Sensory play is a crucial aspect of how your child explores the world around them. By early elementary school, your budding student will be able to tell you all of the senses from memory—sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. While they are still learning in early childhood, try to ensure opportunities for them to learn through each of the five senses.
Why is exploring with the senses so important?
All children can benefit from sensory play, especially those with sensory integration difficulties which includes many autistic children. Children explore the world with their senses. This is why babies put everything in their mouths and start learning to make interesting noises with the mouths such as “clucking.”
Isn’t sensory play just letting them touch things?
Most people think of sand and water tables when they think of sensory play. But sensory play isn’t just touch—it’s all of the senses. Let your child enjoy guessing what sounds are or where they are coming from. Provide different scents of all different types such as freshly cut grass, vinegar, campfire, and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Have fun with blindfolded taste tests between different drinks. Sensory play that involves opportunities for each of the five senses gives your child a way to examine, discover, categorize, and make sense of the world around them as well as encourages vocabulary and language development.
Sensory Play Ideas:
Sensory Bag—In a bag that can’t be seen through, put an assortment of different items with different textures. Then have your child reach in and find an item. They should leave it within the bag, but use their sense of touch to discern what it is.
Sensory Dirt—Mix 1 box of baking soda, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 2 leftover Keurig K-cups or dry coffee (add 1 Tbsp to dry coffee) and put into an empty large plastic box (ones that come with snap-on lids work great. If you don’t have coffee, add more cocoa. Provide trucks, plastic bugs, small containers, a watering can, and more items for their enjoyment.
DIY Bath Paint—Mix unscented shaving cream with food coloring in small cups and provide them with a small paintbrush.
DIY Scented Playdough—Mix together 1/2 cup salt, 2 cups flour, 2 Tbsp oil, 2 Tbsp cream of tartar, 1.5—2 cups boiling water, and optionally a few drops of glycerin for shine and smoothness. Chocolate Mint dough is made by mixing in cocoa powder, a drop of peppermint oil, and green glitter. Coffee dough is made by adding some coffee granules and substituting about 1/4 cup of the water for coffee.
Other Month of the Young Child blogs:
- Week 1 - Physical - Children on the Move
- Week 2 - Social-Emotional - Building Trust & Healthy Relationships
- Week 4 - Language & Literacy - Communication