The importance of sensory play

Jude’s birthday party on Saturday was lovely.

It was tiny, just a few friends and family but perfect for the birthday boy himself. He did a lot better than I thought he would, engaging with people, remaining calm despite the chaotic feel to our home and the fact that our living room/dining room and kitchen was completely turned into a messy play area!


It was all very sensorial which Jude is naturally attracted to. I chose this sort of party for him as I know how much he loves sensory play and also how important it is for him and his development.



So what is sensory play and why is it important?


Well, in simple terms it is anything that stimulates a child’s senses. Touch, hearing, smell, taste, sight.


I think it’s important to encourage sensory play because of the power it has in enabling children to learn so much more than what is immediately apparent. A baby playing with a treasure basket of objects is learning about shape, texture, dexterity. They are expanding their gross and fine motor skills by manipulating an object between their hands as well as learning and how objects move. Is it solid? squishy? All these bits of information will go towards expanding nerve connections in the brain.

A toddler using a Montessori piece of equipment such as Colour box 3 is learning to grade shades of the same colour from darkest to lightest. Not only are they learning the name of that colour, they are refining their sense of sight, developing vocabulary by involving words such as darkest, lighter, lightest, etc. They are learning to use their own mind to make decisions building confidence in their own mind. They are also scientifically working out the order, appraising decisions and correcting as they go along.


Colour box 3 grading from darkest to lightest


It’s incredible really when you look at the power of sensory play. It’s easy to understand why this style is being more and more included in teaching plans.


Messy play is a basic but fantastic way of including a sensorial aspect into your child’s life. I remember giving Jude and Elsa a big tray of lentils a year or so ago, a spoon, a few other things like an egg cup that I found in the cupboard and they sat there for half an hour just playing with the activity. It was amazing! Shaving foam is another great one – squeeze a load of the table and let them smush it all around. The feeling is wonderful and you can develop it into writing letters in the foam, making shapes, etc.


For Jude, sensory play is fantastic for his concentration, his imagination and ability to socialise with peers. He is learning to share, watching others and expanding his own games. He is also cooperating in a group and refining his motor skills which could help him to eventually write independently (fine motor skills) and run or walk down steps more confidently (gross motor skills.)


The sensorial area of a Montessori nursery is designed to lead the child onto further curriculum areas such as literacy, maths and science. If a child can control small objects with their fingers and hold a strong tripod grip then they will find writing within literacy a lot easier. If a child can order objects by size and knows many shapes by feel and sight then mathematical thinking will come more naturally. It all makes such sense.


But at the weekend, Jude’s party was just about having fun with an environment I know he feels confident with. Lots of tactile materials but also a lot of socialisation and cooperation. It was awesome and all activities were chosen specifically to Jude’s preference. Our party was run by a fantastic lady at Messy Mashup. They have a Facebook page¬†¬†and a website in the making.


Here are some of the photos –


Jude with his feet in water beads.


Paint and spaghetti! Great combo.


Elsa sieving the cake ingredients! Jude chose to just sit in it and flick it around.


Jude with shaving foam in his hair and his BLACK jeans coated entirely in flour. These water beads were a huge hit.



Please ignore the tea towels! Here is the car foam ramp.


As demonstrated by Emmeline…


The cake ingredients before Jude sat in them.

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