What's the big fuss about sensory play?

Ever wondered what the big fuss about sensory play is? Or are you already a raving fan of it with your little ones at home or at your pre-school, daycare or kindergarten?

When I started my journey of messy play with my three boys, it was out of necessity. That’s right, if I didn’t take some control of the situation, my two youngest kids were finding their own messy play activities by emptying the pantry, pulling all the pots and pans out of cupboards, ‘gardening’ in all our planters, and rubbing dirt into their hair. And this left me cleaning up the mess, all the time!

Instead, I decided to give them a ‘frame’ for their clear need for that kind of stimulation. Meanwhile, my oldest is not a sensory seeker, but a sensory avoider. He too benefitted from our new way of doing sensory play, because he could try new experiences and even found he liked some textures and activities he may have never gone near before.

So, what IS the big fuss about sensory play?

1) Kids need sensory stimulation to develop their brain and body. Research tells us two big things about sensory play. One is that if kids are deprived of sensory stimulation, they do not develop normally. This was sadly discovered the hard way in Romanian orphanages and other very dire situations in history.  The good news is that sensory play and environmental enrichment can help children thrive and develop optimally, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple 15-30 minute sensory activities each day can dramatically improve a child’s behavior and development in these areas:

  • Self regulation, laying a life-long foundation for coping with any challenge
  • Fine and gross motor skills – making it easier to complete tasks at home and later in school
  • Language – teaching new vocabulary through a hands-on process
  • Social skills - learning how to share and relay experiences
  • Creativity – allowing kids to guide their own play and tell stories
  • Pre-academic skills – sorting, counting, scooping, pouring and self-guided inquiry all lay a great foundation for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEM or STEAM) throughout life!

2) Kids generally love messy play. Which is great, because you won’t have to do too much convincing to get them to try it out. But I can be daunting for some parents because it can entail more clean up.

3) Sensory play CAN be really easy and inexpensive to do every day. That’s right, there are way to minimize the mess and maximize the benefits. Keeping sensory play to a consistent ‘frame’ such as a sensory table can really help keep the mess at bay and develop a routine of sensory play.

Check out our post on 5 Simple Sensory Play Ideas You Can Try Today and please share your spur-of-the-moment sensory play ideas so we can inspire each other!

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