SENSE-a-tional Play!

I started this blog recording mainly the Art and Play activities of my kids to encourage creative thinking and learning through them. My family love Sensory Play!

I had the inspiration impulse to ransack and create a sensory bin this month. I thought to myself  ‘It’s really Now or Never! as I don’t have much time at home in near future.’  From 1, I started working and did another…So what will happen to these sets? I will be sharing more in my next post! : )

In this post, I wish to give you a better idea on

1) What is Sensory Play?

2) Why? Rationale for playing and creating with Sensory bins.

3) How to create a Sensory Bin?

4) How to Play ?

1-5 senses

Clip art image by” target=”_blank”>Source

1) What is Sensory Play?

Sensory Play basically involves using our physical senses of

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste

Materials are introduced to stimulate the above senses in this experiential play.

According to , Sensory Play is “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. 

2) Why is Sensory Play Important?

I like Twodaloo’s concise rationale

‘Research tells us…

  • Young children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment.
  • Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.
  • Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.
  • Children’s exposure to sensory play opportunities is declining.’

From my experience, Sensory Play provides a powerful experience for children to learn about the world in a fun, safe and tangible manner which cannot be found nor replaced by reading or looking at the screen. I find this a crucial aspect in developing a more holistic individual as a Singaporean. With our academic driven and IT Savvy culture, children are buried in books  and  the ‘I-pieces’. Using all the senses to make sense of the world through Sensory Play thus fills in the gap for our lack of ‘kampong experiences’.

Take for a simple example, my children became more appreciative of our natural surroundings after such Nature play. They become accustomed to playing with sand, familiar with the dust of chalking on the floor barefooted, learn how to scrub the corridors with bubbled soapy water, undaunted by soil and creates spontaneously their own works of art. All these and more through such Sensory Play and Creating Art.

3) How to make a Sensory Bin?  

Here’s an insightful guide from Valerie at Home on the Stone.

‘No time? Too expensive? Not enough creative juices to pull off a sensory bin on your own? Fret not!

Firstly, a sensory bin is deceptively easy to put together. In fact, most of the ingredients for a sensory bin can be found right in your house! Common items such as flour, bubble wrap, scrap fabric, and measuring spoons are excellent materials to start with. Nature also provides the most wonderful possibilities, from flowers to seashells and so much more.

Secondly, you don’t have to be an artist or a preschool teacher to create an amazing sensory bin your kids would love! I’ll share a few quick tips to get you going.

  • Think of a theme.

For an icy theme, how about freezing some coloured water with glitter and let your child enjoy the magical feeling of ice and glitter melting into their hands? How about a garden or farm theme? The possibilities are endless!

  • Think of the five senses.

Try to make it as rounded an experience as possible. For example in a water play activity, essential oil can be added to trigger the olfactory sense. Put items with different textures/temperatures together – hard, soft, rough, smooth, spongy, firm, warm, cold.

  • Think of educational components.

You can teach your child all sorts of things – shapes, sizes, colours, numbers, alphabets – using a sensory bin. For example, hide coins in a tub of coloured rice and the child can count as she finds them. Or let your sensory bin contain items starting with the same alphabet.

  •  Arrange your materials in one container.

A coloured tub or a basket would work perfectly. Make it sufficiently large, so that your child has plenty of space to explore. Arrange the materials attractively so that it looks inviting.

  • Let your child play away.

It can be tempting to take over and tell your child how to play, especially when you’ve made all the effort to put all the materials together and you badly want him to fully explore every single one you’ve displayed. But hold your horses! Give him free rein to explore as much or as little as he wants. He will derive more joy that way. The learning bit will be a natural by-product of his delight in exploring that miniature world you’ve created.

  • Choose the right time.

You should allow for plenty of time and space for self-discovery. If you need to be rushing off somewhere in ten minutes, don’t do a sensory bin. This activity should be as relaxed as possible so that the child is free to explore whatever he wants to. Also, be sensitive to your child. Don’t do a sensory bin when he’s obviously not in the mood for it.

  • Don’t be discouraged.

Your child has his own likes and dislikes. Or perhaps that activity just isn’t his learning sweet spot yet? If your child doesn’t take to a particular sensory bin, try a different set-up the next time round and it just might click! My daughter once played with an agar-agar based sensory bin for a mere 15 minutes, but thoroughly enjoyed a jelly-based one for 45 minutes. You really never know what he will like until you try it.’

4) How to Play?

When I prepared my sensory sets, my friend asked me the above question, “How to play with your Sensory basket?” I was a bit stumped and thanked her for her valuable feedback. It didn’t occur to me people might not ‘know how to play’ as they have not been exposed to Sensory Play ideas. In my opinion, this would not be a problem for children. The goal is not to ‘learn’ to play. The goal of Sensory Play lies in the process of exploration and creative thinking. Through this process, the child learns valuable lessons and develops skills as a result of such play.

For instance,  in one of my series of open- ended play (click on the blue fonts to read), I set up loose materials  like the below for their Sensory Play time. I gave no instructions and let them explore the materials according to their whim and fancy. They came up with interesting creations beyond my imagination.


I find that when I let go of my instinct to control and allow my children to initiate their own exploration they become more independent in their ways.

In fact, I am often in wonder whenever I resist the urge to teach my kids ‘how to play’. They surprise me with new ‘inventions’, excite me with unconventional ways of using the common materials and challenge me to new realms of imagination.

My point? Let our children play uninhibited by our interference. There are of course instances where adults can step in to correct mishandling of an object, e.g. when the child holds the tongs with a thumb and a lil finger, we guide them to hold a firm grip with a firm pincer grasp. Or when a child throws stones into the glass container, we teach them to put them in gently. As long as we allow creative play within safe limits and proper guidance, the sky is the limit to stretch their play!

To provide a better idea on How to Play, in one of the coming post, I will compile a list of Sensory Play from our local mums! May you be inspired and encouraged as I have been! There will also be a handful of SURPRISES for our Readers… Do stay tuned in the coming week if you wish to receive our surprises! : )

For more ideas please click Sensory Play and Come and Play with Me.

** The Follow Up SURPRISES can be found HERE, where 4 sets of Giveaway Sensory Sets can be won!

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