A lot of people wonder, Why is Sensory Play Important for Preschoolers? We know it’s great for babies and toddlers, this is a chance for them to explore the new world around them through touch and textures, but once they’ve reached preschool age is it that important anymore? The answer is, yes! Check out why sensory play is so important for pre-k and what are some great sensory activities for preschoolers that you can do at home or in the classroom.
The Benefits of Sensory Play
Sensory Play Builds Fine Motor Skills. Sensory play is a type of activity that engages your little ones with textures that can be absorbed through the 5 senses. It is fantastic for building fine motor skills (building strength in the small muscles of the hands and fingers). When we build these muscles in the hands it prepares your little ones for more difficult tasks like tying shoes or pouring milk from the jug.
Sensory Play Builds Vocabulary Words. When engaging with new materials like water, playdough, or paint it gives us the chance to ask questions like, “What color is the playdough?” or “What do the cotton balls feel like?” By asking questions we can give our little ones new words for describing. We can talk about colors, shapes, textures, and numbers.
Sensory Play Builds Social Connection. One of the most important things to work on with your child is social skills. When playing with sensory materials in a group, this gives your preschooler a chance to share. Learning to play nicely with others is a great skill that often goes overlooked. When engaging in sensory play practice sharing, passing items nicely, and asking for items politely.
Why Does Sensory Play Matter for Preschool?
When our little ones have reached preschool they begin to learn discrimination skills, sequencing, and build their vocabulary. This is why sensory play becomes so important! Not only do our preschoolers get to explore new textures, but they get the chance to vocalize their five senses. We can ask questions during sensory activities like, “What does this feel like?” Is it soft /hard /squishy /flat? “What does this smell like?” Is it sweet/ stinky/ sour? “What does this taste like?” Is it crunchy/ gooey/ hot/ cold?
Sensory activities are perfect for facilitating conversations about the five senses and how we can use them to decipher information. There are also many sensory activities involving recipes that get us talking about “first”, “second”, and “third”. When mixing ingredients together, what happens? How does the texture or temperature of the mixture change? Do things feel or look the same/ different? Print your sensory worksheets to build up vocabulary for sensory play and and head outside with some sensory scavenger hunts!
When babies and toddlers engage with the senses, it is purely about discovery. When we give our preschoolers a sensory activity, there can be more of a purpose. Try to think of activities with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Showing preschoolers how the senses can be used to create a finished product is really exciting and pushes them to think of new ways they can get creative.
5 Amazing Sensory Activities for Preschool
Plant a Garden: Planting a garden is a great way to get your preschoolers learning about a new topic and engaging with tons of textures. Buy soil and seeds at the store and head outside. When planting the seeds talk about what plant they will grow into. What do the seeds feel like? Can you count how many are in the packet? When adding water to the soil, how does the texture change? Is it gooey?
Bake Cookies: Baking cookies is an awesome way to focus on sequencing and transition words. A simple cookie recipe will have your little ones engaging with fluffy flour, squishy butter, and wet/ dry ingredients. This is a great sensory activity because your little ones will see the process of making a cookie and how all the ingredients work together to make something tasty!
You can also think of recipes for playdough and slime as good options too. Check out this great Playdough Recipe that you can make with your little ones that is safe and non-toxic.
Make a Sound Tube: Making a sound tube is a great way to get your little ones talking out the sense of sound. You can use paper towel rolls to make your tube and duct tape to secure the ends. Have a variety of things like beans, rice, beads, pom pom, etc. for your preschoolers to pick from. As each child finishes their sound tube, have them turn it back and forth for the rest of the participants. What does it sound like? Does it sound the same or different when compared to other tubes?
Make a Craft: Crafts are a great way to boost creativity and explore the senses with your preschooler. Engage with paper plates, cotton balls, paint, sponges, forks, hay, pip cleaners, glue, and so much more. Try to make a craft that interests your preschooler whether it’s animals, robots, or rocket ships. Crafting can be a great way to build vocabulary when going through the steps of “first”, “second”, and “third.
One of my favorite craft packs is the Farm Animal Crafts for preschool because there are so many different ways to paint. You can paint your animal’s fur with a brush, a sponge, a fork, or use cotton balls. Experimenting with these different techniques gets your little ones thinking about what animals feel like and look like. Another awesome sensory activity is heading to the petting zoo! Touching animals’ fur, hooves, and wet noses can be a really fun experience.
Creative Movement Outside: This is one of my favorite sensory play, or sensory dance activities! If you have preschoolers in a dance class, or have preschooler who just loves to move, head outside! Have each child improve with the elements of nature. Roll in the grass, stomp in the puddles, dance with tree branches, move fast, slow, up, down, left, and right. How does it feel if you move very slowly? How does it feel if you move really fast? If you’re in a safe place to take off shoes. Do it! How does this make you feel?
Remember, there is more than one way to splash in a puddle. Run just your fingers through the water. Run just your left knee through the water. Make a splash in the puddle with your elbows. Barely touch your nose to the water with your hands out to your sides. Have your preschoolers each take a turn moving through the puddle in a different way. You can repeat this exercise with a bench, tree, log, fountain, or anything you engage with outdoors. Not only does this activity get us using our senses, but it burns off some energy as well.
Sensory Activities for Autism
According to FCA, “Sensory activities for autism are effective learning tools that engage all areas of a child’s brain, helping them with their cognitive, emotional, physical, social and communication development. For autistic children, engaging in sensory play can retrain the brain’s response to sensory information. This helps them cope better when dealing with different sounds, textures, lights, scents and taste.” Check out 10 Sensory Activities for Children with ASD.
Sensory play is a must for preschoolers. Preschoolers are ready to put their skills to the test with an activity that has a beginning, middle, and end. These activities build vocabulary, build a social connection, and build fine motor skills. So, get outside and engage with nature, get in the kitchen and bake something delicious, or break out the art supplies and get crafting!
Remember that sensory play can be messy. It is about the process, not the final product. Learning a new skill takes patience and time, so be patient with your little ones as they build strength and understanding. Be sure to prep for the sensory activity, so you can engage with your little ones as much as possible and have a stress free lesson. Have towel, smocks, and paper towels handy if needed.
Great Sensory Play Buys
Want to have fun with sensory activities, but don’t have time to run out and collect supplies? Check out these awesome kits where you have everything you need! Create slime, start planting a garden, or make your own discovery bottle! Get your preschoolers building fine motor skills, vocabulary, and social connection!