What is Sensory Play? - OutdoorToys

From squishy sensations to thrilling textures, sensory play is an essential building block in childhood development. Through engaging and interactive activities with outdoor toys, your little ones can refine crucial skills that form the bedrock of their growth.

For example, playing with textures like sand, water, or slime engages touch, while activities involving music or nature sounds engage hearing. But wait a minute! Sensory play isn’t just for kids - it can benefit people of all ages, helping with relaxation, focus, and even stress relief. Pretty neat, huh?

But be warned, this exploration can sometimes get a bit messy! So, prepare as we dive into a world of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell guaranteed to nurture your child’s development!

Why is sensory play important?

Sensory play is essential to childhood development as it engages multiple senses, paving the way for cognitive growth. When children immerse themselves in activities involving various textures, sounds, smells, tastes, and sights, they're not just playing, they're actively learning and developing crucial skills. 

So you can be sure they’re turning out allllll-right.

Benefits of sensory play

As noted above, there are many benefits to sensory play, particularly in the early years of a child's development.

These include:

  1. Brain development: Get those synapses firing! Sensory play is like a power-up for the brain, making kids ace problem-solving, language skills, and brainy stuff.
  2. Fine motor skills: Squeeze, pour, build! These activities aren't just fun; they're here to improve those tiny finger skills and ninja reflexes.
  3. Creativity and imagination: Sensory play encourages children to explore, create, and imagine. It fosters creativity as they experiment with different materials and textures.
  4. Chill time, anytime: Need a zen moment? Sensory play is a secret calming elixir that helps kids handle their emotions like a boss.
  5. Sensory processing: By experiencing different sensations, kids become master adapters to any 'feels' situation—total superpower upgrade!
  6. Language development: Engaging senses helps kids explain their adventures, build vocabulary, and talk like mini Shakespeare wizards.
  7. Social skills: Let's play together! Sensory play often involves teamwork, sharing, and taking turns, making every playdate a lesson in social awesomeness.

Our top five sensory play ideas

Ready to explore the senses? Let's go on a journey into some of the best ways to engage your little ones through play!

Sensory play ideas for sight

Our sight is something many of us take for granted, but engaging in visually stimulating sensory activities can help your child's cognitive growth. As kids are increasingly playing with screens, it's more important than ever to look after their eyesight.

For sight sensory play, here are a few ideas:

  • Sensory bottles: Create sensory bottles using various materials like glitter, coloured water, beads, or sequins. Securely seal these items in clear plastic bottles filled with water or oil. Kids can observe the movement and interaction of colours and shapes as they shake or turn the bottles.
  • Colour explorer: Paint your day happy with a colourful tray with different items in various hues. This tray could include fabric swatches, toys, fruits, or flowers. Encourage kids to sort or group items by colour or arrange them to create patterns and pictures.
  • Nature quest: Explore the wild and seek out colours, shapes, and mysteries hidden in leaves, flowers, and critters. This activity combines visual observation with outdoor exploration. You can also include riddles for older children to help with their reading comprehension.
  • Puzzle paradise: Introduce puzzles and games that involve descriptive words and a chance to develop memory skills. This can include simple jigsaw puzzles, shape-sorting toys, or memory games with colourful cards.

Sensory play ideas for sound

Developing good hearing can be really beneficial in early childhood. Sensory play involving sound can be a fantastic way to foster a child's auditory development and overall sensory awareness. There are numerous engaging activities that can help children explore and understand the concept of sound. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Sound shakers: Create homemade shakers using different materials like rice, beans, or small pebbles enclosed in containers (plastic bottles, jars, etc.). Encourage children to shake them and notice the different sounds they produce.
  • Music maestro: Introduce various musical instruments such as drums, xylophones, tambourines, or simple homemade instruments. Let children experiment with creating different sounds and rhythms.
  • Guess the sound: Play different sounds (animal noises, musical notes, household items, etc.) and encourage children to guess what they're hearing. This game can be a lot of fun and helps refine listening skills.
  • Nature sound walk: Take a nature walk and focus on listening to the various sounds in the environment—birds chirping, wind rustling through leaves, water flowing, etc. There are many benefits of outdoor play that can encourage children to engage with nature. You could also have them describe what they hear and see if they can form a short story with what they wrote down.

Sensory play ideas for touch

Sensory play activities involving touch can help refine fine motor skills, enhance sensory awareness, and promote cognitive growth. Understanding different textures in their early years can arm children with the knowledge to navigate and interpret their environment more effectively, fostering a deeper connection to the world around them. 

