Sensory Games and Toys For Children: Are They Really Important?

Babies cannot express themselves when they first arrive in the world. 

They can only recognize and explore everything around them through the five senses. 

When their senses are fully experienced, they can learn more new knowledge and develop corresponding abilities. 

Now by the time they grow up to be Toddlers, self-involvement is a key!

This article will talk about:

  • The importance of “playtime” for children
  • What sensory games and toys are
  • The best time to introduce sensory toys for babies
  • …and a lot MORE!

Toddlers like to explore the world through sensory experiences, such as squeezing, digging, throwing, spinning, collision, running…etc.!

These messy movements stimulate the kid’s senses for a healthy growth.

Ready for some extra work and cleaning? 

Let’s get started…

Why Is it Important for Children to Play?

To ensure a healthy child’s development, “Playtime” is a must!

Through playing, children take on the world and make it understandable; it is the little child’s primary language. 

And it is through play that we adults can learn to understand children’s thoughts and feelings.

A World That Goes Too Fast and Crazy

From my point of view.. 

We live in a society that goes too fast, where individuals no longer listen to each other and no longer appreciate the time. They run constantly but do not know after what!

The same frenzy is imposed on children…

From birth, their parents want, as quickly as possible, to be able to sit, walk, run, read, write, and count, thinking that this will make them smarter and happier.

toddlers going up the stairs

Now, let’s go deeper..

Respecting each stage is necessary for the child’s development, which is of fundamental importance: each time the child lives and repeats an experience, he learns and gains self-confidence. 

Let me give you an example:

A child falls about 2,500 times before walking smoothly. All these attempts make him gain expertise and become ready for the next stage! 

Babies Vs. Adults

Young children live in a world that does not function with the same codes like that of adults.

They experience events in a way that is different from their parents. 

Their universe is made up of very intense sensations, spontaneous emotional reactions (not thought out and not premeditated), present moments, and non-verbal communications.

Yet, all day long, we ask them to adapt and adjust to an adult world made up of language, thoughts, understanding, analysis, self-control, and benchmarks in time..

Adults’ world is a totally different place! Where emotion, sensations, and emptiness do not have much room!

…and it doesn’t end here!

We often make requests that are incomprehensible to them. Example: “Wait five minutes… “However, children are not aware of time until they are four years old.

What Is a Sensory Game or Toy?

sensory toys

Fundamentally speaking, sensory games mobilize children’s senses, including touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. 

However, the senses mentioned here also include the concepts of movement, balance, and space. 

The senses of newborn babies have not yet been fully developed.

 As time goes by, babies become toddlers, and young children become preschoolers. Their senses will gradually mature as they continue to explore the sensory world and engage in new activities.

Each new sensory experience will establish new brain synapses and promote the development and perfection of the brain, which we will talk about later.

Sensory Game Features And Ideas

The characteristics of sensory games correspond to the five senses of a person. Besides, two other senses are related to balance and proprioception.

That is, to feel the connection between one part of the body and other parts.

Tactile Sensory Play

When you talk about sensory games in general, you probably immediately think of tactile sensory games. 

When you see a child groping for an object with both hands, this is a tactile game. 

Children can experience pressure, heat and cold, vibration, and many other different feelings through tactile games.

Games Idea: Use of suction cup objects.

By using the suction cups, we offer not only tactile stimulation but also auditory. Indeed, toddlers love the sound of suction cups that “pop” on the edge of the bathtub or the tiles!

Vestibular Sensory Game (Balance)

Rolling around, hanging, swinging, jumping, etc., can all bring certain benefits to developing children’s sense of balance

The reason is that the sense of balance and movement is controlled by the vestibular system in the inner ear. 

Parents can help children put their heads in various angles to activate different nerve endings in the ears.

Thus, strengthening the vestibular system!

baby boy playing on a swing

Game Idea: Your Yoga Ball

You can use this soft and bouncy ball for all stages of your young child. Playing “tummy time” is the best way to make him experience a balanced situation. Make sure to hold him securely all around with some light rolling in different directions.

