"For I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in You...You make it Beautiful Somehow"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why is Sensory Play Important?

Why is sensory play important for children? I am sure that you have seen sensory play ideas all over Pinterest or other blogs lately. You may be wondering...what is the big deal any way? Is it really important or even helpful? 

Here's the deal....

Children learn through their senses. Since day one, a baby will use their, taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight to learn about the world around them. A little baby crawling around on the floor, comes upon a new item they have never seen before. They immediately pick it up, maybe look it over for a second, then stick it straight into their mouth. This is how they gather and process new information about their world. 

Let's say you want to teach your toddler about trees. You sit them down at your table and tell them...trees are tall. Trees are green. Trees have leaves. Trees stumps are bumpy. Maybe you even show them a picture. Your child will hear what you are saying and may even be able to repeat back to you what you have said. But no meaningful connection has been made. What does a tree feel like? What does it smell like? How does bumpy feel? What do you mean by tall? Is it taller than me? Than mommy or daddy? Instead, by taking them outside to look, feel, taste (if safe), and smell a tree you can then engage in conversation with your child. Allow them to touch the bark while you explain bumpy. Let them pick up leaves and crumple them. Tell them to listen to the sound the leaves make when they crunch. 

Though Sensory Play Children can:
-Make meaningful connections
-increase vocabulary
-be creative
-learn to use the scientific process. They question, they investigate, and they draw conclusions.
-improve fine motor skills
-improve gross motor skills
-develop cognitive skills 
-engage in pretend play (a simple water sensory bin can allow a child to bathe a baby doll. Sand can allow a child to "bake")
-learn self control...children can be taught an appropriate way to play with items (no flinging sand onto the kitchen floor)
-learn about themselves and how their body works

Okay, now that you know how wonderful and beneficial sensory play can be for you child,  where do you start? 

Sensory bins are a wonderful way to introduce your child to different items, textures, colors, and smells. I looooooove all of the sensory bin ideas I have been seeing all over Pinterest and others blogs. They are so many amazing, and fun ideas that the options are endless. 

Use what you have available in your home! 

You don't need a fancy, expensive sand/water table in order to create a sensory bin for your child. I have used several different things in our home...
-cardboard box
-large bowl
-baby bath tub
-plastic storage bins (I especially love ones with a lid so I can simply put the lid on and store it away for later use. That = no clean up!)

What do I put in it?

Absolutely anything and everything! 
Check your pantry. You can use flour, rice, pasta and beans.
Check your backyard. You can use grass, rocks, leaves, sand, and tree bark.
Check your own craft supplies. You can use buttons, ribbons, and beads.
Check your bathroom: Shaving creme, and hair gel. (make sure that your child is not allergic to any chemicals that might be in any of these items first. You will also want to make sure these don't go in their mouth or near their eyes.)

This could honestly go on and on and on. 

Today I am going to share with you one super simple sensory bin we have done lately that cost us $0. Recently, we had a package shipped to us from a friend. Inside it was stuffed with packing peanuts. Jack was instantly interested in them. I decided to save them and make a sensory bin. I simply dumped them into our newborn baby bath, and handed jack another bucket and some measuring cups. 

At first I didn't explain or say anything. I simply let him discover on his own for a bit. He really enjoyed, scooping, and dumping the peanuts. But his favorite...

was crushing them. He loved to smash them and break them apart. 

After a little independent discovery, I jumped in and started talking to him about what he was seeing, feeling, and even hearing. We talked about the fact that they were pink, and bumpy, and had ripples in them. (in addition you can talk about hot and cold, or dry and wet, rough or smooth etc)

We smashed and broke a few more. Then I had him hold one up to his ear while I tore it in half. He was very excited and intrigued with this new sound and continued to crack them next to his ears. We then talked about how it sounded crunchy. 

Jack then decided it was time to get in the middle of it all. It's the best way to explore any way, right? Just dive right in! 

He squished them under his feet for a while, and we talked again about crunchy, and scratchy. We he would squish them under his feet he would hold his hand to his ear and say "ssshhh listen!"

(What a goober. See what I mean. Even my 2yr old wanted to stick something in his mouth.)

We tried to let Luke in on the fun, however, he is big into putting everything into his mouth. I let him explore them for a few minutes any way, but ended up giving him something else to do after about the fifth time he tried to eat one. 

Make sure that with any sensory bin you do, that it is age appropriate for you child. If they still stick everything into their mouth in an attempt to eat it, then you will want to be extremely careful with anything that could be a choking hazard. (I will share a sensory type of activity that I do with Luke tomorrow!)

There are many beautiful and elaborate sensory bin ideas out there. They may have several items mixed together or have specific themes. While I think they are wonderful- and I do them for my kids when possible- a lot of times it is just not in our budget to buy a bunch of stuff for a sensory bin. 

A simple sensory bin can be just as effective as a fancy one. What do you have on hand? What can you mix together to create a new texture, look, sound, or smell?  Do you have several items with the same color but different textures? Throw them all together in a bin and talk about each texture, while helping to emphasize that specific color. Don't think that you have to make it super complicated or fancy. Recycle a few things. Keep it simple. 

If you do need to purchase a few things, the Dollar Tree is a wonderful place to buy items to put into your sensory bins for cheap. Rocks, sea shells, moss, feathers, etc. Get creative and think outside the box. 

What kind of sensory play do your children enjoy? 

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue" Proverbs 31:26


  1. my grandson whose not quite two yet loves our homemade playdoh...we play in the rocks...dig in the dirt...fill up a bucket of water and scoup...see what floats...what sinks...play in a sink of water...he helped me plant my okra and green bean seeds...he loves to rub the bark on trees...he's real into seeing if things are heavy or light..

    1. I love that! Teaching our children doesn't have to cost a lot of money or be difficult. Sometimes the best learning opportunities comes from the simplest of things...playing in the dirt, in a bowl of water, or banging pots and pans on the kitchen floor. As always thanks for your comment Deb!

  2. This is a great post on the importance of sensory play...I have a similar one in the works, but I'm not sure I could say it any better! I just found your blog via Living Life Intentionally, and I'm about to become your newest follower. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Love this post! I have a similar one in the works, but I'm not sure I can say it any better. We do oodles of sensory play at our house...I believe I enjoy it just as much as my little ones do! Stopping in from Living Life Intentionally. Great job!



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