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How Sensory Play Helps Your Child's Development: A Parent's Guide

March 31, 2023 3 min read

How Sensory Play Helps Your Child's Development: A Parent's Guide

Sensory play, whether it's taking in sights, smells and sounds in nature or playing with everyday materials like playdough or paper, encourages healthy development for all children. 

What is sensory play?

Sensory play is an activity or experience designed to stimulate and challenge children's senses of sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing.  Through sensory play, kids learn about their environment while exploring it through these five senses.  Sensory play can take many forms such as using different textures, materials and techniques to stimulate each sense. 

Why is sensory play important for child development?

Sensory play is important for child development because it provides kids with fun activities to support their cognitive, social and emotional skills. 

Through sensory activities, kids develop social skills as they collaborate, speak and share their discoveries with others.  They learn how to pay close attention to body signals and non-verbal cues, take turns solving problems and communicate effectively.

Sensory activities also promote creativity and imagination! 

Sensory play activities recipe book

What are the benefits of sensory play and sensory activities for kids?

Sensory play is an integral part of child development and essential for kids of all ages.  In addition to sensory benefits, sensory play also encourages creativity and problem-solving skills.  It helps build connections in the brain, sharpens motor skills and calms anxious kids.  Studies have even found that sensory play increases attention spans!

So, whichever sensory activity you choose, sensory play offers mental and physical benefits for children.  These include;

  • Improving focus and concentration
  • Strengthening fine-motor skills
  • Developing gross motor skills
  • Increasing cognitive and problem-solving capabilities
  • Refining social skills
  • Supporting emotional development

Touch, taste, hearing, seeing and smell are all fundamental to learning.  They help children make sense of their environment while encouraging exploration and discovery.  That’s why sensory play can be used as an introduction to Science, Art and many other subjects.  Sensory activities can aid scientific experiments, maths concepts, art theory and even language development. 

Sensory play ideas recipe book

Examples of sensory play ideas for kids of all ages

Sensory activities support children’s development by allowing kids of all ages to experiment and learn through hands-on play.  Ideas for sensory play activities may include colour-sorting, colour-mixing, comparing light and dark, modelling or sculpting, building or construction and exploring sound.  Ideas for sensory play are limitless and can be found at home or in nature.

Sensory play for toddlers and pre-schoolers

Examples of simple sensory play ideas for little kids include playing with sand, ice, jelly, leaves, pasta and rice.  These activities help children learn about new textures and tastes in a safe way.  You can also make a range of sensory play activities, such as calming bottles and sensory bins, using everyday household items.  Find ideas to spark your child’s imaginations in this free printable book.

Sensory play for kids of all ages

Kids love modelling and manipulating materials such as playdough, stress putty and slime.  Step-by-step instructions for these super-fun sensory materials can be downloaded in our FREE recipe book: 10 Super-fun Sensory Recipes.  Packed with quick and easy ideas, it’s a handy resource to make playtime and playdates a breeze! 

How does sensory play help kids and adults with special needs?

Sensory play can be especially calming and beneficial for children with Autism, anxiety, ADHD and learning disabilities.  Sensory activities can also support adults with dementia and special needs.

When selecting sensory activities for people with special needs, it’s important to consider their age, abilities and skill levels.  For example, kids on the autism spectrum may thrive with activities that involve sorting or counting, whereas children with anxiety issues may find mixtures such as Stress Putty, Moon Sand or Cloud Dough calms their senses.  With sensory play recipes such as Playdough and Slime, you can add scented extracts, small beads and other craft elements for extra stimulation.

For children who are sensitive to light or sound and require greater interaction with their hands, you could try finger paint or coloured Oobleck.  Just remember to be gentle when introducing new materials in case the child is hypersensitive. 

Sensory play recipes

Sensory play is key for children’s development and is especially beneficial for kids and adults with special needs.  Sensory activities help with fine motor skills, gross motor abilities, language capabilities and self-confidence.  Put simply, sensory play is essential for learning!

To inspire you try sensory play, we're offering you our 10 Super-Fun Sensory Recipes book.  Packed with quick and easy recipes, this is the perfect resource for creating educational and engaging play experiences.  Whether you're looking to enhance playtime at home or make playdates a breeze, this recipe book is the perfect tool for keeping kids busy!


Download your FREE recipe book!


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