Proprioceptive Game (Stimulation)

Think about a phenomenon: When using your arms and legs, do you always stare at your arms and legs? 

No, you don’t!

The reason why you don’t need to look is that these actions are derived from proprioception. 

Pushing, pulling, jumping, etc., can help babies develop a sense of space for their limbs. 

When playing, they can feel where their body is and the connection between the limbs and the body.

Game Idea: Pull a toy 

This game is my favorite during “tummy time”, where you can place a soft toy in front of him and start to move it away slowly. Your young child then will try to move his body to reach it out. 

Auditory Sensory Game

Speaking of collisions, explosions, collapses, etc., in your opinion they may be terrible games..

But the truth is the opposite! 

These auditory games can help little kids distinguish different sounds, which is beneficial to auditory development.

toddler girl doing tummy time and looking at a sensory toy

Game Idea:  Spoon and Saucepan

You give your baby a wooden spoon and a saucepan, and then observe how he explores the sounds of different objects through games, even though such games may not be friendly to your nerves.

Visual Sensory Game

These types of sensory games help little children develop their vision. 

Here is a simple example: every time you put a spoon into a child’s mouth, how they stared at this “spoon plane” and flew into their mouth.

Game Idea: sensory tubes

These are very easy to make and will fascinate your little one. Fill these tubes with water. Then let your imagination run wild! Your baby will love handling them and watching the small elements move in the water. You can also fill them with sound elements. He will then have fun shaking the tube to hear them move and clash.

Smell and Taste Sensory Game 

It may be difficult for parents to determine when young children have mobilized their sense of smell and taste. 

But when kids bring their noses close to smell the flowers or put blocks into their mouths to taste are very typical examples of stimulating smell and taste.

Game Idea: Smelling a blanket and new food

You can let your baby sniff his blanket, or any other item around the house, by placing it near his nose. Make sure not to cover his face! Introducing new food for babies develops the taste sense. Give them mixed fruit to taste once they are ready to eat solid foods.

When To Give Your Child Sensory Toys?

A quick answer is: From day One!

Yes! You read that right…

Your little baby is ready to explore the surrounding world just right after birth, and your role is to help him doing it properly!

The sensory… it’s not just the five senses!

To evoke the sensory in children is, almost systematically, to refer exclusively to the five senses, which allow them to receive external information. 

But, for example, it takes two years on average for a newborn’s visual acuity to reach maturity. At the same time, the environment we offer him is excessively visual, the sense that all of us prefer!

For example, we can offer babies contrasting visual elements to attract them from the beginning of their life.

What primarily interests children are the sensations that make them aware of their body, which are:

  • Proprioception: the perception of the position of its different parts
  • kinesthesia: the sense of movement 
  • Vestibular system: the notion of balance
  • Deep tact: awareness of one’s body envelope
baby boy playing in the tub

During pregnancy, babies have already had multiple sensory experiences, which are:

  • Vibratory: The mother’s voice, the heartbeats, and external noises made the amniotic fluid vibrate
  • Vestibular: The mother’s movements made them move within the uterine space
  • Tactile: They touched the uterine wall and felt the density of the amniotic fluid.
pregnant women showing the baby belly

After birth, children have only rare occasions to experience sensory experiences of this type (except when they are in a moving car or when an adult carries them).

Therefore, it is essential to offer children proposals that remind them of these sensory environments.

Related: Baby Basic Stages of Development

A Rule of Thumb: Don’t Exaggerate

tow toddlers playing with sensory toys

The excess is the enemy of the good….

We receive so much sensory information per second. So we don’t need to be stimulated!

From the moment a baby does not sleep, he is… awake! He is already enough, if not too much, spurred on by the world around him.

Because of the immaturity of his brain, the newborn does not filter and organize sensory information like us. 

Up to eight-nine months, its sensory environment is highly invasive.

He will have the total capacity to filter this information around the age of four to five.

So, caregivers (parents and teachers) must understand that neon lights that are too bright, an excessive sound environment, and too many toys can affect the nervous system of children.

