Why Sensory Play?
Sensory play provides opportunities for children to refine their thresholds for different sensory information helping their brain to create stronger connections to process and respond to sensory information. Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills and social interaction. It is also a powerful way to develop and enhance memory. Sensory play is also a very effective way to calm an anxious or frustrated child.
What elements create a Sensory Playspace?
Sensory Play with Active Discovery
Touch – the stimulation that comes from touch receptors in our skin and reacts to pressure, heat/cold, texture or vibration. Tactile experiences with different mediums such as sand, water, mulch, pebbles, textured pathways and boardwalks can be strategically incorporated into playspace design. Children experience tactile experience mostly through their hands, but consideration for tactile surfaces underfoot are also important. The opportunities for tactile experiences in a playspace are endless!
Sight – the stimulation of light receptors in our eyes, which our brains then interpret into visual images. Strategic use of colour, texture, contrast, shading, patterning and imagery will contribute to a play environment that actively engages children’s sense of sight.
Hearing – the reception of sound, via mechanics in our inner ear. Musical play is a great way to engage childrens' sense of hearing. The sense of hearing is also directly related to balance and body awareness (also known as proprioception). Body awareness relates to the feedback our brains receive from stretch receptors in our muscles and pressure receptors in joints which enable us to gain a sense of where our bodies are in space. Balance is the stimulation of the vestibular system of the inner ear to tell us our body position in relation to gravity.
Smell – the stimulation of the chemical receptors in the upper airways (nose).
Taste – the stimulation that comes when our taste receptors react to chemicals in our mouth.
The senses of smell and taste are not ones we encourage children to use in public playspaces, however some supervised playspaces such as those in schools and day care settings have fruit or vegetable gardens incorporated within their play areas which provide children with safe ways to engage these senses.
Sensory Play opportunities are commonly undervalued when considering playspace design. Active Discovery have bought sensory play to hundreds of playspaces, many in very cost-effective and subtle ways to engage children’s senses in order to enrich their play experiences. Get in touch with our team to discuss creative ways to incorporate sensory play opportunities into your next playspace.