What is Sensory Play
Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child's senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Sensory activities and sensory tables facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore.
Foot painting in the ORANGE EASEL studio
Why Sensory Play is Important
Toddlers and preschoolers need MANY MANY opportunities to get hands-on. We learn through our senses...the more the better. Feel it. Hear it. Smell it. See it.
Sensory play allows for self-discovery. The open-endedness of it encourages imaginative play and problem solving. Adults may not see "the point" of this type of play, since nothing is created or produced. The child dictates the play that happens based on what he or she NEEDS to learn...cause-and-effect, the concept of filling-and-emptying, small world reenactment, etc.
Manipulating the sensory materials and tools also develops motor skills needed for future writing. Scooping and pouring requires core strength, shoulder stability and wrist rotation.
Field Corn in a sensory bin
Rules of Sensory Play
They aren't many. There's no WRONG way to play in a sensory bin! Let the play evolve. It will be different with different children and ages.
Scooping and pouring is just the beginning. Add figurines and watch the imaginative play that happens. Rice becomes dinosaur food. Feed corn becomes the "water" that fills the toy swimming pool.
"Keep it in the tub" isn't one of our rules. It takes quite a bit of skill to "keep it in the tub" and it's not realistic to expect that of our little hands who are JUST learning to scoop and pour with precision. A broom and a shop vac make quick work of clean up (bonus: most kiddos love using the shop vac)
A Special note For big kids
It's easy to think that this type of play is only for the five-and-under crowd, but we encourage you to rethink that. Older children enjoy this type of play JUST as much as the little ones. Give them permission to explore and play. They are still kids too.
Ideas For Sensory Play
For specific sensory play ideas check out our "Sensory Play" Pinterest Board: