Sensory Play and its Role in Learning Early Childhood Development

Humans make use of the five senses to make sense of the world around them. The complex learning process, which begins from infancy to early childhood, is a crucial stage in development. During this time, there should be plenty of opportunities for children to explore and use their senses, which is effectively done through sensory play.

Sensory play is natural for babies and young children. It makes more sense when you recognize how limited their skills are when they are in the process of understanding objects, experiences, and people. As we grow older, we tend to take for granted the importance of using our senses in our everyday lives, which makes it all the more vital to help children maximise learning through their senses.

Understanding the meaning of sensory play

If you ask someone about what they think sensory play means, it’s likely to get answers such as that are limited to the aspect of touch and texture. But the concept goes beyond that. Any activity where a young child uses any or all of his five senses with the help of external stimuli that further engages him to move and use his balance is considered sensory play. The only limitation here is the type of materials used and the resulting stimulus. Of course, considerations such as age and ability also matter. For example, sensory room equipment typically ranges from those appropriate for babies, toddlers, and preschool children.

If you’re a parent looking for a simple way to incorporate sensory play, the easiest way to actively engage your child is by allowing him to play outside and experience various sounds, smells, sights, and textures.

How does a child benefit from sensory play?

When you first come across the concept of sensory play, there’s certainly more to it than your first impression. Yes, playing is indeed fun for children, but at the same time, it helps the child develop a scientific method of observing and concluding. These activities are beneficial in brain development as the child begins to create connections and learn which information is useful.

For example, a child may be easily distracted by noise and conflicting sights around him. But as he becomes used to these external stimuli through sensory play, he will eventually learn to block out the noise and focus. Here are other reasons why child psychologists and child development experts recommend sensory play:

  • Develop and encourage stronger motor skills
  • Support the early development of language skills
  • Helps build neural connections in the brain
  • Naturally helps a child develop a problem-solving strategy
  • A variety of activities and stimuli allows a child to become more mindful of what goes on around him

If you observe a baby, you’ll notice that engaging in sensory play comes naturally to them. Parents should encourage and support these through activities and create a safe environment when the child can play and explore. For learning environments such as schools, preschool-aged children should also engage in sensory play to develop preparatory skills that will make formal learning more effective.