The benefits of sensory play are incredibly important for all ages of development. Setting aside a little space in your home for a sensory bin is an amazing way to help your child learn through play.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is essentially any activity that engages most or all of your child’s five senses: smell, sight, touch, hearing, and taste. Other important skills like balance, body awareness, and movement are also developing during this type of play.
The Importance of Sensory Play
Sensory play can have a positive impact on your child’s development. As they utilize these 5 senses, they are building important cognitive, communication, and self-regulation skills to help them interact with the world around them.
These skills will also help your child develop the school readiness skills needed for them thrive in the academic and social world.
Whether your child is playing with dry pasta, sand, or water, providing them with simple sensory opportunities is a great way to help your child grow and learn to their maximum potential.
Here is a great article on easy fall sensory bins!
7 Benefits of Sensory Play for Child Development
The advantages children gain through this type of play are very important for their overall development.
1. Language Skills
When children play with different sensory materials, they tend to talk out loud about what they are doing, seeing, and experiencing. This is a perfect opportunity to communicate with your child to improve their language and social skills.
During sensory play, talk to your child and expand on what they are telling you. Try using descriptive words like smooth, lumpy, slimy, sticky, cold, or hot. Improving your child’s vocabulary using these simple words is a great way to help develop their oral language.
2. Motor Skills
When children manipulate and play with sensory materials like sand, pasta, or rice, they are strengthening the small muscle groups in their hands. These motor skills are referred to as fine motor movements and they are incredibly important for helping your child do certain tasks like buttoning up their jacket or tying their shoelaces.
When children play with larger sensory materials like bubble wrap, they are exercising larger muscle groups. This is known as gross motor movements and it helps children with big motor skills like skipping, jumping, and climbing.
3. Body Awareness and Balance
These two skills are very similar to the motor skills we mentioned above, but body awareness is technically referred to as proprioception, and balance is known as vestibular.
Sensory play is great for helping children to develop their proprioception sensory input. As children become more aware of their body positioning in space, they are able to do things like touching their nose with their eyes closed, or draw without breaking the crayon.
This type of play is also essential for developing a child’s vestibular system, a major sensory system responsible for balance and hand-eye coordination. As this system develops, motor movements tend to improve.
4. Cognitive Development
A major benefit of sensory play is that it encourages children to play, explore, and discover new things. When children have to learn and figure out new things they are exercising their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Both of which are incredibly important for cognitive development.
When children play using their 5 senses, they develop nerve connections and neural pathways within their brain and body. Research shows that children have the greatest patterns for learning, thought, and creativity when the playtime experience uses all of the senses.
This is also a great cognitive activity for children with attention disorders as sensory play has been shown to improve a child’s attention span and working memory.
5. Social-Emotional Development
Activating a child’s senses through play can be a powerful tool for social-emotional development. Through this type of play, children learn to regulate and control their emotions and behaviors which is a very important set of skills that children need to learn in order to be school ready.
Sensory play is also important for regulating a child’s arousal levels. It can actually calm a child who tends to be hyperactive, or it can stimulate a child who is underactive.
By strategically engaging your child’s 5 senses, research shows you can successfully increase positive emotions while simultaneously decreasing negative emotions.
6. Math and Science Concepts
Including props in your child’s sensory bin is a great way to develop their early math and science skills.
Adding things like measuring cups, spoons, and funnels into their play will help them gain an understanding of certain concepts like weight, volume, and spatial sense.
If you add different-sized colorful pom poms, they will begin learning how to count, compare, and group things together based on the similarities and differences they are observing.
Lastly, sensory play is an amazing way to expand your child’s thinking and creativity level.
A study analyzed how children’s creativity is affected when playing and interacting with sensory materials. They found that the children who played with salt dough prior to doing a craft used more colors and pieces of tissue paper compared to those children who did not engage in the sensory play.
When children are having fun and using their 5 senses they are more likely to use their creativity and imagination during play!
Sensory play can be as easy as giving your child a bucket of water with some kitchen utensils!
The benefits they will gain from simple playtime activities like this are worth a little mess!