Why is Sensory Play Important?

young boy playing with legos at home

It may seem like just fun and games, but play is a crucial way for your tykes to learn, explore their environment, and create opportunities to build and develop skills. The eight senses play a huge role in both cognitive development and language development as they interpret and process information their senses provide. 

The 8 sensory systems:

  1. Visual — Lookin’ good! This system is responsible for seeing. This helps us to process information such as an object’s color or shape, where they are located, and whether they are stationary or moving. 
  2. Auditory — Our system that is responsible for hearing. This helps us to process information such as the volume of sound. Concerts sure would be boring without this one.
  3. Olfactory — Our system that is responsible for smell. Thank this one next time you smell grandma’s cooking.
  4. Gustatory — Our system that is responsible for taste. This helps us to process what we ingest, recognize safe and unsafe foods, as well as process tastes such as sour, sweet, bitter, etc. We all love food, and it’s thanks to this system!
  5. Tactile —Thank this one if you ever narrowly avoid an injury, because it’s responsible for touch. This helps us to process input that may tell us about pressure, temperature, pain, etc.
  6. Vestibular — “We all fall down” would ring a bit too true without the vestibular system. It’s responsible for balance and where our bodies are oriented in space as well as how our body is moving within that space. 
  7. Proprioceptive — Our system that is responsible for recognizing the location, movement, and position of the muscles and joints within our body in relation to each other. Without the proprioceptive system, there would be a whole lot of clumsy people in the world.
  8. Interoceptive — We wouldn’t be so high on the food chain without this one. It’s responsible for the physiological and physical condition of our bodies. This includes processing information from our organs such as hunger or thirst. 

Sensory playing doesn’t have to include all the senses to be beneficial! However, there are plenty of opportunities to utilize sensory play at home! Get creative with activities and items. Many can be kept fresh simply by changing the color of the tools that are used with it! Add spices or essential oils! 

Sensory Play Ideas:

  • Water play — Who didn’t love splashing around when they were little?
  • Nature — So many possibilities! Nature offers plenty of sights, sounds, and textures that will pique curiosity and create memories. Since it’s fall, the crunch of leaves under your child’s feet is an added bonus!
  • Dried pasta — Use the multicolored kind for extra stimulation!
  • Dried beans or rice — Running your fingers through them is just so satisfying on the hands and ears!
  • DIY play dough with spices — The feel of the playdough between the fingers 
  • Pom poms — Talk about texture! This exercise will feel like a party.
  • Cooking together — Pick any recipe and it’s bound to provide a plethora of sensory experiences, culminating in a delicious finale!
  • Gardening — Kids love to get dirty already, so why not put that tendency to a wonderful use?
  • Washing the cars — There’s water. There’s sun. There’s fun!
  • Food play — Bring on the dinosaur nuggets! It’s an adventure and a meal in one.
  • Bath time — Splish splash! Don’t forget the rubber ducky.
  • Obstacle courses with items around the house — Not only does this build the senses, but it provides some great exercise!
  • Sensory experiences — These can include nature walks, going to the playground, visiting the waterpark (weather permitting), and sledding in or shoveling snow.
  • Senses game — point out things you see, hear, and smell.