Sensory playgrounds are spaces that go beyond traditional aspects of play. They offer experiences that engage senses and ignite imaginations. Sensory playgrounds are not just places for recreational activities. They are places where children can grow and expand skills that are important for their overall development. Having a variety of sensory aspects allows playgrounds to provide emotional, cognitive, and physical stimulation - and be a ton of fun! 

 

Sensory Systems

The main senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell are engaged during sensory play, which helps children navigate the world around them. By enriching playgrounds with sensory elements, children of all abilities can individually explore the world around them using all their senses. 


The Cleveland Clinic says sensory play can address two sensory systems, the proprioceptive and vestibular systems. The proprioceptive system is about awareness of one's body, it helps with knowing where body parts are and how much force we need to do something. Our vestibular system, or our movement or balance sense, allows us to maintain balance while engaging in activities.

 

Benefits of Sensory Play


Cognitive Development 

Children are encouraged to utilize their senses to investigate and comprehend their surroundings via sensory play. Play like this helps enhance cognitive abilities including creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. In sensory playgrounds, kids are frequently faced with puzzles and obstacles, such as making their way through obstacle courses or trying out play panels. These encounters foster creativity and cognitive abilities.


Occupational therapist Suzanne Messer, MS, OTR/L says, “With sensory play, your child is working on problem-solving skills. It encourages them to explore how to play and engage with different experiences as well as how to maneuver challenges they encounter, things like how to get rice from one container to another or how to stay balanced on a swing.”

 

 

Physical Development 

Senses help us engage with the world and sensory play is a great way for children to further their physical development and motor skills. Motor skills are in two primary groups, gross and fine. Gross motor skills are where the larger muscle groups are being used in the legs, arms, and core. Climbing structures, for instance, can assist in building hand-eye coordination. Fine motor skills are where children use smaller muscle groups and coordinate movements. Children can organize sensory information through tactile play during solo and collaborative play. Although some of the muscle groups used during sensory play may be small, they greatly impact development. 


The GT Wave is an inclusive net climber with a transfer platform attached to a slide. Using both fine and gross motor skills, children can tactfully make climbing decisions and use their large muscle groups to do it. 

 

 

Language and Communication Development

Children's language skills develop naturally when they participate in sensory play. Children can develop individually during play by themselves or with others. Some children may employ these sensory experiences for language development later than their preschool years, even though speaking skills normally grow quickly throughout the preschool years. Sensory play can help children of different ages and abilities develop communication skills. 


Some children who have trouble with speech or language skills utilize other methods, besides talking, to communicate their needs. These methods are called augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), where augmentative means to add to someone’s speech, and alternative means to be used instead of speech.

To empower children who use AAC, we partnered with Boardmaker, the leader in visual communication tools, to create the Communication Panel, making it easy for everyone to communicate on the playground. Visitors can use the panel to identify the area or activity they want to experience, or describe how they are feeling to their peers.  


“When a child participates in any sort of play, sensory included, they’re learning through experiences in their environments and learning different ways to communicate emotions, wants and needs,” explains Messer.

 

Conclusion

In sensory playgrounds, children may create, explore, and learn in brand-new, individual ways. These playgrounds help children learn and develop critical skills in addition to providing fun. Kids may strengthen their muscles, coordination, and cognitive abilities via sensory play activities like digging, sliding, and climbing. It's also a great method for children to practice teamwork and communication with others. 


Ready to start your sensory playground? Contact a GameTime representative today to learn more.