Examples of Sensory Play

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This article will cover examples of sensory play in early years.

We will look at popular types of sensory play activities and ‘zone designs’ to help inspire your ideas for a more inclusive play area.

In addition, we look at the benefits of engaging in sensory play through each activity mentioned below.

Our aim with a play area of this nature is to help a child engage in sensory play to develop their motor skills and sensory processing through tactile stimulation. Sensory play equipment is a great way to expand learning opportunities for children with SEN using an activity that stimulates. (If you haven’t read our “Learning Through Play” article, we suggest you do so after this).

These suggestions are suitable for the following:

  • Preschool playground design ideas
  • Nursery playground ideas
  • Primary school playground design ideas

Jump to:

What is an example of Sensory Play?

As our sensory equipment page describes, a sensory playground includes elements that stimulate and provoke young children’s ‘seven senses.’ Sensory Playground Equipment encourages them to use movement, smell, taste, sight, hearing, balance, and touch to navigate the world around them and learn new skills.

What are My Options, and When Should I Use Them?

Knowing your options when creating a new sensory play space or making an existing space more inclusive is a massive time saver.

Here we look at some popular components of successful sensory play ideas for creating rich and varied play opportunities by providing a safe space for children to explore and navigate the world around them.

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Sensory Paths

  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Concentration and focus
  • Spatial awareness

Children are encouraged to develop fine and gross motor skills by exploring sensory paths.

Activities relating to Sensory Paths promote good balancing and strength-building characteristics to play, which are essential for all aspects of a child’s life.

Through the learning and development of these skills, children can build stamina to help when sitting at a desk, writing, running and being aware of obstacles and others around them.

Activities like this are essential for building spatial awareness. In addition, they support children who might have processing and sensory challenges.

Sensory pathways are a great way of allowing children to work off excess energy for those times in the classroom when they struggle to focus.

Musical Instruments

  • Listening skills
  • Concentration and focus
  • Communication and language skills
  • Social development

Musical instruments are a fantastic way to help children in their early years understand the world around them by exploring rhythm and building on their listening skills.

It can help children to learn to follow instructions and build on their ability to focus on what is happening in their environment.

Musical play is a great way to allow children to develop their ability to express their thoughts by using words and phrases to develop language skills and improve their listening and attention skills.

Musical sensory experiences are an excellent way to encourage children to develop their awareness of social differences by expressing themselves individually.

Sand and Water Play

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Communication and language skills

Sand and Water play can be vital to an inclusive play space in the Early Years. It is a simple way to encourage a child’s communication and language development. It helps them to be able to express what they are doing or making.

Sand and water play can provide suitable activities for developing a child’s fine motor skills.

The activities made possible through sand and water play can help children to improve their problem-solving skills, making links to mathematics, writing and science. Children can learn to concentrate for more extended periods too.

Sensory Toys

  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Concentration and focus
  • Regulating emotions

To help children focus within a mainstream Early Years classroom, helping them with ways to regulate their emotions is vital.

In this scenario, sensory toys come into their own, helping children to focus by providing a space where they can feel safe when they are in this state of mind. Time spent with sensory toys can also aid children with their concentration skills when sitting on the carpet, allowing them time to focus and build on their motor skills simultaneously.

Water and Mud Tables

  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Turn-taking
  • Communication and language skills
  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Natural environments

Mud kitchens can be a fantastic way to link learning inside the classroom with real-life experience in the outside area.

Help kids to explore and bring their imaginative play to life.

Mud kitchens can help to create engaging environments where children can build on their communication and language skills while encouraging the strengthening of fine and gross motor skills.

Use it to help them build on hand-eye coordination and practice turn-taking with their peers. It is a good way for children to express their understanding of the world and role-play their experiences.

Planting Areas

  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Senses
  • Communication and language skills
  • Knowledge and understanding

Planting areas are an excellent option if you’re looking for additional ways to build on a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world in Early Years.

By utilising planting areas in your sensory play area, you can foster an environment which encourages them to communicate with others.

Create scenarios to help children build and expand their vocabulary in a natural environment by developing planting areas with differing features.

It allows children to build and develop their senses and explore the natural world.

Finally, it is an excellent way to promote the development of fine and gross motor skills, as children use various tools to create the environment they want.

Textured Tactile Panels

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Concentration and focus

Textured tactile panels are one of many fun sensory activities.

In addition, they are a brilliant option for developing independent problem-solving skills in the Early Years, such as moving, gripping, holding, squeezing and stacking.

These problem-solving skills can build strength in their bodies, develop hand-eye coordination, and build on a child’s concentration skills.

Performance Areas & Amphitheatres

  • Role-playing
  • Communication and language skills

Role play can be an essential aspect of EYFS. Through role-playing, children can develop a whole host of different skills.

It is an excellent way to develop communication and language.

Performance areas can be a good way of supporting children with Additional Educational Needs or with English as an Additional Language.

It creates a safe environment for children to practise these skills. 

Use role-play to help develop a child’s ability to story tell using their imagination to create their own narrative. 

Bespoke Structures

  • Imaginative play
  • Social development
  • Communication and language skills
  • Visual stimulation
  • Problem-solving skills

Bespoke canopies or gazebos with multicoloured Perspex rooves can provide a visually stimulating experience using natural light.

Custom play structures such as themed play zones or play equipment configurations can help children to concentrate better in the classroom. 

Physically Active Learning, or PAL for short, can help children focus for more extended periods.

In all their forms, these structures enable children to develop imaginative play without adult input, encouraging creativity and playing alongside their peers.

Children can build on their social, communication, and language skills through such activities.

These can be excellent for cognitive development and to encourage the development of problem-solving skills.

An added benefit of these structures is the growth of fine and gross motor skills. Children can develop in this area by balancing, climbing, holding, and jumping.

SEN Sensory playground Ideas: Inspiration While Working Within a Budget

Knowing how to use it best can be challenging if you’re on a strict budget.

If you need further inspiration for your sensory play areas, contact our friendly team, who will be happy to help with ideas and concepts. We have included a helpful gallery of sensory play examples categorised by approximate cost.

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Selling the idea to your co-workers

Helping your colleagues get to a place of mutual understanding and buy-in with your vision can sometimes be challenging.

Here are some suggestions to help take them on your journey to help reduce friction when you need others to sign off on a budget.

  1. Take a moment to remind everyone how you got to this point.
  2. Take time to align your sensory play area design objectives with expanded learning and social opportunities for children.
  3. Illustrate how you got from your current situation to the completed project. What steps are involved? Use this article as a guide.
  4. Bonus: go prepared with customised 3D renders to illustrate your vision.

Need more examples of sensory play in early years?

If you’d like us to help you plan your space, book a free site visit today and get complimentary 3D renders of your project. Contact our team via the website or call us on 0121 828 1166 today.