WHAT is sensory play?
Put simply, sensory play is play that specifically engages the senses. Children learn and retain more information when they are able to use their senses (touch, smell, taste, see, or hear). You may notice that babies tend to bring objects to their mouths quite often, and toddlers feel the need to touch everything! That is their way of processing something new!
Sensory play can be as simple as splashing in a tub of water, to creating beautiful sensory bins. There is no right or wrong way to do sensory play, and while I love creating beautiful sensory bins for my daughter, they aren’t always pretty! Sometimes it is as simple as some play dough on her table, or some water with bubbles. Sensory play doesn’t always have to involve a ton of prep work! Kids tend to love the easy sensory play equally as much as the bins that take lots of time to create.
What are the benefits of sensory play?
There are so many benefits of sensory play, but I just wanted to summarize a few big ones:
- Sensory play supports language development, motor skills, cognitive growth, problem solving and social skills.
- Sensory play can aid in the control of emotions and is a great way to calm anxiety or frustration in children.
- Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways. This leads to a child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
- It helps children to learn sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, wet, etc.)
- It gives parents a moment to drink their coffee hot and without a child crawling up their body.
Basic Supplies to get started:
A Bin or Sensory table
I use the Flisat Table from Ikea for most of my sensory play activities and it has been one of the best purchases we have made. But, you can just as easily use a plastic storage container and achieve the same results! I recommend a shallow container so that your little one can easily reach the contents, etc.
a sensory base
There are honestly endless sensory base options to choose from! But some great beginner bases are water, dry or cooked pasta, water beads, dry black beans, dry cereal, play dough, or sand.
You can check out this post for more sensory base ideas: 10 Sensory Bases That Your Child Will Love
Now that you have your base, your child will need some tools to make their sensory play extra fun and engaging! Basically tools that will help them scoop, pour, stir, and dig. There are some really great sensory tools you can purchase, but you can also find a lot of great options at a local dollar store or even in your own kitchen. Some examples are: spoons, funnels, measuring cups and spoons, bowls, droppers, sponges, etc.
Loose Parts & Extras
While not necessary, loose parts definitely add that extra layer of fun to sensory play! Think pom-poms, animal or people figures, beads, flowers, toilet paper rolls, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, play cars, etc.
Ready to get started with your own sensory play activities? Shop all of our favorite sensory items now to get started with your very own sensory bin! I highly recommend purchasing items that are open ended and able to be used multiple times or in a variety of different ways. I made sure to include lots of great options on my “favorites” list. Check it out below: