If you take a moment to think about the experiences that the children in your care enjoy the most, you would probably notice activities such as sand and water play or playdough at the top of the list. These open-ended, tactile experiences are quite rewarding and engaging for young children.
Not only are these types of activities a creative outlet, they also benefit children in several other ways. Here is a list of some of the benefits of sensory play:
- Strengthens and refines fine motor skills
- Builds language skills and vocabulary
- Promotes problem solving and cooperation
- Strengthens concentration and perseverance
- Provides an outlet for self-calming
- Helps children discover attributes of materials
- Promotes classification, sorting, and organization
- Provides an opportunity for both social interactions and quiet, solitary play
- Builds neural connections in the brain
- Encourages curiosity, observation, and exploration
For these reasons, and many others, it is important that sensory exploration be incorporated into early learning environments in multiple ways. This is a great opportunity to go beyond playdough and the sand table – to introduce novel materials that continue to pique children’s interests.
Keep in mind, children explore the world around them with all of their senses, not just through touch. Look for ways to incorporate sensory experiences that utilize the senses of taste, hearing, smell, sight, in addition to touch.
Sensory play need not be expensive; many recipes are available for sensory materials online. Be mindful of any allergies children may have when making your own sensory materials.
Also, be sure to share the importance of sensory exploration with families. Share photos of children engaged in sensory play and be sure to include descriptions of all of the skills children are practicing during their play. See our June blog for more ideas for communicating learning to families.
Check out the lists below for ideas that may be appropriate for the children in your group. Many of the ideas shared are appropriate for multiple age groups – so be sure to read through each list for ideas you can use in your environment.
For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE
For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE
For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE
For Director’s Corner Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE