Sensory play is any activity that engages and elevates your child’s senses (e.g. Touch, Sight, Hearing, Taste, Movement). Such play activities facilitate and encourage young children to use cognitive processes & creativity while they explore, investigate and create.
Here are 5 key benefits of Sensory Play:
1. Sensory play is a child's way of exploring and making sense of the world!
Through sensory activities, a child learn important sensory attributes, for example, cold ice, sticky sand, dry rice/beans, warm water, different kind of textures - rough/smooth, hard/soft etc. This process of acquiring the experience of sensory attributes build nerve connections within a child's developing brain and help trigger their inclination and ability in learning.
2. Sensory play supports the early learning of important skills
Through sensory play, children can practice their fine motor, explore problem solving, creativity, cause and effect and even social interaction skills. Early math and science concepts can be incorporated into sensory play activities, for example, ice melting, scooping, transferring, filling, emptying and overflowing!
3. Sensory play encourages independency and creativity
There are no instructions of how to explore a sensory bin, a child simply explores at his own pace. Unstructured, child led sensory play opportunities are important in a child's early learning experiences as it provides them an avenue to unleash their independency and creativity, giving them a sense of freedom and control.
4. Sensory play develops and enhance brain function
Forget about flashcards! Allowing a child to explore sensory activities (eg. different cloth textures, sand, rice, water) requires a more demanding cognitive process than making them sit down and look at flashcards.
5. Sensory play is calming (for both children & adult alike!)
Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child. I experienced this firsthand when I allowed C to explore a pasta sensory bin with her bare hands and some bowls and scoop. The simple activity of scooping and transferring, feeling the pasta in her hands, calmed her crankiness down almost immediately. Sensory play is calming for kids as it provides an avenue to regulate their internal discomfort, boredom, restlessness or agitation.
Last but not least, don't forget that sensory play activities can be carried out indoors or outdoors. A simple walk in the park or outdoor water play can provide your child with an enriching and valuable sensory experience!
**Note: Unstructured sensory play is not the same as unsupervised sensory play. Do not leave children unattended and carry out activities under adult supervision at all times.
Be sure to include and expose your child to different sensory play experiences!