When rain keeps you trapped indoors, keeping the kids occupied can be a challenge. No worries, though. Sensory play will engage kids for hours!
1. Why sensory play?
According to child development experts at PBS Parents, sensory play “helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially, emotionally, physically and creatively.”
While all children learn about the world through their senses, sensory play can be especially valuable for children with special needs who may have greater difficulty tolerating and integrating sensory stimuli. For example, children on the autism spectrum are often uncomfortable with loud noise, bright lights, unfamiliar tastes or smells that they find offensive. Others have strong preferences when it comes to the clothes they wear, because certain textures bother them. Some children on the spectrum are overly- sensitive and react negatively to being touched while other children go out of their way to bump into walls and furniture in order to feel deeper sensations.
Sensory play is also important for children who don’t have full use of all of their senses. According to Wonderbaby.org, a project of Perkins School for the Blind, “It’s important for children who are blind to participate in sensory play because it will help build their other senses and allow for sensations that may be directed by one sense (like sight) to be directed by another (like touch).”
2. What does sensory play look like?
There are so many hands-on activities that can offer enjoyable and educational sensory experiences. Playing in a ball pit, jumping on a trampoline, finger-painting, ceramics, listening to music or baking a cake are all past-times that stimulate the senses. Certain toys are especially conducive to sensory play. For tactile sensory stimulation, Enabling Devices’ textured marble fidget board increases tactile awareness, creates a feeling of calmness and helps with focus and self-regulation. Our sensory-motor busy box stimulates several senses at once! Products such as our cuddly Thera Bear, which can be heated in the microwave, will soothe your child with its calming chamomile aroma.
3. How can I facilitate sensory play at home?
One easy and inexpensive way to encourage sensory play is by creating a sensory box. Use one or more plastic bins and fill them with toys, tactile manipulatives, therapeutic balls, household items and even non-perishable foods with interesting shapes, textures, colors, smells and sounds. Typically the sensory box is lined with a layer of rice, popcorn, pasta, beans, dirt, cereal or sand. The other items in the box can be hidden beneath that layer to create an element of surprise. Add interest by creating themed sensory boxes. For example, boxes with holiday-inspired items, objects with names that all begin with the same letter of the alphabet or that are all the same shape.
4. Create a sensory space
Can’t get enough sensory fun? Consider making your whole basement into a sensory space with folding mats, crash pads, a tunnel climber and our Neptune Sensory Table for sand and water play. Who says you can’t have a day at the beach when it’s raining outside?
Not enough room for the whole shebang? No problem. You can create a great sensory space in a closet or corner of your home. Include products such as the laserjet kaleidoscope or led light illuminators to stimulate vision, interactive musical bubble tubes or somatosensory bamboo chimes to engage children with color, sound and light, and try out laptop fish mat or bead chain curtain for a sensational tactile experience. Want help with designing your sensory space? Call us for a free consultation.
5. Make a mess!
Don’t underestimate the value of making a mess. Children can really benefit from playing with squishy, slimy, foamy and muddy stuff. Try filling a tray with shaving cream, homemade play dough, or Jell-O. With some careful planning, you can create an indoor environment where kids can get messy without trashing your home. Don’t forget to have a blast!