The Learning Unbound mamas all agree — one of our favorite ways to help our kids learn is through sensory play: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting things. This is why sensory play activities are such a big part of our learning kits and unit study curriculum. Keep reading to find out the benefits of sensory play activities, as well as some suggestions for kids who avoid sensory play.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play activities engage the five senses — touch, sound, taste, smell and sight. Young children are especially curious about everything around them, and so sensory play activities let them explore and learn by discovering new things.
Benefits of Sensory Play Activities
Many benefits come from sensory play activities! Sensory experiences can support balance and body awareness, language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, visual-spatial and emotional skills, social interaction, and more!
Ideas for Sensory Play Activities
We encourage our own kids to engage in sensory play activities often and they love learning this way. There are SO many ways to engage kids in sensory play such as:
- Listening to music
- Playing instruments
- Touching different textures (play dough, slime, sand, dried rice and beans, etc.)
- Creating arts and crafts
- Cooking and preparing food
- Going on a nature walk
- Digging in the garden
- Jumping on a trampoline
- and so much more!
My Child Does Not Like Sensory Play
Sensory play is important, but some aspects can be scary or confusing to kids. For example, one of my kids hates getting paint on her hands, especially when the project suggests painting directly on her hand for a handprint. One time I asked her why and she replied, “because it’s messy!”.
Children who don’t like sensory play will let you know in a number of ways. Some children will overreact by crying, whining, kicking, screaming or running away.
Underreaction to sensory play is a less noticeable sign that your child doesn’t like it. They may not move, completely ignore the activity, hardly engage, or simply walk away.
Take note of any activities that your kiddo doesn’t like or refuses to participate in. Then, instead of forcing your child to participate, ask them why they don’t like it. Listen, and then see if there is another way to participate.
Suggesting alternative tools for sensory play activities can help them gain the benefits of sensory play without causing stress or potential embarrassment. (For example, a child who doesn’t like painting her hands could trace the shape of her hand and then fill it in with paint using a brush, or wear disposable gloves.)
Should I Contact a Doctor?
If your adjustments don’t work, consider talking to your child’s doctor. While avoiding sensory experiences sounds like an intimidating issue, a doctor can help come up with ideas to overcome and adapt. After evaluating your child, the doctor may recommend occupational therapy or another course of action.
Sensory play is important for a child’s development. If you need help figuring out sensory play activities — come hang out in our Facebook group where lots of ideas are shared. Or check out one of our sensory-based learning kits! We can’t wait to play with you!