How to Design your Children’s Spaces to Encourage Sensory Play
From birth through early childhood development and even into adulthood we learn from the sensory experiences that surround us. What we touch, see, smell, taste, move and hear from an early age shape our development, cognitive growth, memory, and interactions.
Children are designed to explore the world via their senses. Designing children’s spaces, toys and furniture that promote and facilitate sensory interaction and play naturally encourages kids to use scientific pathways and build connections in the brain while they play, create, and explore their world.
Here are a few reasons to design for sensory play in your home and some tips and ideas on creating fun and productive spaces to encourage children to interact with their surroundings.
Development of Coordination and Fine Motor Skills
Children are naturally curious and eager to learn, and providing them with opportunities to improve their fine motor skills and coordination encourages them to think spatially and gain a tactile sense for their surrounds.
- Encourage them to make their own beds, securing the fitted sheets and tucking in the edges.
- Make shelves or bins their height throughout the home so they can slide books back on the shelves or fold or match their socks and place them in the appropriate bins.
- Let them unzip and remove the cushion cover from their Franklin+Emily chair when it needs washing and then squeeze the cushion back into the cushion cover and zip it all up once clean.
Development of Senses (& Talents)
Children with sensory talents (like the musically inclined) often display them early and can be triggered by sensory toys.
- Add colors and shapes to your decor to engage visual senses from a young age.
- Play music or choose a few toys with sound that you allow your children to play with.
- Choose toys and furniture of varying textures — solid wood frames, soft, velvety cushions, pillows or toys that engage different senses and reactions.
Development of Logical Thinking
Creating spaces throughout your home that encourage participation from your children will help to develop critical thinking skills and help to build lateral and logical thinking.
- A step stool that your child can move from room to room on their own will allow them to participate in everyday life. Let them unload the tupperware from the dishwasher encouraging them to examine, categorize and place the different shapes and sizes in the appropriate places.
- Place clothing items that children can pickout themselves at a level that makes sense, encourage them to participate in getting out the door and give them time to do so.
- When it comes to toys and games, puzzles are great for sorting, counting, developing analytical and problem solving skills.
Development and Respect for Spatial Awareness
There are definitely times when “child proofing” is advised, but introducing children to real-life challenges will also help with their growth and development.
- Choose pieces, like our chair, that children can move themselves and help them discover where items fit and function.
- Don’t remove all obstacles, rather encourage your children to think on their own about how to interact with their surroundings.
- Create areas for work, play, reading, sleep, etc to encourage children to work intentionally each space.
Development of Language
The more children experience the world via ALL their senses, the more they need and build a vocabulary to express it.
- Give your kids a step up and have them help in the kitchen. Then their scambled eggs are more than eggs, as the smooth soft shell cracks creating sharp edges and the gooey eggs turn into a soft pillowy scramble that is hot, salty and creamy.
- Speak with your children about the design details of your spaces, about the soft textures and colors of the cushions and the lines and knots in the wood.
Aids in Concentration and Focus
Having the freedom to fidget and withdraw could actually help children concentrate, many children focus and absorb best when they have something tactile in their hands.
- Having a few dexterous toys such as fidget spinners that use a small repetitive tactile motion can help a child to concentrate.
- Rubbing soft materials such as blankets or stuffed animals while listening to a bedtime story can aid in concentration.
- Create environments which are suited to their mood, and allow kids to manipulate their environment and express their personality.
Aids in Controlling Stress and Anxiety
As children develop the emotions and words to express how they are feeling, having something physical to aid in expression can be valuable.
- The ability to squeeze, bounce or throw something rubbery or elastic can have the same effect a stress ball has for adults.
- Keeping soft, cozy, comforting toys easily accessible can calm and relax a child.
- The use of temperature and lighting can also provide sensory satisfaction whether it is playing or doing art in a bright sunny spot or finding comfort with a stuffed animal and book in a warm, cozy corner in the perfect chair.
A few conclusions
When choosing furniture, toys and accessories for your children's rooms and spaces, think about how your kids will interact with each piece, what the colors will inspire, how they move throughout your home, and what curiosities they strike.