Sensory Play in Early Years

Children have a natural instinct to use their hands whether it be with sand, water, dirt, rice, dry pasta or other substance like play dough.

Through many studies sensory play has been found to foster the development of many foundation areas of a child from;

  • Language development

With language through sensory play they are creating different experiences to talk about developing language and increasing their vocabulary.

  • Social and Emotional development

Sensory play allows children to use their decision making skills by choosing what they will create and how they will do it. They take pride in their predications, whilst making observations and respond to their findings. They can also express their feeling through playing which could be reliving tension through  feeling water, pounding play dough, testing their boundaries in a safe environment as well as experimenting with concepts.

  • Physical Development

Whilst playing with the sensory materials (water, sand, rice, etc) the children develop their fine motor skills such as pouring, measuring, stirring, whisking and manipulating with their hands.

  • Creative Development

Sensory please is open ended, children can express their creativity and innovate how they feel necessary in order to complete a task given by a teacher/parent/guardian. Again we have to remember it is how they use the material is much more important than what they make with it.  Developing the fine and gross motor skills is the main aim.

Again if you looked at a play based curriculum and a structured curriculum you will find the four skills above are key to develop in their early year of learning.

Website to look at the further develop sensory play or even find activities

Highscope Curriculum Newsletter looking at sensory play

Learning for kids activities looking at activities for the classroom and at home

Artful parent full of ideas for sensory play

Edx Experience looking for different sand, water toys, trays and themes. (Contact the office to find out a local distributor in your region)

There are many more websites and free resources on line, if you have any suggested please contact me as we are always looking for new ideas.


16 Comments Add yours

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      Love the feedback and would love to share more articles, we just published one this morning on early years and mathematics. Enjoy…!


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    1. globalearlyyears says:

      Thank you for the feedback we are trying to break down the foundations of learning for the early years. If you have any particular topics such as sensory learning please let me know as we are developing different articles each week.


  8. Jan says:

    I am an early years teacher too, developmental play is very important. An Australian educationalist Kathy Walker has developed an effective program based on learning through individualised play and investigation

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jan, Thank you for the information on Kathy Walker what a wonderful program the new British curriculum EYFS is play based curriculum also very effective. Kathy has tailored a great program for foundation core skills in Australia. Kathy looks like she will be able to revolutionise the learning for the Australian Curriculum.


      1. Jan says:

        yes, it is a big shift from traditional pedagogy. I try to incorporate a bit of both in my class.

        Liked by 1 person

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