As a parent there is a lot of pressure to make sure that you do everything you can to support your child’s development.
There are lots of different activities that you are told that your child should be taking part in to help them learn certain skills, and keeping track of all of their developmental milestones can be quite daunting.
Sensory play is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot by parents, nurseries, schools, and childminders. But what does it mean? What is sensory play and why is it so important?
We have put together this useful guide to explain what sensory play is and why it is important for your child. This will help you to understand the benefits of sensory play so you can introduce it to your children.
What Is Sensory Play?
You might have heard people talking about elaborate sensory play with various materials involved. This makes it sound much more complicated than it actually is.
Sensory play is any kind of activity that stimulates your child’s sense of touch/feel, sight, sound or smell as well activities that engage balance and movement.
This means that sensory play is a very broad concept that includes lots of different activities and games.
Sensory play is suitable for children of all ages as you can tailor the activities to their ability and what is safe for them at that age.
Sensory play is a great chance for parents to get creative as the only limit is your imagination and how messy you are prepared to get.
You could put your child on a mat and let them play with things with different textures – some cold baked beans in a bowl, jelly, sand.
You could also set up sensory play that is less messy- different materials like felt, silk, sponge. You could also combine sensory play with art – use different materials to apply paint to the paper- brushes, finger tips, sponges.
For sensory play involving sound, gather some pots and pans, tupperware, wooden spoons, and let your child have a go at making different noises by tapping things.
Playing outside is a good example of something that stimulates all of the senses, as well as movement and balance.
Collect shells, rocks, pebbles, leaves, sticks, pinecones – take them home and compare the different textures and shapes.
Why Is Sensory Play So Important?
Sensory play gives children a very hands-on approach to learning about the world around them.
This kind of immersive, stimulating style of learning helps with lots of different aspects of their development and is an important tool for aiding this growth.
Fine Motor Skills
Sensory play can involve handling different objects, experimenting with different materials, and creating things.
This is very useful when it comes to helping children develop their fine motor skills as well as their hand eye coordination.
Sensory play provides a very free environment for children to express themselves, which stimulates creativity.
This self-expression encourages individualism and helps the child learn about themselves. By supervising and observing sensory play, you can also learn a lot about your child.
Another area of sensory skills which highlights its importance for a child’s development is through the growth of cognitive skills.
All kinds of sensory play give your child the opportunity to learn more about the world around them- how different things interact with each other, how different stimuli make them feel, and how things work.
This improves their level of understanding and makes them more curious, prompting them to seek out further information and improve their cognitive skills even more.
Your child will have lots of new experiences during sensory play – the whole point is to expose them to a range of different things in order for them to learn.
Having new experiences that are positive and exciting will help to build your child’s confidence and their self-esteem, and will make them feel more competent in other situations.
If your child takes part in sensory play as a part of a group then they will also be able to develop their social skills.
They can interact with other children who are also experiencing new and exciting things, which will help them to form bonds and connect with others over common experiences.
It will also teach them that everyone is different, as the children will react differently to the various stimuli.
Certain sensory play activities may involve an element of problem solving. If your child is trying to make something using certain materials they are going to have to figure out how those materials interact- such as learning how to stick things together with glue and what to do if it won’t work.
This might seem simple to adults, but for children this is an important step in their learning and development and is another factor to show why sensory play is important.
Whilst your child is experiencing new things, you should encourage them to try and talk about what they are experiencing. Sensory play is an important tool for this.
Getting them to describe what they see, smell, taste, hear, and feel will improve their language skills, and help them to attribute adjectives to objects and sensations.
You can also teach them new words and have the tools right in front of you to demonstrate what it means- for example, showing them what it means when you say that glue is ‘sticky’.
If you have a child that suffers from anxiety, anger problems, or other kinds of mental and emotional distress then sensory play can really help them.
It gives them a distraction from their negative or challenging feelings as well as a positive outlet, whilst encouraging their development and stimulating their learning.
Encourage your child to talk about how these activities and experiences are making them feel – this teaches them how to express themselves in a healthy and constructive way which is a skill that they can use in other situations.
A final reason why sensory play is important for families is that is gives you a great opportunity to bond with your children.
Sometimes it can be difficult to engage in a child’s imaginary games and really enter their world, but sensory play is something fun and exciting which you can all do together- younger children, older children and parents.
If, prior to this article, you were wondering what is sensory play and why is it important for your kids, then hopefully we have covered all of the facts.
Sensory play has many benefits for children and is a fun and engaging way to interact with your child. So why not start your sensory play adventure with your children today and see the positives for yourself.