What is Sensory play and why is it important?


This week we're taking a break from writing about low-tox baby products to talk about sensory play with an expert in the field. 
Dhineli, the founder of Sesame and Berry (@sesameandberry), shares important insights about what sensory or messy play is, why it is important and how to go about it in an interview we had with her recently. 
Here is what we asked her followed by her responses...
Let's start from the top, what actually is sensory play/learning? 
"Any activity that helps stimulate a child's senses is considered sensory play. Sensory play is often referred  to as messy play and this type of play allows them use their senses to discover and explore different elements on their own."
From what age can kids start with sensory play? 
"Sensory activities start from the minute they are born. Their very first sensory experience would be getting skin-to-skin with their mummy or daddy. From there on there are different types of sensory activities that they could be exposed to depending on their age and ability to move around, sit up etc."
How does it affect brain development? 
"Research shows that sensory play helps with language development, cognitive growth, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, problem solving and hand-eye coordination.  Sensory play builds nerve connections in the brains pathways and this will help children complete simple to complex tasks as they grow. "
Are there different styles or levels of sensory play and does it differ depending on the age, physiologically/scientifically speaking? If yes, how so? 
"When offering small children with sensory play it's important to take into account a number of factors. 
  • Should it be taste safe?
  • Does my child mouth a lot of things and are there things you should avoid placing in trays?
  • The play definitely needs to be age appropriate because something a baby might fascinating might be quite boring for a 3yo. 
  • Am I following my child's interests?
When we first introduced the boys to sensory play they would be really occupied with a bowl of water, a tray of ooblek for a good 30 mins. They wouldn't hesitate to get all messy and explore without thinking twice. 
But as they got older we went through a phase where the boys were not really keen on getting their hands messy or dirty and only preferred dry sensory play. 
Now that the boys are 3 years old so we use sensory play as more of a calming activity. Often toddlers are overwhelmed with big emotions that they can't communicate well and this leaves them frustrated (we call them tantrums) but to be honest, its just them dealing with whatever is bothering them. When this happens in our household, I always do a fun bath or pull out some coloured rice and we take our time to calm down and relax. "
What got you starting up Sesame and Berry?
"My boys were about 18 months old and weren't really saying a lot of words. I had Sesame who wouldn't say anything proper where as Berry was saying maybe about 10 words. I was genuinely concerned and I spoke to a friend who was a speech therapist in Melbourne. We then saw a local therapist and they both said that I just needed to cut down on screen time and play more, read more and basically get involved in their daily play. 
So that's exactly what I did. I started setting up little sensory play trays, small world play trays and we played together. We read while we ate, we read when we went out to eat and it really helped them develop their speech. 
I know there are so many mums out there that are anxious and worried about their child's development. They are constantly looking for things to do with their kids so I basically documented it thinking it could help someone else and a year later here we are expanding Sesame & Berry into bigger things. "
Have you been able to measure your children’s learning and development through sensory play?
"I have and sensory and play based learning methods are amazing! It doesn't make a child feel like they are doing home work. They are playing and learning heaps at the same time. "


Can you give our readers some quick and easy ideas for sensory play they can put together with things they most likely have at home? 
"Sensory Rice is so easy and I'm sure everyone has everything you need to make it at home. 
2 Cups of Rice 
Large Zip Lock Bag
Few Drops of Food Colouring 
TBSP of Vinegar (I use apple cider)
Pop the rice into the zip lock bag, add a few drops of food colouring along with the vinegar. Seal the bag and give it a good shake until all the rice has been covered with the colour. If its too light add a few more drops of the food colouring until you are happy with the colour of the rice. 
You can pop it on the tray and play with it straight away or leave it to dry, store it in a box for play another time. 
Add a few bowls, spoons and scoops and it will keep them busy for awhile. 
I always add a sheet or a play mat under the tray of rice so that its easy to clean up after.  "
What kind of products and/or services does Sesame and Berry offer as a business? 
"We offer-
  • Sensory Tables
  • Activity Packs (Available Digitally as well)
  • Sticker Packs
  • Craft Boxes
  • Reward Sheets 
and we do have a very exciting product launching soon!!"
What are the different ways one can go about contacting you? 
"We are on Facebook & Instagram so a DM works or by simply emailing us." 
That's it from Dhineli about sensory play for babies and toddlers. Make sure to check her page out for some really cool inspirational ideas if you'd like to give sensory play a go. We highly recommend it!
And if you're already doing it with your little ones, we'd love to know what you're doing so drop us a comment. :)

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  • Mala Tudawe on

    How very exciting. I wonder why I never thought about it when my children were small. My grandson is 7 and too big for those. Do you have any ideas for older children???

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