The importance of sensory play

Child playing in the sand

Sensory play. What’s that? Yet another buzz phrase designed to make parents feel even more insecure about their parenting?

Fear not. While sensory play is indeed an important component of child development, it’s also ridiculously easy (and fun!) to incorporate into your child’s everyday learning.

Feet

First of all, what is sensory play?

Sensory play is any activity that stimulates the senses. There are the five senses that most of us are familiar with – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

There’s also vestibular (the perception of our body in relation to gravity, e.g. knowing you are moving in an elevator) and proprioception (awareness of exactly where your body parts are, how we are positioned in space and planning our movements accordingly, e.g. moving our body through a narrow space).

But how does sensory play differ from any other type of play? Doesn’t every activity, however incidental, engage the senses in some way? Perhaps the quick answer is that it is a more considered approach that can be targeted to your child’s needs and interests.

Play Dough
Play Dough

Why is sensory play important?

  1. Sensory play builds and strengthens nerve connections in the developing brain’s neural pathways, which fosters a child’s willingness and ability to do complex tasks.
  2. Sensory play facilitates the development of language, gross and fine motor skills, and problem-solving skills. It also helps develop and enrich memory.
  3. Sensory play promotes social interaction, which improves social and communication skills.
  4. Sensory play can calm a child who is anxious and frustrated.
  5. Sensory play helps children develop the ability to focus on what’s important, tuning out irrelevant stimuli (or ‘white noise’) in the environment.
  6. Customised sensory play is great for children with special needs or sensory processing disorders, who may benefit from less traditional methods of learning.
Autumn leafs
Autumn leafs

Key principles in sensory play

The important thing to remember here is that everyone has different thresholds for the various senses. One person may have a low threshold (therefore, higher sensitivity) for certain flavours, another person may have a high threshold, or lower sensitivity, for the sound of nails scratching down a chalkboard (lucky them). We tend to seek out things in the environment that stimulate the sense that we have a high threshold for. So when engaging your kids in sensory play, follow their lead. Observe what type of sensory stimulation they crave and tailor his or her play accordingly.

Provide a variety of colours and textures to allow them to stretch their senses. While it is great to participate in their play, also give them time to explore alone so they can immerse themselves in the personal, hands-on experience.

Bubbles
Bubbles

Sensory play activities

One of the principle hallmarks of sensory play is getting messy. This means allowing your kids to play with slime, wet mud, sand.. Check out this website for some funspiration – you can make sand foam (just add shaving cream!), use cornstarch dough as a cheaper alternative to kinetic sand, and craft your very own Flubber.Flubber

If you prefer the mess to have a higher purpose, why not encourage your child to help you prepare lunches and cook meals? They will love exploring the various textures, tastes and smells.

For some ideas that are a little less messy, check out Stuck On You’s personalised stationery range for kids. We have:

  • A range of gorgeous and funny stories that can be personalised with your child’s name. Read the story in funny voices to stimulate their hearing and tickle their funny bones.
  • Personalised colouring in books and pens and pencils in fun-eye-popping colours. Adults have started  to embrace this traditional childhood pastime in recognition of its therapeutic benefits. These benefits would no doubt also apply to little ones, as well as helping them refine their fine motor skills.
  • Our range of beautiful wooden toys such as name blocks, name puzzles and jigsaw puzzles, fun tactile toys that are fantastic learning aids.
  • And so much more!
Stuck On You colouring book
Stuck On You Colouring book