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Sensory Play is the Best!

Sensory Play is so very important. Until a few years ago I did not fully understand why and I am still learning about all of it's benefits for child development. A lot more could be said about sensory play and there are millions of resources out there to help you learn. I just wanted to give you a brief insight and encourage you to keep learning more - both because it's super interesting and because it is so beneficial to your child.

What is Sensory Play? Our brains use the senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste, movement, and balance to explore the world around us. Sensory play is any activity that stimulates your child’s senses. In addition to being really fun, sensory play is very important.

Why is Sensory Play so important? Sensory experiences help the brain develop necessary sensory processing capabilities. Through those experiences, children learn to explore and investigate the world around them and develop an understanding.

Sensory play encourages and supports language development, fine and gross motor skills, cognitive development (growing in understanding), problem solving skills, social interaction, and creativity among other things.

How does Sensory Play help with learning and school? When your child engages in a learning activity using multiple senses, they will learn far more from the experience and retain more information. Sensory play also helps children develop the ability to complete more complex learning tasks.

Sensory play can often also be effective in calming a child down, helping them learn to self-regulate.

Sensory play is a very good way to help young children strengthen their fine motor skills which are so needed for everyday tasks like tying their shoes, buttoning their shirts, and also for school activities like writing and drawing.

Children learn best through playing and sensory play is the best kind of play for young children, especially babies and toddlers, but even up to primary school age. Most children will naturally use their senses to play especially when little. We can encourage it even more by providing them with different experiences throughout their development.

What we love most about Sensory Play is how easy it is to engage with your child in this way at home, using everyday items that you find lying around. We encourage you to look around and actively think about how you can stimulate your child’s brain and provide them with a foundation for future success.

Here are some ideas to get your started:

  1. Fill a tray with rice, dry or wet pasta, beans, salt, etc. Let your child use their finger, stick, paintbrush, or scoop to explore with the different materials as well as make lines and "draw."

  2. Add a few cups, spoons, bath toys, and some food colouring to your child's bath water. Let them enjoy pouring and scooping and playing with all the "tools." You can choose a certain colour each time to teach them about colours.

  3. Go outside and let your child play with sticks, rocks, dirt, leaves. Explore by "drawing" in the dirt, sorting or counting leaves, making pictures with sticks and leaves and rocks, building a "home" for a little bug. And more!

  4. Playdough is one of my favourite sensory play tools. Soft, scented, colourful, and so much fun! You can use any tool, cookie cutter, toy, etc. with it. Use some stamps to make different pictures. Add some animal toys and create habitats with it. Make some "food" in the kitchen. And so much more!

  5. Fill up small bottles with different materials: rice, salt, beans, pasta, beads, buttons, etc. Close them tightly and then let your child listen to the different sounds they make when he/she shakes the bottles, talk about what they see in each bottle, etc.

  6. You can use a tray with salt or rice to teach them to form their letters and numbers using their finger or a paintbrush or stick.

  7. Use different coloured dry pasta or beans to learn to sort colours (a math concept). Use fingers or tweezers or a clothes peg to pick up each item and sort into piles by colour or shape or size.

  8. Find a deeper tray or container. Place small toys or everyday items at the bottom. Cover them with rice or sand or salt. Ask your child to "find" the treasures inside. When they find a "treasure" have them tell you the name, shape, or colour of the object.

  9. Fill up deflated balloons with different items using a funnel (your child can even help you do this!): beans, rice, cotton balls, pasta, salt, paper, etc. Tie the balloons shut and then have your child explore how each one feels and see if they can guess what is inside each one.

  10. Fill a plastic or metal tray with some plastic toys or objects. Fill up the tray with water and blue food colouring. Place the tray in the freezer until mostly frozen. Let your child play outside with the tray and try to dig through the ice to get the toys out. You can add some shaving cream on top as well if you want to add some fun. A water bottle with warm water is a good way to help them thaw the ice quickly.

We hope these ideas give you some inspiration for sensory play fun in your own home with things around you! So simple but so important.

If you're interested in other sensory play items and gift boxes that are ready to use, check out our Sensory Play resources.

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