Getting Started with Sensory Play at Home


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 By Tara Matthews

Sensory play really is an important part of Early Childhood development, and today I would like to share some ideas with you on how you can get started at home.

Children use their senses to make sense of the world around them. Have you ever seen your child tasting, touching, smelling, listening, and watching during play experiences? This is them using their senses.

So what exactly is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is any activity that stimulates your child's sense of taste, touch, smell, movement, balance, sight, and hearing. If they are using these senses, then they are engaging in sensory play!

So why Sensory Play?

Research shows that by providing children with the opportunity to engage in 'sensory play' – we are providing them with the opportunity to build nerve connections in their brain pathways, which will lead to a child's ability to complete more complex learning tasks. When a child is born, their senses aren't yet fully developed. They mature over time as they move from babies, into toddlers and preschoolers. Each new experience they have with their different senses will build these nerve connections and in turn, will grow the architecture of the brain. So by providing them with sensory play, you are facilitating this growth.

Furthermore, sensory play encourages a child's language development, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and even their social skills. This type of play also helps develop and enhance a child's memory. So there really are so many benefits.

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How can you get started with Sensory Play at home?

When your child is at Little Village we will provide an opportunity for sensory play as part of our daily experiences and play, but while you are at home or on weekends you can too! It does not need to be complex or expensive, and you definitely don't need a lot of resources. You can get started with the things you have in your pantry cupboard.

In my house, some of the essentials that I use with my two and three-year-old are:

  • Containers for scooping and pouring. (Even takeaway containers work well here)
  • Ice cube trays
  • Scoops, tongs, spoons
  • A nice deep tray (We love the Kmart drinks tray)
  • Some bases such as rice, pasta, chickpeas, birdseed
  • Homemade playdough

Don't less the mess turn you off! Sensory play can get messy depending on what you decide to do with your child. But please don't let that turn you off from trying. This is why I have suggested a nice deep tray. We have a rule in our house that messy sensory play always happens in a tray. We also often take it outside if we can.

Some ideas you can try at home:

Rainbow Sensory Rice

Colour some rice using food colouring and a drop of vinegar. Allow it to dry and then let the fun begin. You can use this as a base for small world play. Add it to a bottle to make a shaker, or add tongs and spoons for your child to transfer and scoop.

Sensory Bottles for Babies

There are so many wonderful ideas on how you can create your own sensory bottles. Our favourite is water, baby oil, and fine glitter. The effect is magical. These are fabulous for babies to explore, but relaxing and calming for the older age groups too. My three-year-old is often found in her bedroom shaking her glitter bottles.

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Is it a solid or a liquid? Who knows. Try it for yourself and find out! We always do this outdoors and it is always a big mess. But the smile on the kid's faces makes it all worthwhile. Cornflour (2 cups) and water (1 cup) is all you need here plus a drop of food colouring. Mix and let the fun begin

Foamy Water

Whizz up some water and some shampoo (preferably child safe) in a blender to create a thick foam. Add some food colouring and pour it into containers for your child to explore. We often make up a few batches in different colours and its always a hit.

Sensory Play Small Worlds

If you hop on Google or Pinterest and search 'small world play' a million ideas will pop up. This can be child-led. For example: Create a world about a current interest. My daughter is crazy about frogs. So last week we created a small world with green jelly, rocks, and frogs. I used the opportunity to talk to her about frogs and taught her as she explored.

Make your own Playdough

Playdough is a wonderful simple base for sensory play. We use a simple recipe and I involve the kids in the making process. We then scent it with essential oils and colour it and the fun begins. You can add natural materials as a way for your child to explore texture and connect with nature.

I would love to see how you implement sensory play at home! Perhaps you can share a post with us on our Facebook page?