You are probably familiar with the term sensory play. We talk about it here at Mis Amigos as it’s an integral part of our day as we connect playing and learning. Sensory play often comes up when we’re looking for what new toy to buy or looking on Pinterest for a fun activity to do at home.
What exactly is this sensory play that we’re always hearing about? Sensory refers to the five senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing. So this type of play engages and stimulates the five senses through creative discovery. While experiencing one or more of the senses, children are able to explore the scientific processes in a natural way. Kids get to investigate, discover, and create, all while having fun!
Why Sensory Play
While some of the sensory play activities appear quite simple, there is really something happening at a much deeper level, while a thousand different connections are being made inside the brain. With each activity, as a particular sense is being utilized, a child is able to focus in on just that one noise, or smell, or feeling, reinforcing what they already know while making new connections.
This is particularly important for young children as they grow and develop. The more they are exposed to building memory muscle through unique experiences, the more flexible, creative, and prepared they become for the world ahead of them.
For example, if a child is often uncomfortable in loud noisy places, playing a game focused on hearing, (such as making the children listen attentively for a particular bell, chime, or phrase) helps them practice eliminating background noise and draws their attention to just one noise. After various fun games and activities that concentrate on hearing, the previously anxious child might be able to manage a noisy place better.
Benefits of Sensory Play
Here are just a few of the benefits that come from this kind of play:
- Improves attitude towards learning – playing while learning is fun, therefore learning is fun!
- Helps enhance and improve memory which in turn prepares them to complete more complex tasks.
- Improves communicative and linguistic skills – most of these activities are done in groups, as the kids experience something fun they start sharing their experience and asking each other questions.
- Develops motor skills – a full sensory experience involves moving, touching, and feeling they might be pulling or pushing on some objects or squeezing others.
- Calms – sensory play involving lights or sensory toys, like balls, helps soothe and calm children that might be anxious, restless, or riled up.
- Problem Solving – sometimes objects are presented in a new way and they don’t do what they expect them to so they try to figure out what exactly is happening.
Sensory Play at Home
You can bring the sensory play experience right into your own home with these fun and simple ideas.
Bubble Wrap and Shaving Cream – Easy, fun, but a little messy!
Rainbow Rice – Rice, beans, food coloring, and kids favorite toys – not messy.
Colored Spaghetti – not the best for eating, but definitely fun to squeeze and play with
Fake Snow – perfect for the season. Flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and some water.
Bubble Wrap Run – have lots of bubble wrap from all those packages? Turn it into a fun sensory play activity!