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The importance of sensory play and 25 play ideas you need to try!

What is sensory play?

What's better than the oozey, sticky, squishy, squelchy, slimy, messy, feeling you get from engaging your senses, " hands or feet" first, into a sensory play activity? There is nothing quite like it, and although for some adults, the thought makes us cringe a little bit, sensory play is a fundamental play opportunity, young children need to engage with to support a range of developmental milestones.

Whether this play is set up inside using a play table or outdoors in the garden or mud kitchen, when we identify the importance this play has on young children, we are certainly more comfortable with setting up and cleaning up these experiences for our children.

Sensory play is a type of play that engages one or more of the five senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell) to promote exploration and learning. Sensory play is often used in early childhood education to support cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Why is sensory play so important for my child?

So, a question you may have asked yourself, is sensory play important for my child? The simple answer is, YES, absolutely!

Sensory play is not only fun, but it also offers a calm space for children to go to express those big emotions. It provides a tactile outlet for children when they are feeling frustrated, excited, worried, over stimulated and so on.

Sensory play provides the opportunity for children to communicate with each other in a low pressure environment, practicing their language skills and fostering relationships with their peers. Sensory play also supports motor development, both fine motor and gross motor skills.

A child's senses mature over time, as they explore the world that surrounds them. Early childhood professionals, often refer to child theorist. Jean Piaget, a swiss phycologist. Piaget believed that these environmental experiences are necessary for children's cognitive development. He emphasized that sensory play, helps children digest and store new knowledge for later reference, strengthening their brains and creating neurological pathways important for learning. This ultimately contributes to a child's ability to complete more complex tasks.

What are the benefits of sensory play

  • Promotes exploration
  • supports cognitive, social and emotional development
  • Encourages children to complete more complex tasks
  • Engages a child's senses
  • Offers a tactile outlet
  • Provides a calm space
  • Offers an outlet for big emotions
  • Supports language development and communication skills
  • Provides the opportunity for children to extend their motor skills
  • Um...Its super fun!

25 sensory play ideas to try

We have gathered our favourites, its a big list but winter is coming, so check it out and let us know which are your favourites. We are loving the chickpea foam at the moment! Messy, gooey, fun!

  1. good dough co (of course)
  2. rice
  3. beans
  4. water
  5. chickpea foam
  6. pasta
  7. salt
  8. coffee beans
  9. jelly
  10. sand
  11. mud
  12. leaves
  13. painting hands and feet
  14. touch and feel books
  15. slime
  16. sensory bags
  17. ice play
  18. shaving cream
  19. different fabrics
  20. shredded paper
  21. leaves
  22. bubbles
  23. spaghetti
  24. pasta
  25. baking using our hands

Things to remember about sensory play

All children are different and sensory play is not always a comfortable space for everyone. So whilst exposure is very important, its also integral to ensure that we are not applying pressure. This way children can explore in their own time, in their own way. Preferences and aversions can change daily, so allow this time for your child and remember they pick up on the things we say and do. If you are freaking out over the slime, there's a good chance they will too.

Let us know when you have ticked them all πŸ’š

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Blog courtesy of Jem @create4me_

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