Does your child love to play with mud? Are they always splashing water around? Sounds like they are engaging in some wonderful sensory play! So, what exactly is it and why is it important?

Sensory play involves activities that engage an individual’s senses – touch, sight, smell, sound, taste, balance, and movement. It is often referred to as messy play, and it plays a very important role in ongoing development.

Something important to remember is that children learn through play. In fact, occupational therapists will often tell you that play is a child’s most important job. They learn about the world around them by exploring and experiencing, and sensory play is an excellent way to do this.

In the first 2 years of their life, children go through a very important stage of development. During this time millions of neural connections are formed in the brain based on how their senses are exploring their new world. Engaging in sensory play provides rich learning experiences and supports the child in developing their understanding of the world around them. Great examples of messy play during this time include playing with food that has spilled on the highchair, splashing in the bath, and starting to explore things like PlayDoh.

As children get older, sensory play remains important. It allows them to continue to build their understanding of their environment and supports cognitive development. A messy uniform at the end of school day may be frustrating, but it is a great sign that the child is building on those initial sensory experiences.

Sensory play also impacts other areas of development such as fine motor development (through the repetitive use of their hands), language development (you can have some wonderful discussions during messy play – what does it feel like, what size is its, etc), cognitive skills (exploring how things work together) and emotional regulation.

Some great things to use for sensory play include:

  • Raw rice or pasta: run it through their hands, hide dinosaurs inside, drive toy cars through it
  • Shaving cream
  • Water
  • Mud
  • Dough (baking is a great functional task that involves lots of messy play)
  • Finger painting
  • Slime
  • Playdoh
  • Bubbles
  • Soap
  • Food

Got any questions or would like to find out more about the benefits of sensory play? Feel free to get in touch with us and organise a chat with one of our occupational therapists.