Sensory play is a type of play that engages the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. It can involve exploring different textures, sounds, smells, colours and flavours through various activities and materials. Sensory play is not only fun but also beneficial for people of all ages and abilities, especially for people with disabilities.
In this article, we will explore what sensory play is, why it is important for people with disabilities, how to create sensory play opportunities for them, and some examples of sensory play activities for different senses. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the benefits of sensory play for people with disabilities and how to incorporate it into their daily lives.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is a form of play that stimulates the five senses and helps children and adults learn about themselves and the world around them. Sensory play can involve using natural or artificial materials, objects, toys, tools or equipment that appeal to one or more senses.
Some examples of sensory play activities for different senses are:
Sight: looking at pictures, books, puzzles, kaleidoscopes, glow-in-the-dark paint, etc.
Hearing: listening to music, sounds, stories, rhymes, etc.
Touch: feeling different textures, temperatures, shapes, sizes, etc.
Smell: smelling different scents, aromas, spices, herbs, etc.
Taste: tasting different flavours, foods, drinks, etc.
Sensory play can be done indoors or outdoors, individually or in groups, with or without guidance. The main goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment where people can explore their senses and have fun.
Why is Sensory Play Important for People with Disabilities?
Sensory play is important for everyone, but especially for people with disabilities. Sensory play can help people with disabilities improve their cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills in various ways.
Some of the benefits of sensory play for people with disabilities are:
Cognitive skills: sensory play can help people with disabilities develop their attention span, concentration, memory, problem-solving, creativity and language skills. For example, sensory play can help people with dementia recall past memories or people with intellectual disabilities learn new words or concepts.
Physical skills: sensory play can help people with disabilities develop their fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, balance and spatial awareness. For example, sensory play can help people with physical disabilities strengthen their muscles or improve their mobility.
Social skills: sensory play can help people with disabilities develop their communication skills, social interaction skills, cooperation skills and self-confidence. For example, sensory play can help people with autism express their emotions or communicate their needs or preferences.
Emotional skills: sensory play can help people with disabilities develop their self-awareness, self-regulation and coping skills. For example, sensory play can help people with anxiety calm down or relax or people with depression feel happier or more motivated.
Sensory play can also provide a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction for people with disabilities. It can make them feel valued and respected as individuals who have unique abilities and preferences. It can also make them feel more connected to themselves and others.
How to Create Sensory Play Opportunities for People with Disabilities?
Creating sensory play opportunities for people with disabilities is not difficult or expensive. You can use many things from around your home or from nature to create a sensory play area or activity. Here are some tips and ideas for setting up a sensory play area or activity for people with disabilities:
Choose a suitable location: you can use any space that is comfortable and accessible for a person with a disability. It can be indoors or outdoors depending on the weather and the type of activity. Make sure the space is safe and free from hazards or distractions.
Choose appropriate materials and objects: you can use natural or artificial materials and objects that appeal to one or more senses. You can use things like sand, rice, water, clay, foam, cotton balls, feathers, buttons, beads, pebbles, leaves, flowers, spices, fruits, vegetables, etc. You can also use toys, tools, containers, instruments, books, etc. that are suitable for the person's age and ability level.
Provide variety and choice: You can offer different types of materials and objects for the person to choose from. You can also change them regularly to keep the person interested and challenged. You can also let the person decide how they want to use them or what they want to do with them.
Provide guidance and support: You can provide some guidance and support for the person if they need it. You can show them how to use the materials or objects or how to do the activity. You can also ask them questions or give them feedback to encourage their learning and communication. However, you should also respect their autonomy and let them explore at their own pace and in their own way.
Monitor and evaluate: You can monitor and evaluate the person's response and progress during and after the sensory play activity. You can observe behaviour, mood, engagement, enjoyment, skills and learning. You can also ask them for their feedback or opinions. You can use this information to adjust or improve the sensory play activity for the next time.
Sensory Play Activities for People with Disabilities
There are many sensory play activities that you can do with people with disabilities. Here are some examples of sensory play activities for different senses that you can try:
Sight: You can create a sensory collage with different materials and objects that have different colours, shapes, patterns, etc. You can also use a lightbox or a projector to create different effects with light and shadow. You can also use a magnifying glass or a microscope to look at different things up close.
Hearing: You can create a sensory sound box with different objects that make different sounds when shaken, tapped, rubbed, etc. You can also use a recorder or a microphone to record and playback different sounds or voices. You can also use musical instruments or household items to make music or rhythms.
Touch: You can create a sensory bin or tray with different materials and objects that have different textures, temperatures, weights, etc. You can also use sensory bags or bottles filled with different liquids, gels, beads, etc. You can also use massage tools or brushes to provide tactile stimulation or relaxation.
Smell: You can create a sensory smell box with different materials and objects that have different scents, aromas, etc. You can also use essential oils or candles to create different smells in the air. You can also use herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, etc. to make different smells in the kitchen.
Taste: You can create a sensory taste tray with different foods and drinks that have different flavours, textures, temperatures, etc. You can also use blindfolds or earplugs to enhance the sense of taste. You can also use recipes or cookbooks to make different dishes or snacks.
You can adapt or modify these activities to suit the person's needs and interests. You can also involve other people such as caregivers or peers in these activities to make them more social and interactive.
Sensory play is a wonderful way to help people with disabilities learn, grow and have fun. Sensory play can stimulate the senses and enhance cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills. Sensory play can also create a calming and relaxing environment.
You don't need a lot of money or time to create sensory play opportunities for people with disabilities. You just need some creativity and imagination. You can use many things from around your home or from nature to create sensory play areas or activities that appeal to one or more senses.
We hope this article has given you some ideas and inspiration for sensory play. Why not try some of these activities with your loved ones or clients today? You might be surprised by how much they enjoy them and how much they benefit from them.