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How and Why to Incorporate Sensory Play Into Your Playground


Sensory play refers to any activity that stimulates a young child’s senses: touch, taste, smell, sight or sound, as well as movement and balance. Parents and teachers often create sensory bins and tables for homes and classrooms, but the easiest way to get this type of play is outdoors on a playground!

A playground has endless opportunities for kids to engage in sensory play. But there are ways you can take things to the next level! Below you’ll find more information on sensory play and how to incorporate this type of learning into your playground.

What is Sensory Play? Why is it Important?

Sensory play includes any activity that gets kids to use their senses. It’s important because children (and adults) learn best when they engage their senses. Exploring the world through sensory play is also crucial to healthy brain development, as sensory play helps build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways.

For the classroom, there are even more benefits to incorporating sensory play. This type of play is known to calm frustrated or anxious children, and it can support problem solving skills, social interaction and cognitive growth. Kids are also able to expand their vocabulary by learning words like “hot and cold” or “hard and soft.”

How to Incorporate Sensory Play Into Your Playground Design

Including sensory play into your custom playground design is easier than you think! Here are some ideas to start considering for your design:

  • Sensory panels. Make the most of your playground equipment by including sensory panels. These textured panels provide a tactile experience for kids. They can read braille, look at pictures of insects or work on their hand-eye coordination by moving around gears.
    Sensory Play Elements of Commercial Outdoor Play Equipment
  • Musical instruments. Kids love to make music, and the outdoors is the perfect place for this because they can be as loud as they want! You can easily integrate musical instruments into your design by adding a xylophone or bongos.
    Custom Musical Playground Equipment
  • Motion play. Playground movement builds gross and fine motor skills, along with core strength. Those movements enhance the vestibular system — the sensory system that helps with balance and coordination — and develop proprioception, or body awareness. Children love motion play components on the playground. Swings, spinners, seesaws and spring riders provide sensory rich play elements to any play space.
    Playground Design with Motion Play Elements
  • Water fun. Probably every child’s favorite thing to do in the summer is play in the water. Public swimming pools can be overwhelming to a young child, but a splash park is the perfect fit! Help kids develop their motor skills by adding water features to your playground.
    Commercial water play equipment

Cunningham Recreation doesn’t just understand parks and playgrounds - we understand kids! Contact us today to discuss your ideas for sensory play and how to incorporate more of it into your playground design.