There’s nothing quite like watching children explore the world around them. Instead of simply seeing things, kids are great at using all their senses, including touch and smell. One way to encourage this is through sensory play.
This type of open-ended, experimental play is a great way to engage their senses while also helping them develop important skills, like creativity and hand-eye coordination. Plus, sensory play can provide hours of fun for your little ones!
Whether you have a separate play area or are utilising another room in your house, this guide makes it easy to create a sensory play space filled with toys and activities your kids will love.
Create a designated sensory play space
This is obviously much easier if you have a spare room to convert to a playroom, however it is still doable even if you need to share your living room. A shared area also gives you the ability to keep an eye on them while letting them play independently.
The most important thing when creating a sensory play space is to make sure the area is safe. Choose somewhere where little hands can’t reach dangerous items, like cords or sharp objects, and keep their toys within easy reach.
When creating a special zone in your home for your kids to engage in sensory play, storage is your best friend – especially if you are carving out an area in your living room. Some boxes or baskets in a neutral colour will blend nicely into any space. If you’re creating a play zone in a shared space, use a rug to map out their play area and keep a few boxes of toys nearby. You could also add some comfortable floor cushions.
Keep the number of toys for sensory play to a minimum
One of the best things about sensory play is you don’t need much, making it a great activity for families on a budget. The goal of sensory play is to encourage open-ended exploration and let your child’s curiosity grow. Having less toys can actually keep kids engaged and playing for longer – an advantage if you are limited for space.
If you do have a large toy collection at home, consider keeping a few toys available for play, swapping out others kept in storage. This is a great way to help keep mess to a minimum, plus your kids will feel like they have a constant supply of new toys to play with. It’s a win, win!
Toys and household objects perfect for sensory play
Sensory play involves any activity that stimulates your kid’s senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, as well as movement and balance.
A great example of this are arts and crafts activities. They can get messy with finger painting or try to create a sculpture with a range of textures like feathers! Other toys that are great include things like wooden blocks, musical instruments, play dough or even pantry items like dried rice and pasta.
Even things like leaves and pinecones make excellent sensory play objects that help kids discover and experiment with the natural world around them.
Types of sensory play you can do anywhere
Another great thing about sensory play is that it can be done anywhere. Any part of your home can become a sensory play zone, just remember to protect the area if your kids will be getting their hands dirty.
Here are some sensory play activities your child can do anywhere.
Transform your kitchen table into a sensory play zone
Finger painting is a great way for kids to practise coordination and experiment with touch and sight. It’s a classic sensory play activity that you and your kids can have fun with at your kitchen table.
All you need is some old newspaper to protect your table, some pots with different paint colours and some butcher’s paper.
Transform a sandpit into a sensory play zone
Experimenting with sand is another fun sensory activity that doesn’t require a lot of space.
Step it up a notch with rainbow sand. You can buy rainbow sand from a toy store or make your own using food colouring. Give your kids some old plastic bottles, a funnel and spades. They’ll love experimenting with mixing the colours and letting their imagination run wild!
Burying toys in a sandpit is a great activity for kids to experiment with their sense of touch. They’ll love digging around to discover what’s buried there.
If you don’t have a sandpit at home, you can use an old tub or some old boxes to create this sensory play area.
Create a sensory bin
Similar to a sandpit, a sensory bin is an easy way to encourage your little one to explore a range of objects. All you need is a small tub or container and different objects like leaves, rocks and sands. You can also use foods like rice and pasta, as well as tools like scoops and small toys to bury and find.
Make sure you clean the items and supervise them, as kids will often explore with their mouths!
Sensory play activities are easy and often only require a few items. Encourage your child to get messy and engage their senses.