Sensory Play – Why It’s So Important and How You Can Do It Too.

By Erin Hulslander | Power Of Play

Jun 03

If you follow a mama on Instagram then you have probably read, have seen or heard them talk about sensory play.

It seems to be popping up everywhere lately and has been a huge hit in my household. It is super easy to set up a sensory play table and I can almost guarantee if you’re reading this post, you have all the materials you will ever need to set one up. For those of you who are new to the sensory play topic, here is a little oversight as to what it means and why it is important for our young children (older kids have fun with it too) to engage in this type of play. Sensory play helps our toddlers learn to explore and investigate the different types of materials that can be used during play. It helps children use their different senses, helps build up their nerve connections while also developing their fine motor skills.

There are many ways to do sensory play. In my house, we like to fill our table up with rice or garbanzo beans. I dye our rice and beans to be the colors of the rainbow. It’s simple to do this – and all you need are baggies, food coloring, and rice or beans. Hours of play happens when the rice and beans are at the table. Construction vehicles usually make their way to the table and my son spends hours at the construction site. We also use a form of kinetic sand at our table and make sandcastles. The ideas are endless when it comes to sensory play.
The sensory table is also used for arts and crafts time. Cutting up pieces of paper and gluing them onto paper to make a picture is also a great way for children to play and use fine motor skills.

Like I said, the possibilities are endless when it comes to sensory play. Garbanzo beans and rice are just the start. Using a form of kinetic sand, or water beads also provides hours of fun and imaginative play. Kids do not even realize they’re learning when they are playing this way. They do not even notice the change that is happening inside their minds when they play with sensory items. Touch, hear, smell and sometimes taste are the main reasons why we do sensory play. Sensory play allows children to be able to feel different texture types, different smells of the objects being used, and when you use items like beans, you can test their hearing ability by asking what kind of sounds they hear when the beans hit the bin. So much learning goes on during these lessons, but children just think they are playing. It is a fun and easy way to build their vocabulary and motor skills. I also like to hide alphabet magnets in the beans or rice and have the children use magnets to fish them out.

52 Wooden 
Alphabet Magnets

Mighty Magnets

You do not need anything fancy to create sensory bins. If you have just clear plastic bins in your home you are ready to go with setting up your activities. I bought the activity table that Ikea sells, but you can also use the activity table at Toyology Toys and make the fun go anywhere your child wants. If you have some rice you can divide up however many colors you want to have and once they’re dry you can play without any messes from the food coloring. A word of warning though- rice play can get messy but nothing a vacuum can’t pick up so do not worry and just let your kid have some fun! I cannot wait to discover more ways to play this summer.

Sand n' Splash
Activity Table

Sensory play does not have to be super elaborate or fancy. It can be as simple as having a shoe box with holes cut into it and some pom pom balls. Or having your child use scissors to cut up paper. You can buy garbanzo beans and rice, leave them as is, or give them some color with food coloring. The possibilities are endless and the play will last for hours. Encouraging your child to use all of their senses while playing helps their cognitive growth, vocabulary, and motor skills. I would love to know if you have created a bin before, if you will create a bin after reading this post, or have ideas to share for activities so comment below!

About the Author

Erin is a mom to Brendan and Emma, and a wife to Nick. Erin and her family live in Shelby Township, Michigan. They love to be outside and going to the Zoo is a weekly activity for Erin and her family. Being creative and learning are their priorities when it comes to our children so arts and crafts are a huge deal around their household and making up fun games to play to get her children learning!