Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Sensory play is play and exploration that uses and stimulates a child’s senses; sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell as well as movement and balance.
Children are naturally drawn to sensory experiences and as toddlers it is their main way to discover and make sense of the world hence why they want to touch everything and put everything in their mouth. Everyone, including adults, is able to better learn and retain information when their senses are engaged. While sensory experiences are particularly beneficial to children with autism or sensory disorders, it should not be said that these are the only children who can benefit from such experiences. The fact is all children need help learning how to use their senses
It is widely agreed by experts that opportunities for sensory play provide children with many benefits:
Sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathway and aids the development of memory function which aids a child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
Sensory play supports cognitive growth; enhancing their thought process, understanding and reasoning. Children are able to begin to understand new concepts through the manipulation of new materials.
Sensory play encourages language development and social interaction as children discover vocabulary to describe all the new textures, shapes, smells and sounds. They may also learn to converse effectively with their playmates.
Sensory play can improve gross motor skills as children squeeze, pull, push and throw different objects.
Sensory play can develop problem solving skills as children try to find solutions to different problems they come across while experimenting with different objects, for example building, sorting, threading and manipulating.
Sensory play is very effective in calming angry, anxious, upset and frustrated children, something that I have witnessed regularly working in a nurture group.
Sensory play helps children to learn and distinguish between important sensory attributes e.g. hot/cold, wet/dry
Apart from all this it is also great fun!
See my follow up blog 'Ideas for Sensory Play'