently encourage their child’s development in a very natural way that has a lot of benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Sensory Play?
There are a huge number of benefits associated directly with sensory play.
The largest benefit of sensory play is the connections that it can help develop within a child’s brain that allows them to begin to form complex thoughts and this gives them the ability to carry out more complex tasks also. This form of play also supports the child’s development of the below:
- Motor Skills
- Cognitive Growth
- Language Development
- Observational Skills
- Abstract Thinking
As the child develops these skills through sensory play they also begin to interact with others around them fostering the child’s social interaction skills and peer engagement.
Another benefit of sensory play is the mindfulness skills a child can develop as they find calm within the sensory play activities and may learn how to self-soothe as a result of this.
Best Sensory Play Ideas
A fantastic benefit of sensory play is that you often can use what you already have in your home and you do not need to go and purchase materials, making it budget-friendly as well as eco-friendly.
It is no wonder it continues to grow in popularity. The below activities are categorized into the different senses that they benefit and the best sensory play ideas for each one.
Best Sensory Play Ideas For Sight
- Change of the seasons: allow your child to see the seasons change by going for a walk at different times of the year and pointing out the changes that are associated with that specific season, for example during the Fall point out the colored, falling leaves. This is a great sensory play idea to try at when outdoors.
- Visit the art museum: go and see what your child engages with, this may change as your child gets older, and can be interesting to see how their stimuli change also.
Best Sensory Play Ideas For Sound
- Turn the radio on in the background: having background music on will help your child get used to having noise in the background and also give them the opportunity to take in different sounds such as the radio presenters speaking, advertisements, vocal and instrumental music.
- Musical Instruments: you do not need to buy any specific instruments, experiment with the things in your home and allow your child to engage in sensory play by making noise using these objects, for example banging a pot with a wooden spoon.
Best Sensory Play Ideas For Smell
- Take different things from around your home and encourage your child to smell these objects.
- When you are grocery shopping give your child a few of the stronger smelling objects to smell before placing them in the trolley. This is a great sensory play idea to try when at the grocery store. When the child gets older you can turn this into a guessing game where they close their eyes and smell to guess the object to engage in sensory play.
Best Sensory Play Ideas For Taste
- Tasting platters are a great way to encourage your child to taste new foods. The platters of food might all be the same color, for example, a green tasting platter might include small pieces of cucumber, kiwi, broccoli, and grapes.
- Introduce strong-tasting foods from a young age to develop your child’s taste buds. Always give a piece of food that they like the taste of after they try a strong-tasting food so they associate the stronger taste with positive things.
Best Sensory Play Ideas For Touch
- Sensory bins: reusing old jars in your home have your child put small objects that feel the same into the jars, for example, feathers, leaves, shells, pieces of uncooked pasta, and ribbons are all things that can easily be found. Your child will then begin to associate touch with sight and understand how some objects may feel just from looking at them. This is a great sensory play idea to try at home.
- Texture book: taking pieces of material, staple them together to make a book with each page having a different texture. You can take pieces of material from old bags, clothing, and towels. This can help prevent your child from developing an aversion to certain textures as they are comfortable with how these textures make them feel.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should You Introduce Sensory Play?
You should introduce sensory play with your child from an early age. Sensory play is a great way of spending time with your child in a way that also greatly benefits them.
You do not need to create elaborate setups or spend a lot of money on equipment meaning you can gently introduce sensory play anytime that it naturally comes up, such as at mealtimes, bath time, when you are outdoors for exercise, and so on.
Can You Do Sensory Play With Babies?
While the type of sensory play you engage in will differ depending on your child’s age you can do sensory play activities with your baby. Some of the best sensory play ideas are designed for babies.
Examples of sensory activities that are recommended to get your baby’s senses tingling range from simple skin-to-skin contact and tummy time and more difficult activities would be exploring textures with your baby.
As your baby will not have the motor skills to reach out and rub items to feel the texture you will need to guide their little hands to help them explore the feel of the world around them.
What Is A Sensory Box?
A sensory box is a name that is often given to the storage container that sensory play activity equipment is placed in. It can be useful to put sensory objects in a brightly colored box to encourage your child to go and reach for these objects when they are looking to play.
What you have inside the box does not need to be complicated, it can simply be pieces of different materials, things that make a unique sound, and items that have a strong smell. Make sure that anything in the box is safe for unsupervised use to keep your child safe.
Even the most simple sensory play activities can promote huge growth in your child and be great fun as the child is not distracted or turned off the activity due to not being able to understand what the activity is.
With our handy guide to some of the best sensory play ideas you will be spoiled for choice. Enjoy this precious time with your child as they begin to develop into a tiny person before your eyes.