What is Sensory Play? … and why is it important?

What is Sensory Play?

So, there’s been a TON of talk and posts about sensory play … especially around the blogosphere.  But if you don’t happen to work with or have young children, especially those with sensory issues you might not understand what sensory play is … and why it’s so important.

Sensory play includes any play that is sensory based.

The focus is learning through senses and to explore and manipulate its weight, color, texture, size, make comparisons, smell, hear what sounds they make, and (in some instances) taste. The purpose is not to create or tell a story … but to explore through one’s senses and learn about the world, one’s self, and one’s relationship to the world.

Sensory play could include sensory trays, bins, bottles, or bags. It could also include bath or sink play, as well as finger painting or play dough. Options for sensory play are wide open as long as it includes using sensory input.

Sensory play can be utilized at home, school, and play therapy.  It’s beneficial for all kids, whether they have sensory issues or not.  Some of the benefits of sensory play are the same as those for Sandtray. Playing and learning through our senses helps our brains develop and make strong neural connections. For most, there is something soothing about play that involves our senses. It may help some kids calm down … it may help other kids become more activated. Understanding the child’s sensory needs can help us determine what types of sensory play will be most beneficial at what times.

If you are an adult (parent, teacher, therapist) facilitating sensory play you must always use CAUTION!  Keep in mind the child’s developmental age (i.e. will the child put EVERYTHING in their mouth?), make sure you know if they have any allergies, and also be mindful of any sensitivities children may have to certain textures or smells.

 You should also always start facilitating sensory play by asking this question …

What senses does this PLAY engage?

Feel free to use the above image as a printable!  It would be great in classrooms and offices to help adults who work with kids be increasingly mindful about what types of play kids may need … and the POWER OF PLAY!!!

Be sure to check out my post, Sensory Play 101, for ideas on how to get started … and for more resources about sensory play:

Follow Laura Hutchison @ PlayDrMom’s board Ways to Play: Sensory on Pinterest.

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Laura Hutchison

Laura Hutchison (aka PlayDrMom) is a chubby kid turned competitive figure skater tween turned high school pom pon girl turned MSU Spartan turned grad student turned Mrs. HutcH turned Dr. turned Mom. She adores living in the Mitten, is addicted to Diet Coke, and firmly believes that ice cream is a main food group.

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