The Importance of Sensory Play

By Teacher Shannon

Children at a young age have an incredible amount of curiosity and learn mostly through discovery. Providing young children with the opportunity to explore through play can benefit them tremendously. Sensory Play is anything that engages use of their senses including sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, and movement. Allowing children the opportunity to get messy with different materials while moving their bodies incorporates both their cognitive and physical development. This can include things such as scooping, tearing, pouring, stamping, throwing, wiping, etc. While messy play can be fun and exciting some families may shy away from this because of the hassle of cleaning up. 

A couple tips to help including messy play at home…

  1. Prepare well with a messy area expecting that children will want to spread the mess to other areas
  2. Sensory areas can include materials such as slime, putty, playdough, etc, that benefit fine motor skills while still maintaining a clean area
  3. Make cleaning up part of the fun by giving your child tasks to help
  4. Make squishy bags by putting paint, glue, water, etc. Inside a bag and tape the top shut for a contained sensory bag
  5. Have rules around your sensory area and stick to them. Boundaries and rules will help contain the chaos so you can focus on having fun

The physical benefits of children playing in sensory areas include moving their bodies and strengthening the small muscles in their hands which will help to prepare them for writing. The cognitive benefits of sensory areas include but are not limited to developing their creative thinking and imagination skills, discovering different senses, exploring their environment and different materials, and developing the ability to explore various solutions while developing problem solving skills. When playing with family, friends, and classmates children are able to work collaboratively and practice taking turns, sharing the different materials. 

Start easy and small. The benefits of sensory integration into your childs play are important but at home with so many other things going on it is important to not overthink it to the point of not doing it. Anything is better than nothing. Here are a few ideas in order to get your child started. Use items you already have in your house such as water or rice. Both of these materials are easy and children love exploring them. Add a couple instruments such as cups, spoons, pots, pans, recycled bottles etc. for children to start experimenting with. Start to incorporate more things as your child grows. Good luck and happy exploring!