Find how to incorporate this type of exploration into your child's everyday life.
  • 11 May - 17 May, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly

Sensory play has an important role in your child's development. Not only does it help your child engage their five senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste – but it also boosts their language skills and motor skills. Sensory play also promotes exploration, creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving.

When your child engages their five senses, they're learning about the world around them and making connections. Their brain develops memories about the items they interact with and they form opinions or try out new skills. Sensory play can even be used to assist kids who have sensory processing deficits.

Benefits of Sensory Play

There are certain groups of children, such as those who have autism or sensory integration dysfunction disorder, who have difficulty making sense of and organising all the stimuli that come at them via their senses. But when it comes to sensory play, it's not just children who have difficulty with sensory integration who can benefit from it. The truth is, all kids can profit from using their senses.

Here are some of the primary benefits of sensory play:

• Promotes independent thinking

• Helps kids understand cause and effect

• Encourages the development of fine motor skills

• Enhances recollection, observation, and memory skills

• Boosts cognitive skills

• Promotes language development

• Encourages creativity and exploration

How to Incorporate Sensory Play into Your Child's Everyday Life

When some people hear the words sensory play, they think of different toys that can help facilitate this type of learning. And while these toys are important to have on hand, you also can incorporate sensory play into your child's everyday life, too. Here's how:

Sensory play should engage all of the senses

Sensory exploration is your child's way of examining, discovering, categorising, and making sense of the world. Some people assume that sensory play involves sand and water tables, rice bins, or playing with clay and Play-Doh, but it isn't all about touch. It's also about the other senses.

For instance, the sharp scent of vinegar in a science experiment engages the sense of smell, and the colours of water while painting engages the sense of sight. Meanwhile, the sounds a glass of water makes when tapped engage the sense of hearing. And tasting different types of fruit engages their sense of taste. Look for opportunities for your child to use their senses in everyday activities.

Sensory play should encourage language development

Playing with different types of textures, tastes, and objects can help your child build new ways of talking about the world. Ask them to describe what they're seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing, or touching.

For instance, the tree at the park is suddenly more than a tree. It's a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp pine scent. Likewise, water isn't just wet, it can be rough when there are waves, slippery with bubbles, or cold and translucent when frozen.

Tastes, too, can build your child's language skills. No longer does your child want macaroni and cheese for dinner. They can learn to describe their preferences with more descriptive words like wanting something gooey, cheesy, or salty. Or maybe when they want peanut butter ice cream they could learn to describe it as salty and sweet. Help your child expand their vocabulary by prompting them to describe the things they explore with their five senses.

Sensory play should promote fine motor skills

There are two main types of motor skills your child develops: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills deal with the coordination of large muscle groups and are responsible for activities like running and walking. Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups, and they're important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning, and zipping, among other things.

Sensory play often involves building fine motor skills by exploring toys and other objects using pinching, pouring, and lacing movements. Invite your child to use these skills every day. You can do a craft, invite them to help with dinner, or work with them on buttoning a sweater onto a stuffed bear.

Sensory play should utilise its calming effects

You may have noticed that your child is calmer after bath time. Or that after a particularly rough session of jumping around the room, they seem more grounded once they land on their bed.

This type of sensory play is calming for kids, as it helps them regulate their internal discomfort, whether that discomfort is boredom, restlessness, or some other type of agitation. Look for opportunities to incorporate calming activities into your child's day like taking a bath, petting the dog, or laying on a blanket looking at the stars.