From this point of view, the essential part of supporting a child consists of arranging a safe and reassuring space for him and granting him an attentive and considerate presence.

It Boils Down To This: 

When dealing with babies, you must adapt to the sensation of the child. 

There will always be a way for little kids to express their feelings; look carefully for any unusual reaction and act respectively!

It is preferable to surround him with a few sensory toys and offer him a hypo-stimulating environment.

Sensory Games and Brain Development: Are They Related? 

little baby boy laying down on a playing mat

We might think of something as nothing more than a “child’s game”

But the truth is that :playing” also includes a lot of things that parents don’t realize. 

Different experiences can stimulate children’s senses, strengthen brain development, and establish connections between those nervous systems that control learning. 

This is very helpful for improving children’s ability to complete relatively complex learning tasks. 

Furthermore, it can help children enrich their knowledge, gain problem solving skills, understand the world, exercise language skills, improve social quality, and so on.

The Benefits of Sensory Games?

Playing with sensory games and using sensory toys awaken the kids’ senses and have other benefits that most parents will appreciate.

Let’s take a closer look:

Development of Cognitive Ability

Babies and young children are often curious about the world around them and explore it through their senses. 

Sensory games allow their brains to classify different things and distinguish different sensory experiences, such as hot, cold, smooth, rough, etc.

Plus, they can understand many different concepts, such as language (through mutual exchange of experiences) and mathematics (by filling in the blanks, absorbing a lot, sorting and sorting, etc.).

Furthermore, babies can also discover that different substances will react to other substances under specific effects to cultivate causality. 

This kind of scientific, logical reasoning ability improves!

Development of Motor Skills: Gross and Fine Motor Skills

Through sensory games, children can exercise their physical stamina, develop a sense of direction, and improve muscle strength and agility. 

Toddlers develop fine motor skills by learning to pinch, shape, mold, and organize small things. 

For example, playing with plasticine can improve children’s hand strength.

Most importantly,

These skills can come in handy in daily activities in the future, such as buttoning buttons, zipping clothes, tying shoelaces, writing, and so on. 

Children can develop their gross motor skills through squatting, jumping, rolling, pushing, climbing, throwing, and other activities.

Language Development

While talking to each other, children can learn new vocabulary, including nouns, verbs, and adjectives, etc. 

When they try to use these words to describe objects or specific substances, their language skills improve.

Memory Improvement 

Children can enhance understanding and deepen memory by mobilizing multiple senses to complete a task.

Creativity Development: Discovering Themselves

When a new object or substance appears in front of them, kids often create many different ways to explore and learn more about it 

They have to decide for themselves how to interact with the world around them. In this process, children will become more confident and independent.

Improve Social Skills

When children play sensory games together, they often observe how other people play with a particular toy. 

In this way, they can learn new ways to play and learn to share, plan, and discuss with others.

Relieve Depression or Anxiety 

Sensory games can help children adjust their feelings of boredom, anxiety, and other inner psychological discomfort or frustration.

Parents and Teachers Role 

baby boy doing tummy time

The purpose of sensory games is precisely this: to help children refine their senses and gain experience while having fun.

Parents and teachers play an essential role in this as they can offer children sensory activities and games suitable for each stage of growth and development. 

Nature can often be the best friend when it comes to sensory play. 

These games find their perfect outdoor space where children can explore nature and connect with it.

You can find some of these games on the market, but you can easily create them at home with everyday objects.

DIY Sensory Games For Children: 15 Amazing Ideas

baby boy doing a bubble bath

To stimulate your baby and make him the protagonist of his adventures, I propose below 15 sensory play activities to never miss this significant experience.

Well, many will be trivial, you will say (and I agree)..But always remember to play and live them from the child’s point of view and with respect to his age.

