7 Elements of Play: Sensory
The last in our 7 elements of play series focuses on sensory play.
What is sensory play?
Quite simply, it is play that encourages children to use one or more of the senses, stimulating sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance and movement.
Children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment
Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning and creativity. It supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning and social interaction
Sensory play can serve as an outlet to children with sensory processing disorder
Why are tactile activities important?
Tactile refers to the sense of touch. Our skin is the tactile systems’ sensory receptor.
The tactile system, the largest sensory system in the body, helpd children determine whether something is cold, wet, hot, sharp, etc. It helps the brain organize information for developing the visual and auditory systems.
Many “touch” activities children engage in require the use of muscles such as jumping on a trampoline, crab walking, running a 3-legged race or obstacle course, playing leapfrog or hopscotch, tossing and catching games and tug-of-war.
Other activities may involve something like a sand area. The feel of the sand sifting through the fingers can be very relaxing to some children.
Why are auditory activities important?
Children love sounds and noises. Some kids like more melodic, soothing sounds while others like harsh grating sounds. Some like it loud, while others like it soft.
Noise and other sounds such as musical instruments help develop a child’s auditory system. Children with sensory processing disorder often like deep tones, rather than high.
Why are visual perception activities important?
Visual processing helps children move their eyes in specific directions, allowing motion tracking play activities. This helps strengthen the eye muscles, giving children the ability to see differences between objects that are similar.
Visual processing refers to a group of skills used for interpreting and understanding visual information.
Some visual activities may include things such as playing flashlight tag, making shadow puppets, and playing catch.
Sensory Processing Disorder
I had a child in my class who was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. On the one hand, if you asked her a lot of questions or if all eyes were on her, she pulled into herself and wouldn’t speak. On the flip side, she would come barreling in to the classroom and almost tackle me. One of the things we had her do was unstack chairs when she came in so she could get the input she needed by hitting the chairs hard on the floor. Or, at circle time, I allowed her to sit on me to give her the sensory stimulation she needed to be calm.-Jami M.
Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Some children with sensory processing disorder are oversensitive to things in the environment, for instance, common sounds may be painful or overwhelming or the material a shirt is made of may chafe the skin.
Children with sensory processing disorder may:
Have poor kinesthetic awareness
Lack spatial and whole body awareness
Have a hard time engaging in conversation and play
Think about your child’s classroom. In a typical classroom, there is literally tons of stimulation … the low hum of kids talking, the teacher giving instructions, the walls filled with pictures, colors and letters, possibly a class pet and always so many things to touch or smell … this can be a tough environment for a child with sensory processing disorder.
Sensory play enhances learning through hands-on activities that stimulate a child’s senses. It also:
Builds nerve connections in the brains’ pathways which lead to th echild’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
Supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills and social interaction
Aids in developing and enhancing memory
Helps calm an anxious or frustrated child
Helps children learn sensory attributes such as hot, cold, sticky, and dry
Children need to learn through experience and not just a lecture.
Play Matters. Play Moves
Learn more about how the seven elements of play on the playground affects a child’s growth and ability to function in the classroom.