Here are some exciting activities that involve touch:

  • Textile boards: Transform a simple board into a texture wonderland! From soft velvet to rough sandpaper, let kids feel and compare different textures on their fingertips.
  • Messy sensory play: Engaging with materials like play dough, sand pits, finger painting, mud kitchens, or slime allows kids to experience varying consistencies, encouraging sensory development and imaginative expression. It's a chance for kids to dive into a world of textures, fostering creativity while refining their tactile senses through delightful and sometimes messy play.
  • Climbing wall: Take tactile experiences to new heights! A climbing frame isn't just about climbing; it's a sensory playground where kids touch, feel, and conquer various surfaces. It's a thrilling way to boost motor skills and confidence.
  • Water play: Time to make a splash! With water of different temperatures and a variety of floating and sinking objects, kids can pour, splash, and explore the ever-changing textures of water. Add sponges, ice cubes, or gel beads for extra tactile fun!

If you decide to take your little monkeys outside, consider how you can keep kids safe on climbing frames and other objects they may want to feel and play with.

Sensory play ideas for taste

Get ready to tantalise those taste buds! Exploring tastes isn't just about flavours; it's a delicious journey into preferences, cultures, and healthy eating. 

Check out these mouth-watering activities:

  • Texture-based taste activities: Incorporate different textures into tasting experiences, such as smooth yoghurts, crunchy vegetables, or chewy dried fruits, to understand the relationship between taste and texture.
  • Taste test fiesta: Mix things up with a taste-testing party! From sweet to sour, let kids discover different flavours by sampling fruits, veggies, and other snacks. It's a fun way to explore preferences and expand their palate.
  • Cultural food exchange: Travel around the world and taste different cultures. Introduce dishes from different cultures to expand their taste horizons and teach them about diverse food traditions.

Sensory play ideas for smell

Last but not least, who could forget the beloved snout? Engaging in sensory play focused on smell can be a delightful and enriching experience for children. Exploring scents not only stimulates their sense of smell but also connects them to memories and emotions. 

Here are some activities that can awaken their senses:

  • Scented memory games: Play memory games using cards with scented stickers, drops of essential oils or smells from different objects. Children must match the scents with one of the objects, enhancing memory while exploring smells.
  • DIY scented play dough recipes: Let children help create their own scented play dough by adding a fragrance or spice to the dough mixture. This hands-on approach adds a personal touch to their sensory experience.
  • A smell station: Encourage kids to sniff and identify the scents while also discussing the associations each scent evokes. This interactive setup not only sharpens their sense of smell but also encourages curiosity and language development as they describe and categorise different aromas.
  • Scented science experiments: Engage children in scented experiments by mixing scents to see how they combine. For another fun experiment, use scented cotton balls in containers connected by tubes or paper strips for another fun experiment. Kids can watch how scents move through the tubes, showing how smells spread and mix in the air.

Stimulate the five senses with Outdoor Toys

Outdoor Toys are an absolute blast for sensory play! Think ride on cars, mud kitchensmetal swing sets, water tables, paddling pools and climbing frames - each offering a wild ride for your senses. With so much space to move, jump, and explore, outdoor play becomes a giant playground for the senses to run wild.

With 48-hour delivery and the option of 0% finance for qualifying orders, transforming your garden play area is now quicker and more affordable than ever before! For further details, please visit our delivery and PayPal credit pages.


What is sensory play for adults?

Sensory play isn't just for the kiddos, adults can have fun with it, too! Dive into art therapy, master mindfulness, or explore materials and textures. You can even whisk yourself away on nature walks or strike a pose in some soothing yoga sessions - all to awaken your senses!

What are the benefits of sensory play with animals?

Sensory play with animals isn't just a walk in the park; it's a magical bonding experience! Hang out with furry friends to boost empathy, learn responsibility, and spread compassion. Plus, cuddling cute animals can really help melt away stress and lift your spirits up.

How does sensory play help a child's emotional development?

By engaging in activities that stimulate different senses, children learn to regulate their emotions, express themselves, and manage stress. Sensory play offers a safe environment to explore feelings, develop coping mechanisms, and build self-confidence. 

It encourages problem-solving, enhances social interactions, and provides a means for children to process and understand their emotions, fostering emotional resilience. You'll learn to ride the rollercoaster of emotions like a pro!