  1. Lie down on the grass: roll around, take the fillets, smell the flowers, caress the bark of the trees, look into the puddles of water, or throw a pebble…)
  2. Paper: to wrinkle, tear, roll up (be careful to reuse paper with inks that give down in the hands)
  3. The sensory journey at home: Take surfaces of different materials (cardboard, plastic with bubbles to burst, the bathroom carpet…) and create a path to take with the feet to discover new sensations
  4. Color Hunt: decide on four colors and then take at least five items of each color from home. So take four colored boxes of the same color (you can also stick a colored sheet on one side) and go and put the colored objects in the right boxes.
  5. Handling the sponges: (you have already guessed this from your little ones’ bath, right?) This is a tactile pleasure for children. Let them discover different types of sponges (watch out that they do not put in their mouth and can tear off pieces)
  6. Create a treasure chest: Get a large cardboard box filled with objects and create a hole through which only the hand passes. Each extracted object will be a precious find (and why not hide some prizes for more excitement?)
  7. An ice cube, a bowl, and a teaspoon: we go to the discovery of the cold
  8. Massages and pampering: Never force the little ones, but when you see them tired and in the mood, then take the opportunity to gently massage them and kiss them, letting them know their body.
  9. The soft bags: take some storage bags, fill them with soap and some objects (which cannot pierce them) and then close well. Then you play by touching and exploring.
  10. Musical bottles: get an empty water bottle and then fill it with stones, rice, and other small objects that, when moved, play some sounds.
  11. The missing animals: Disperse some animals in old wool balls in a box. It will be up to the little one to be able to find them all.
  12. Soap bubbles, to take, try to grab: maybe using one of those delicious multi-bubble shooters perfect for parties.
  13. Recreate a small environment: (perhaps on cardboard) using recycled objects (rice could make desert sand, stone, or plant paste, and so on ..)
  14. Submarine recovery: Filling a basin of water with various and eventual objects, then go hunting for each one.
  15. Coloring with fingers: On giant sheets of wrapping paper style with edible dyes dissolved in water. You can do it with your feet too.

Related: 8 Best Sensory Toys For Babies

Frequently Asked Questions

sensory cubs for toddlers and babies

Q1: Why are sensory games and toys important for children’s development?

Over the years, your child will change and grow rapidly, learn skills, and be able to interact with the world in new and different ways. Sensory games and toys are a basic and main way to awaken the senses from birth until a few years later. This process is called development, and covers a number of areas, including cognitive development, physical development, language skills and social development.

Q2: What is sensory learning?

Cognition begins with sensory acquaintance with objects and phenomena of the surrounding world, with sensations and perception. The first source of knowledge about the world is sensation, and sensory experience is formed in children by playing. During sensory learning, the child learns individual signs, properties of objects that directly affect his sense organs. So the baby learns that objects have their own taste, color, size, smell, sound, weight, temperature, etc. A more complex cognitive process that sensory learning offers is perception, which provides a reflection of all (or many) signs of an object with which the child is in direct contact.

Q3: What is the importance of sensory play?

Before embarking on more complex learning, a child begins by developing his senses. Exposure to stimuli will help build and awaken his senses, become aware of himself and adjust his balance. In addition to this, sensory activities develop children’s curiosity and help them recognize their surroundings

Conclusion

Sensory games have the objective of intriguing and thus stimulating all the newborn’s senses by offering children the opportunity to use these senses actively in exploring the world.

In fact, from birth, children begin to explore the environment and the world around them through sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell.

Children watch, listen, touch, taste, smell..

The more they experience sensory experiences, the more they assimilate, learn, associate, and develop new skills. 

In addition, these activities help children to use the “scientific method” to observe, formulate a hypothesis, experiment, and refine attention. 

They support learning by helping memory, and improve the physical and cognitive development to complete more complex learning tasks

In any case and for any activity aimed at stimulating the senses, it is essential that the child has fun and elaborates the information without the parents forcing the time. 

It is essential to respect the growth stages of children (which are different from child to child), paying attention to the needs of the little ones. 

Although you do not need to worry, it is best to talk to your pediatrician in case of exaggerated or imperceptible responses to the proposed stimuli.

Disclaimer:

The information in this article is only a guide for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for advice from a medical professional or healthcare provider.

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