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> > The Importance of Sensory Play

The Importance of Sensory Play

child finger painting

Think about some of your favourite memories and you'll probably find they are often associated with one or more of your senses.

Because we learn and retain information when using our senses.

Children use their senses to explore the world as soon as their born.  That's why we see babies and toddlers putting things in their mouths.  As they're trying to discover the taste and texture  of different objects.

Not all children find it easy to understand the messages they receive from their senses. By using sensory play activities they can explore their senses in a safe environment.

Sensory play also has other benefits as it helps children develop a range of other essential skills:

Cognitive - Multi sensory play encourages children to make observations and predictions.  It also helps with problem solving and decision making.

Speech and Language - Children talk and share ideas with each other as they play. A sensory pod or blankets thrown over a few chairs can encourage pretend play and fire the imagination through role play and stories.

Physical - Sensory play improves fine skills.  These are small muscle movements needed for picking up toys or turning a page in a book.  They can be developed by encouraging children to manipulate materials.  For example:

  • Scooping, measuring and pouring water or sand
  • Squeezing play dough to strengthen the hands
  • Using scissors to improve hand/eye coordination

Social/Emotional - Playing together in a group for example around a sensory table can help develop a children's confidence.  While learning social skills such as turn taking and sharing as they play.

The Five Categories of Sensory Play 

The five categories  of sensory play are linked to the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing.

Here's some great examples of sensory play activities that fit into each category.


Encourage children to explore colours:

  • Have fun face painting
  • Add food coloring to your child's bath water.
  • Use colouring books and paints

Experiment with light around the home:

Test the child's sense of sight:

  • Play peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek 
  • Trace a hand, or complete a dot-to-dot puzzle.


Use stimulating objects or textures around the house:

  • Hammer ice cubes
  • Play with whipped cream
  • Have a texture scavenger hunt.

Use activities that make children use their hands:

  • Throw a ball
  • Make a paper mache mask
  • Feel different textured balls 


Use foods that need sucking or sipping motions:

  • An ice lolly.
  • Drink a smoothie through a straw

Experiment with foods that are opposites:

  • Soft versus crunchy
  • Sweet versus salty 
  • Hot versus cold

When cooking encourage them to explore various tastes:

  • Spicy foods
  • Dry foods


In the kitchen:

  • Match scents while the child is blindfolded. Aroma Dough blocks each have their own fragrances and can be squashed in the hand.
  • Cook with foods that have a strong scent.  Such as vinegar, garlic, mint, ginger, vanilla, lemon, or cocoa.

Go for a walk:

  • To smell the flowers or wet grass


Let children enjoy music:

  • Sing songs
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Play musical chairs
  • Listen to music

Play sound games:

So as you can see sensory play offers many benefits to all children, especially those who may have some difficulty with sensory integration.

By making sure the activities are fun and varied children will have the opportunity to develop these important skills. And let them be control of their own experiences and actions.

sensory activities

For more Information:

www.hirstwood.com - Run training courses for professions.  They also have a Sensory You Tube Channel packed full of ideas for families and schools.

Make your own play dough - from Action for Children

How to Make Playdough 

What do you get you mix flour, water, salt...? Play dough!

Check out this super simple recipe you can make for National Children’s Hour. Posted by Action for Children on Thursday, October 22, 2015

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