What are your fondest memories of outdoor play as a child? Is it making mud pies, making snail shelters, building dens, collecting daisies, being in the paddling pool or something else? I am sure, whatever the answer, it will involve playing with a friend or sibling and enjoying the freedom of making it up as you went along!

During play you will have said what you were making, decided how to build something or thought about the next step. Communication, decision making, new thinking and teamwork are just some of the enhanced learning children experience during play.

It’s all child’s play

Children have the ability to find a way to play with whatever materials are available. A blue sheet can be a picnic blanket, a tent, the sea, the sky, a cape, a tug of war game or something else. The beauty of having such imagination is that role play continuum can lead to new language and knowledge, problem solving, sharing, confidence and importantly a fun way to learn!

Adding different sensory stimuli into the play environment allows the children to experience first-hand what something feels, tastes, looks, smells or sounds like. It doesn’t all have to be based on messy play, for instance, a selection of different fruits on a plate allows you to discuss smell, texture, taste, colour, countries of origin, likes/dislikes and how the fruit grows.

Talk about it

The social interaction enjoyed by children during play can be a crucial part of language and knowledge development. Encouraging the children to share ideas or impart knowledge if they have experience of things is a fantastic confidence booster. Circle time or show and tell is an opportunity for children to share their experiences and interact with peers. It doesn’t work for all children who haven’t yet got that confidence. A sensory play table, role play area, book corner and outdoor play are opportunities to develop alongside peers, interpret verbal and non-verbal communication and feel in control of play in a more subtle way.

The freedom children have playing in a sensory environment will also develop learning in other areas too, such as fine and gross motor skills, cause and effect of actions and how to work together.

Make an impression

All the benefits from sensory play discussed here are life skills we continue to develop throughout our lives. Encouraging the children to be inquisitive, gain knowledge through first-hand sensory experience and interact with each other will not only provide them with essential social development but forge the memories they will have of childhood play and learning. Put a few unusual sensory items in the play tray and see what new play ideas you discover from the children today!

About the author

Lisa Lane launched Sensory Scenes in 2014 with the aim to provide themed bags of fun for play, exploring and learning. With three boys of her own, she is passionate about children being able to manipulate, explore and use their imagination. Sensory Scenes’ themed bags are perfect for individual play, sensory tray play and themed subject planning.

Follow Sensory Scenes on Facebook, on Twitter @sensoryscenes, visit the website  or email lisa@sensoryscenes.co.uk

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