How Sensory Play Aids the Development of Early Years Children

How Sensory Play Aids the Development of Early Years Children

If you’re a parent or carer of young children, you’ll most likely have heard of sensory play. For most of us, we likely take our senses for granted, however these amazing gifts are still new & developing in an early years child.

Sensory play is all about teaching babies and early years children how to use, understand & apply their senses to the world around them. It can help nurture a child’s mental and physical development during their early years. 

What is sensory play?

Sensory play is a broad term to describe a range of activities for young children that stimulate the senses and help them to learn about the world. As well as being fun and exciting, sensory play activities have the potential to stimulate neurons in the brain, encouraging the creation of neurological connections and, by extension, bolstering the child’s ability to learn new things.

In short, sensory play can help children to identify objects more easily, hone their motor skills, learn new social skills, and become better at controlling their emotions 

and frustrations. 

The five elements of sensory play

Perhaps unsurprisingly, sensory play is based on five key senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sensory play should aim to stimulate one or multiple senses, and help the early years child to understand how they work together to help them interact with the world. 

  1. Sight

During their very early years, children are most attuned to their sense of sight. As soon as they are born, babies are curious about the brightly coloured world into which they have entered and are keen to start learning new things with their eyes.

Opening children up to new visual experiences with sensory play will ensure that this inherent curiosity does not fade too quickly. Visually rich activities will stimulate children’s ability to think carefully about the form, structure, and colour of objects, nurturing their visual memory and encouraging them to discover how the world works.

  1. Sound 

Some children learn concepts best when they are articulated through music. Listening to catchy rhythms and melodies can encourage children to keep time with music, make new sounds and learn to dance. In this way, it can hone their motor and listening skills. Examples of sensory play involve playing wind chimes, learning songs by listening to music or simply banging new objects. 

  1. Taste

Sensory play involving taste can teach children that there are a variety of delicious flavours to be found in new foods such as fruit and vegetables. As well as helping them to understand their palate and personal tastes, this kind of play encourages children to eat healthily and, in the case of young toddlers, to start feeding themselves. Examples of games involving taste include cooking activities and food preparation.

  1. Smell

Developing a child’s sense of smell is important as it teaches them to identify smells that are unpleasant or they should be wary of, as well as teaching them to appreciate pleasant smells. Play geared towards smell could involve the provision of a special treasure chest of smells such as coffee, lavender, rose petals or perfume.

  1. Touch

Finally, games involving touch can help nurture a child’s natural curiosity and willingness to engage in with the world around them. Games could involve a special touch tour in which children go out and touch elements of the natural world such as leaves, puddles and tree bark.

Our Pupils

Our main focus is to provide a safe and caring environment for our pupils and to foster a love of education & learning. Understanding the senses and how they work isn’t just a crucial step in their development, it’s a fun way to learn new things. 

At Briar Dene Nursery School we try to incorporate sensory play as often as possible. Whether it’s day visits to local farms around the Tarleton, Rufford and Hesketh Bank area, or using the many toys, tools and learning aids we have at the nursery school.

We’re highly passionate about early years learning and sensory play as part of our educational offering. We love to see young people learning and enjoying themselves with our equipment, and our team are more than happy to chat to you by phone or email with ways in which we can help your early years child.

Call us on 01772 816661 or email