If you follow my Instagram account or like us on Facebook (I post most Instagram pictures there), you would see that I LOVE sensory play! I think it is so important for children to get their hands dirty while they are playing and research shows there are so many benefits of sensory play with children.
What is Sensory Play?
The root word of sensory is “sense”, think of your five senses: sight, touch, sound, smells, and taste. However, there are two other senses that are used in sensory play. Vestibular, which is working on balance, and proprioception which is essentially body awareness. Sensory play should encourage all SEVEN of these senses. Young toddlers who are learning to walk explore balance and body awareness constantly. Walking changes their balance and it takes practice to be aware how their body moves.
There are great resources out there with tons of different sensory ideas for all ages.
Benefits of Sensory Play
When your senses are involved in something, you remember a moment or feeling more clearly. We have all experienced this before. A certain smells reminds you of a time with your family or a song reminds you of a time with friends. Every time I smell Crayola Crayons I think of my first car. A cute little Volkswagen Jetta. From day one she smelt like crayons and the smell never went away. My brain associates that smell with that car becasue the neurons in my bran connected in such a way.
- When children are exploring with their senses, their brain is creating pathways that lead to deeper learning and exploring.
- When children are exploring with their senses, their memory is enhanced because of the pathways created in the brain during play.
- Sensory play supports development in all areas (cognitive, language, social, problem solving, and motor skills).
- Children learn about different sensory inputs such as sound (loud and soft), touch (smooth and rough), sight (near and far), smell (sweet and sour), and taste (salty and sweet).
- Exploring in sensory play can aid anxious, nervous, and sensory seeker children.
Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders
Every child is a sensory seeker and/or avoider. All that means is some children seek out ways to receive inputs from one of their senses or they avoid certain sensory inputs. This part is not black and white as each child is different and can be both a seeker and avoider. My Mundane and Miraculous Life has a great explanation of sensory avoiders/seekers.
Think of it like this; when you are in a boring meeting what do you do? Do you doodle? Play with your pen? Tap your foot? Twist in your chair? Our brain is telling us to move, but we know we can’t just get up and walk around, so we make due. Children have not developed the self control to seek that input in a socially appropriate way, so they don’t! They jump and climb until their brain tells them it is enough.
I expose my kiddos to different sensory experiences, but my favorite is shaving cream. Why shaving cream? It smells good, feels great, probably doesn’t taste great, colors can be added, and can be explored all over! It is also a great way to play and clean at the same time, all you need is a bit of water – which adds to the sensory experience!
I have recently brought shaving cream out more for the children to explore with. I talk about one experience with shaving cream here. Reflection on that moment, I can see that the child who refused to touch it was a tactile avoider. Most of the kiddos I have right now are tactile seekers and LOVE exploring with shaving cream! I try to add different materials to their play. We have used bowls, spoons, shells, colors, and paint brushes, and most importantly- our hands! I try to mix up the play based on what I’ve seen the children interested in.
Throughout the past few months I’ve brought shaving cream out for us to explore. We have had a lot of kiddos sick so getting the rice and sand out isn’t ideal as the germs tend to stick to those sensory bin materials. One of our kindergarten kids who joins us on Friday said it is more fun than school and she asks to play it every week. I try to save it for her, but sometimes we just need that exploration earlier in the week.
We have had play where our bodies really get into it, because that is part of exploring!
We have explored color relationships by mixing colors. I tried to limit to just two colors, but some friends only wanted one or wanted three. At the time, the amount of colors wasn’t a battle worth fighting.
Adding the paint brushes allowed our avoider friends to participate without getting their hands messy. We also had friends painting their hands, drawing squiggles, and tracing letters.
We have been interested in letters lately so I started putting their first letter on the trays to start instead of a big blob. It is a fun guessing game to see who is going to be next.
We even had our little friends explore the shaving cream. This little friend gave me an ornery look when he touched it like he wasn’t supposed to be doing this. He got right into the play and had a blast!
I love shaving cream because clean up adds another sensory experience with water! Some kiddos love exploring in the water more than the shaving cream. As long as they are exploring I am happy!
All in all, I love sensory play. Inside and outside I think sensory play is just natural for children. Take time to expose children to new and different experiences, it will only help them in the future!
Memories will be made. Messes can be easily cleaned.
Thank you for reading!
If you enjoyed this, check out these other bloggers!
The Repurposed Nanny – She has bits of everything from DIY, Lifestyle, Kids, Recipes, and Decor.
The Playful Learner – Words cannot express how much I love Amber’s blog. She sees childhood and learning just like I do! A time to play and explore through play. I urge you to check out her blog!
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