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What You Need to Know About Preschool and Sensory Play

Bright childs drawing and paints on white background.Why is sensory play important? Your curious young child is ready to explore the world around them — every sight, smell, sound, taste, and texture. If you aren’t sure how sensory activities can help your child’s development, take a look at the whats, whys, and hows of this type of preschool play.

What Is Sensory Play?

Sensory play includes activities that allow the child to explore in hands-on ways through their senses. This type of play bridges preschool curricular areas and can fall under the science, art, music, pretend play, or motor areas.

Teachers, parents, and children can choose from many different sensory play activities, but the basic categories include:

  • Sight. These activities focus on what your child sees — such as art, everyday objects, or something targeted (colors, shapes, animals, or another theme).
  • Smell. What do different items smell like? Your child can experience the world through their nose.
  • Sound. Anything from music to street sounds is part of this category.
  • Taste. Your toddler puts everything in their mouth. Even though you’d prefer they stop this type of potentially risky behavior, in some cases taste is a way to make discoveries. These activities may include tasting different types of foods (salty, sweet) or making comparisons.
  • Feel. The sense of touch is a powerful way for young children to explore. These activities focus on different textures, such as smooth, bumpy, or rough.

From a see and feel finger paint project to a smell and taste kitchen science experiment, you can incorporate the senses into almost every area of your child’s early learning experience.

Why Is Sensory Play Beneficial?

What can your child get out of sensory play? These activities can boost your child’s development in many ways areas, including:

  • Language and communication. As your child explores through the senses, they’ll communicate their experiences. They can use new vocabulary words or complex sentence structures. They can also develop relational communication skills to share their experiences with other people like their parents, peers, and teachers.
  • Problem-solving. Sensory play allows the young child to explore, experiment, and solve basic problems. Your child will build critical-thinking skills as they make discoveries in their immediate environment.
  • Creativity. Sensory activities such as art and music provide plenty of opportunities for the child to explore their own creativity and use their imagination.
  • Motor skills. Some sensory activities (but not all) can foster fine and gross motor skills. Activities that include object manipulation can build fine (small) motor abilities, while music-based and creative movement options can boost gross (large) motor skills.

Along with the developmental benefits, sensory play can also act as a calming activity that helps children reduce anxiety.

How Do Preschools and Parents Use Sensory Play With Children?

Now that you know what sensory play is and why it’s important for your child, how do you use it? There isn’t just one type of sensory play. With multiple categories, you have plenty of options.

If you’re not sure where to start or you just want to learn more about how early childhood educators use these activities in the classroom, read on for some of the top ways to help your child engage in sensory play:

  • Hands-on art. Finger painting, sculpting, paper-mache, and any other “messy” art activity can engage a child through the senses of sight, touch, and sometimes smell.
  • Music. When children make or listen to music, they get the chance to explore the sense of sound.
  • Water play. These activities engage the child’s sense of touch, sight, and sound.
  • Kitchen science. Children can explore objects through the sense of touch, sight, smell, and taste.

These are only a few ways to use sensory play every day. Anything that’s child-safe and provides a way to explore through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch falls under the sensory umbrella.

Is your child ready for a new preschool experience? Contact Advantage Learning Center for more information.