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How Sensory Play Is Integral to Children’s Development

The concept of ‘sensory play’ is one that has grown in recent years as one of the best ways to encourage the development of children’s five senses. But what exactly is it?


According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Sensory play focuses on activities that engage your child’s senses, helping them develop language skills and motor skills. It also helps with cognitive growth, fosters social interactions and encourages experimentation.”


Sensory play in a nutshell, provides children with the opportunity to touch, smell, see, taste, or hear through activities that can help them further develop their senses. Now through these activities, your child will learn by experience and their brain will process the new information and retain it for next time.


Consider these activities as building blocks for your child’s brain. When you let your child finger paint for example, the child is exposed to so much new knowledge. The way the paint feels on their tiny fingers, the different hues of color, the smell of it, or that paint tastes yucky if put in their mouth. All of these minuscule moments build new connections in their brain that they will learn and retain. Next time that they go to finger paint, their brain might think, “No, don’t put it in your mouth, it tastes bad.” 


As you expose your child to more activities that focus on different senses, or mixed senses, your child’s connections will only grow. They will learn all different textures, different smells, and may even begin to notice the difference between colors and shapes as they grow.


Sensory play provides even more additional benefits too, like fostering cognitive growth, fine motor skills, and even producing a calming effect (Cleveland Clinic). All of these benefits combined, are extremely valuable in the development of children and can encourage learning in a safe environment.


Now I know what you're thinking, “This is great! How can I provide this for my child at home?” And the awesome news is that it is simpler than you think! Some day-to-day activities provide stimulation to your child’s senses like bath time, playing outside, and even playing with their food.


But if you want to try creating a sensory activity yourself, check out this easy step-by-step Beach Sensory Bin Activity created by Yolonda Deon Tyler:


Materials Needed: Sand, shells, dried starfish/crab shells, sea glass, rocks, and a beach pail with a shovel.


  1. Use a clear plastic bin or tub and fill it with sand first. Then add in different textured items like shells, dried starfish/crab shells, sea glass, or rocks.

  2. Position some items below the surface of the sand and then add in your beach pail and shovel.

  3. Let your child’s imagination soar! Let them safely touch the sand, (do not let them eat,) feel the different textures of the ridged shells to the smooth sea glass and use their hands to dig through the sand and find buried items. 

  4. Model for the child what it looks like to use their motor skills to pick up the shovel and scoop up sand and place it into the pail.

  5. Have a fun, beach filled day!


Did you like this activity? If so, you can learn 50+ more step-by-step sensory activities for your child in the book, “Sensory Play for Kids” by Mindful Play Learning, coming soon!


Check out the link below to learn more about sensory play:



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