Sensory Play is such an important part of early childhood development. As your baby grows, they are constantly learning about their environment and the things that surround them. They use their senses to make sense of the world around them and constantly taste, touch, listen, watch and smell things to start building strong neural connections.
We all want the very best for our little ones and want to give them a nice solid foundation. But where do we start? Well, today I’m so excited to share the benefits of sensory play and how you can get started!
So what is sensory play?
When you provide your little learners with play experiences that stimulate one or more of their five senses of touch, taste, smell, sound and sight, you are doing sensory play!
This exploration is the very foundation of scientific understanding and encourages your baby or toddler to explore and make sense of the world around them by exploring with their senses.
Why is Sensory Play important?
Sensory Play is a wonderful way to begin learning and exploring with your baby or toddler. It’s been shown that sensory play builds stronger neural pathways to the brain which enables your child to learn how to complete trickier tasks as they grow as well. Through this type of play, your Little Learners can develop many crucial skills.
As your toddler pours and transfers materials from cup to cup, they are developing their hand-eye coordination and an early understanding of mathematical understandings such as empty and full.
When your baby explores a new texture such as mashed potato or jelly, they are developing their fine motor skills, exploring different textures and tastes and they’re exploring object permanence as they undoubtedly drop their food from the highchair to the ground!
Oral language and scientific vocabulary can also be developed as you talk with your child while playing. Depending on their age, you might build their vocabulary by talking about how things look and taste or ask questions about what your child is smelling or thinking as they play.
Creativity can also be fostered as you engage in sensory art invitations involving finger paints, play dough or edible paint.
Getting started with sensory play!
Sensory play doesn’t need to be complex or expensive. In fact you can start with items you already have in your pantry and home!
Some of my sensory play essentials include:
- Containers for scooping and pouring
- Ice cube trays
- Wooden bowls like Grimms* or Works At Play
- Tweezers, tongs and scoops
- Bases like rainbow rice, chickpeas, bird seed
- Animal figurines* to make simple small worlds
- A tray like the shallow Trofast from IKEA
I’ve put together a free download for you featuring some of my favourite supplies for sensory play as well as a few bonus activites! You can download it below.
Many people say that they are turned off by the messy nature of sensory play so I often suggest setting up your sensory tray on an old bed sheet to help catch any spills.
The spills are unavoidable but we also have a rule, “Keep it in the tray or we pack it away” which we reinforce from very early on. Sometimes this means we only play for 23 seconds but eventually over time, they begin to understand the expectations and can even play without direct supervision as they get older!
My favourite sensory play activities
We’ve been doing sensory play for many years now. It’s one of my very favourite ways to play and create memories of playtime with my little learners! Below are some of our favourite sensory play activities.
- Pebble and Water sensory tub for babies
- Sensory Play small worlds
- Rainbow Sensory Beans
- Glitter Sensory Bottles
- Under the Sea edible small world