Chances are you’ve heard the buzz words sensory play – but what is it? Sensory play is nothing new – it’s just a term used to describe activities that stimulate the senses and encourage children to explore the environment around them. If it’s an activity that involves a variety of textures, smells, colors, or sounds – it’s sensory play.

We know that little ones learn with their whole bodies. That’s why sensory activities are so meaningful for brain and body development. Sensory play exposes children to new experiences, textures, and materials, awakening imaginations and activating motor skills.

Here are a few quick and easy activities you can try at home, with close parent supervision – of course.

  • Working on fine motor skills? Fill a bowl with pom poms or cotton balls and let your little one use tweezers to move them to different containers, add in feathers or buttons for varied texture.
  • Color ice cubes with food coloring and add to a bin of water – they won’t get tired of scooping out the ice with cups until it’s completely melted. You can hide small toys in the ice cubes for a delightful surprise.
  • Try dying rice or oats with food coloring and hand sanitizer (wait until dry before playing), add essential oils for smell, and offer some containers and kitchen utensils and you’re all set. Watch the focus as your little one scoops and pours.
  • Does Dad have some shaving cream he won’t miss? Hide plastic bottle caps and small animal toys in a bin of foam for a fun treasure hunt. 
  • Bath time is a perfect mess free opportunity for sensory play, just throw some Legos in the tub for instant fun! Learning letters? Write letters on round coffee filters and tape to the tub wall. All you need now is a spray bottle and you have alphabet target practice.

You will delight in the joy during these activities. And for parents there is nothing is better than seeing a child excited while you know they’re learning at the same time. Sensory play is where it’s at – let’s get playing!

Tasha Compos is a 15-year art educator. She recently opened ARTLab Maui in Kihei where artists of all ages can learn, play, and create.