Grubby Face, Happy Space: Sensory Play

Development of the sensory system is just as important as developing good coordination, fine motor skills, communication and other life skills. In fact, it could be said that good development through sensory play is integral to all of these, and without good development of our sensory systems, everything else is going to suffer! Sensory Play is one of the key developmental activities that you childcare centre should be providing, but why is it so vital?


What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing refers to how the brain interprets input or messages received through our sensory system. For example, our ears receive sound, but our brain tells us where the sound is coming from, and what that sound might be. We can even tell if someone is talking, who that person might be without even looking at them! Amazing right!?

Our sensory system includes our sense of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing as well as vestibular and proprioception. These are our sense of balance and body position. All these senses must work well together to help us get through each day. For kids, these senses are important for learning new skills, and play a big part in being able to concentrate and focus on the task at hand.


Sensory Development Through Play

So how do we ensure sensory development is on track? The answer is exposure! Kids are hands on learners, and develop new skills by doing. This means that we must provide them with plenty of opportunity to touch, taste, and smell lots of different things in order to help their sensory system mature. For parents, this can sometimes be a big ask. When children learn, primarily through play experiences, they love to explore with their whole bodies. This usually means big messes! But how happy are kids when they are allowed to get dirty! It’s even better when they can involve their friends or siblings. Kids seem to be most content when they have a playmate by their side and a whole lot of opportunities to get grubby. Social play is extremely important too!


Sensory Play is Messy!

If you’re a bit opposed to messes and cringe at the thought of mud, sand, glitter or paint (and more often than not, a combination of these) this is where you childcare centre, day care or kindy can be your best friend. Day care centres are usually well equipped to provide messy play experiences and are more than happy to deal with the aftermath! Furthermore you will find experienced staff and carers who know exactly what your little one needs and can provide activities that are suitable for your child’s age and are developmentally appropriate. The other wonderful thing about day care, is that your child has the opportunity to learn and play alongside kids their own age. This is essential for developing social skills and for giving your child the chance to copy or model other kids if they are not sure how to go about a task.


Sensory Development Activities at Home

If you are all for the mess, and love nothing more than getting your hands dirty too, then there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. When choosing messy play activities, remember that little ones will often explore with their mouths as well as their hands. Always go non-toxic materials and go for good quality.
  1. The best sensory play can be experienced in nature. The backyard can offer a range of textures, colours and smells, that kids just love to get in amongst.
  1. Be prepared for mess and for things not to go always as planned. You might find glue gets mixed in with paint, glitter ends up in hair, and the cat ends up with a mud facial. It’s best you embrace the experience, and appreciate your little one’s creativity. Know that you are doing the best thing for you and you child.


Sensory Play is a major part of early childhood development and your childcare centre should be encouraging mess. If your childcare centre is sending your child home clean every single day, talk to them about sensory activities that will make a big difference in your child’s development. At JourneyTree, we assist childcare centres to communicate children’s learning experiences at this most important stage in a child’s development. Ask your centre about the JourneyTree system now, it could make all the difference.

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