Squishing, smelling, tasting, watching and listening—welcome to sensory play! We explore the importance of sensory play with simple sensory play examples to engage your little one’s senses and expand their understanding of the world around them.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is all about activities that engage a child’s five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. It can also include movement and balance.
Sensory play is not complicated; it’s simply about letting kids explore these senses while they play.
Through this type of play, kids touch, smell, and see new things, allowing them to understand the world better. This helps their brain grow and can even help them speak more clearly.
Importance of Sensory Play
When your little one engages in sensory play, it is like a workout for the brain.
Here are the benefits of sensory play for kids:
- Helps kids think and learn better
- Boosts physical skills, both big and small
- Soothes kids who are stressed or upset
- Fosters speech and language development
- Helps kids understand differences like wet vs. dry or rough vs. smooth
- Improves memory
- Promotes problem-solving and critical thinking skills
Sensory play for kids uses all their senses, helping their brains create new pathways.
This makes it easier for them to think and learn later in life. For a sensory play example, letting them play with paint, clay, or different fabrics is more beneficial than just drawing with crayons.
Going outside for sensory play is a win-win. It lets children explore the world and enjoy nature. You could have a scavenger hunt that makes them listen to sounds or smell different things. Or, have them touch leaves and rocks and talk about how they feel.
Another big plus is that sensory play helps kids calm down. Playing with squishy mud or digging hands into a bean bin can be relaxing. But remember, each child is different. What calms one might excite another, so pay attention to what your child likes.
Sensory play is also great for all types of learners. Some children learn by seeing, some by touching, and some by hearing.
Mixing different types of sensory play can help children learn in different ways. And it’s not just about learning; it’s about having fun too. For example, if you’re teaching them about colours, use Play-Doh. If you’re talking about saying hello and goodbye, use action figures.
What Are the Key Features of Sensory Play for Kids?
Here are the key types of sensory play for kids to engage various senses:
Tactile play: Involves hands-on exploration and teaches kids about texture, temperature, and pressure. For example, playing with sand or slime.
Vestibular play: Activities like swinging or rolling help kids develop their sense of balance. The vestibular system in the inner ear is activated, helping strengthen balance and spatial orientation.
Proprioception play: This helps kids understand the position of their body in space. Activities like jumping or pushing objects can enhance this sense.
Auditory play: Sound-based activities, like banging a drum or playing with shakers, help kids distinguish different sounds and develop their hearing.
Visual play: This sensory play for kids focuses on developing sight and might include activities like colour sorting or pattern recognition.
Olfactory and taste play: Smelling flowers or tasting foods engages the senses of smell and taste, helping kids differentiate various scents and flavours.
Each type of play contributes to a well-rounded sensory experience, teaching kids about their bodies and the world around them.
4 Sensory Play Examples with Shichida Australia
Our program for babies and toddlers includes sensory play examples designed to awaken all the senses and foster well-rounded development in babies and toddlers.
Here’s how our activities focus on sensory benefits for young ones:
Feeling textures with rice: In the Shichida program, rice is often used as a tactile material. Your child can touch, feel, and even run their fingers through bowls of rice.
This stimulates the sense of touch, enhances fine motor skills, and gives them a basic understanding of texture differences.
Touching jelly: Jelly is another fun and safe material used for sensory play.
Babies can squish, press, and move the jelly around, providing a very different texture to explore.
This activity not only pleases the sense of touch but can also be visually stimulating due to the jelly’s translucent and colourful nature.
Object placement and removal: In this activity, babies and toddlers are encouraged to place small objects into compartments and then remove them. This could be small balls into cups or blocks into slots.
This sensory play learning activity teaches children about spatial relationships and helps develop their hand-eye coordination.
Small compartments: Using trays or boxes with small compartments, different textures or objects are placed in each. The child is then encouraged to move these from one compartment to another.
This simple activity works wonders in helping the child differentiate between textures and shapes, thereby boosting their sensory development.
10 Age-Appropriate Sensory Play Learning Activities for Kids
The following activities are specially designed to match the developmental stage of each age group:
For Babies (6 months to 1 year):
Soft fabric swatches: Offer your baby a variety of fabric swatches with different textures, like satin, velvet, or fleece. Babies will love to grasp, feel, and even mouth these different textures, stimulating their sense of touch through sensory play learning.
Large, colourful flashcards: Flashcards with big, bold images and colours can captivate a baby’s attention. This stimulates their sense of sight and aids with colour recognition as they grow.
Sensory bottles: Fill a clear, plastic bottle with colourful beads or liquid, and securely fasten the lid. The baby can shake the bottle to see the colours swirl and to hear the sound it makes, engaging multiple senses.
Aromatic playdough: Make homemade playdough and add a touch of vanilla or lavender for a mild scent. This can intrigue their sense of smell while they manipulate the dough.
Musical mobile: Hang a mobile that plays soft tunes over the crib. Babies can look up and listen, stimulating their auditory and visual senses.
For Toddlers (18 months to 2 years):
Texture walk: Create a walking path with different textures like bubble wrap, carpet, and tin foil in this fun sensory play learning activity. Have your toddler walk over it barefoot and talk about the textures they feel and the sounds they hear.
Simple obstacle course: Use cushions, tunnels, and low steps for your toddler to climb over, crawl through, and navigate, stimulating their sense of movement and balance.
Colour sorting: Provide your toddler with different coloured balls or beads and cups to match. This enhances their visual discrimination and fine motor skills.
Sniff and tell: Use jars containing different scents like coffee, orange peel, and cinnamon. Let your toddler sniff and tell or guess what each one is, developing their sense of smell.
Themed sensory bins: Create sensory bins filled with a variety of items related to a certain theme, like ‘Ocean’ with blue water beads, sea shells, and small fish toys. Encourage your preschooler to explore and tell a story about what they find, which aids cognitive development and imagination.
Unleash the joy, the giggles, and the learning! Sensory play is a doorway to a world of exploration and growth. Dive in, make some mess, and watch your child flourish.
Join us at Shichida Australia and embark on a remarkable educational journey. Let’s empower your child to embrace their unique gifts and create a future filled with limitless possibilities.