Sensory Play for your preschooler and tips to make it super easy

Sensory play to save the day! If your child is having an off day, they are; grumpy, tired, overexcited or overemotional sensory play or going for a walk can literally reset them and get you back on track again!

Not only is sensory play great at restarting your toddler is helps your child on pretty much every single level of development

Within this post you will learn;

  • the basics of sensory play
  • what counts as sensory play
  • what it’s benefits are
  • my top tips to making it less daunting
  • what to do if you child doesn’t like getting messy

What is sensory play?

We have senses 5 main senses; touch, slight, taste, smell, and hearing. As well as 2 we don’t usually hear about; Movement (your muscles and joints) and balance (your inner ear).

We use all of these senses to help us through day to day life, like smelling the bread to make sure it’s ok to eat or knowing when something is too hot for us to pick up.

Sensory play is any form of play that uses one or more of our senses while taking part in the activity whether that’s smelling herbs, squeezing play dough or hanging upside down on some monkey bars.

So with that in mind sensory play can be clean or messy as long as one or more senses are used within the play

Some ideas of clean play include

  • Mirrors
  • Lights
  • Bubbles
  • Textured materials

Some ideas for messy play include;

  • Gloop
  • Paint
  • Baking
  • Dry rice or lentils

What are the benefits of sensory play?

It supports brain development – our brains are full of nerves that are connected in various ways. Research has shown that sensory play helps to create new connections between nerves but also strengthens the connections that are already there. Which improves our children’s memory and their ability to complete more complex tasks, for example; Ayla was picking up my bottles of deodorant on the side she picked one up and then the other and said “Mummy this one is empty” handing me the lightest bottle. Now I have never said anything like “this is empty so its lighter than the full one” but through sensory play; filling and emptying containers she has learnt that if something is empty it is lighter than if something is full.

It builds on their knowledge of language – Sensory play allows you to use words and phrases in the moment, so as they are tipping the rice out of a pot you can use words such as “tip”, “Empty now”, “Full again”. Using words as your child is doing something that they are showing interest in allows them to understand how to use that word or phrase.

It develops their fine motor skills through pushing, pulling, and squeezing materials which helps to develop the bone structure and muscles within their hand which allows them to hold a pen more easily when is comes to writing as well as the independent skills of doing their buttons up or threading beads.

It supports gross motor skills and their hand eye coordination as they make marks using big hand movements and pour things from one container to another.

It builds on their problem solving skills as they understand through trial and error what ideas work and what ones don’t which in turn works on their scientific knowledge.

It promotes self regulation – Being able to control their emotions is a skill children learn just like any other skill. Sensory play actually helps to calm children down allowing them to self regulate, and to be honest it helps us too! If you haven’t run your hands through dry rice then I would definitely recommend it, it’s very therapeutic! Pretend play also helps children to manage their feelings because they can play out what is going through their head, because sensory play is so open ended it’s a great way to help support pretend play.

4 tips to making messy play less daunting!

  • Start off simple – Don’t dive right in with the shaving foam! Unless you are feeling really brave. Start of with water or some dry so the clean up is easy and relatively easy to tidy up
  • Have everything you need – Make sure you have everything you need within reaching distance such as; A towel, wet flannel, your phone to take pictures or anything else you might need. You don’t want to be running around the house looking for something when your little one is really messy!
  • Do it in the bathroom if you can – Anything that can go down the drain I do in the shower! It just makes the clean up really easy but if you can’t do that make sure you path is clear to the bathroom if you need it, including opening any doors you might need to get through!
  • Make sure you have time and you aren’t clock watching – You don’t want the pressure of having to do the school run or making dinner. So make sure you have a good amount of time to play together so you aren’t worrying that you need to start dinner in 10 minutes and you still need to tidy up before that.

My child doesn’t like getting messy

I have a lot of parent talk to me about the fact their little one just doesn’t like to have messy hands! And that’s absolutely fine, we can work with that. These are the tips I always give and 9 times out of 10 they work!

·       Start with things that will brush right off their hands, cereal or water. Dry rice and lentils are great too if they are no longer putting things in their mouth.

·       Make it simple and just add scoops and bowls

1.       Because then you haven’t spent ages setting it all up so you won’t be disappointed

2.       So they don’t have to touch the materials if you don’t want to

·       Take the pressure off, let them explore it at their own pace

·       Get stuck in yourself so they can see that it’s safe and ok to play with.

Let me know if this has helped you! Ayla and I absolutely love sensory play, it keeps Ayla busy for long than any other activity does in fact.

Happy Playing! Emily xx

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