How Can Play Engage the Senses?

Helping children discover their world

Children use their senses to get information and build an understanding of the world around them. That’s why sensory-rich playgrounds are important to their development. Read below to see how different playground activities engage various senses. Then contact your local General Recreation playground consultant to get started on your Inclusive Playground project today.

Sliding

Sliding provides kids with a rich sensory experience. Their visual and vestibular systems actively receive information about the speed and pull of gravity. Tactile and proprioceptive systems collect information on the slides texture and the pressure needed to slow down to land on the ground. This sensory input helps children develop a better sense of balance and motor planning to accurately move in their world.

Spinning

Spinning is one of the core movements that engages the vestibular system. When a child spins on a tire swing or any other equipment, they are providing their brain with valuable equilibrium information. This information connects with inputs from their muscles and joints to help them maintain their body posture and balance in the world.

Swinging

Swinging back and forth is more than it seems. This simple motion provides each child’s nervous system with a wealth of visual, vestibular and proprioceptive information. Children gain an understanding of how their body moves through space, the speed of movements they are comfortable with, and the motor planning necessary to resist or increase active movement.

Climbing

All children desire to climb and conquer. Climbing involves four key sensory systems: tactile, proprioception, vestibular and visual. Each system actively collects information about textures, muscle activation needed to pull against gravity, and integrates with what the child sees while climbing. This information helps create “sensory-motory intelligence” and “visual spatial perception,” allowing kids to effectively relate to objects and navigate in the world.

Social

When children play together, they encourage each other to develop in ways that they couldn’t alone. Social imaginative play lets children integrate previous sensory knowledge with new experiences to expand their understanding of the world. Through playful interaction, children turn make-believe ideas into real ones in their world.

Tactile

Children touch everything because it’s the most dependable sensory system. It’s also the first to develop and the longest to stay in our lives. Tactile input helps the brain organize information for developing visual and auditory systems. Play experiences that provide children a variety of touch opportunities are necessary to help the nervous system organize all the sensory information from the environment.

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