In part 1 of our blog series on sensory play, we discussed touch and the vestibular system. In part 2 we are going to explore sight and sound, and how designing playgrounds with these sensory experiences in mind can improve children’s learning outcomes.
Kids love to test their senses. Whether spotting a rainbow, listening to wind rustle the trees, or smelling flowers in a garden, their senses offer a world of discovery.
There is endless ways to integrate sensory experiences into a playground design from customising a large play structures to including small sensory play equipment or even in the landscaping.
Before we jump into the importance of play equipment for vision and hearing, let’s revisit why children need sensory play experiences in the first place.
Why Kids Must Explore the World through Their Senses
Firstly, when we talk about sensory play, we are talking about play using free materials and play structures like our age-appropriate play units.
While playing a computer game could be classed as sensory play, there’s evidence to suggest that too much screen time can have an adverse effect on brain development.
Sensory play requires that all five senses be activated in an organic way, out in the open, while experiencing and learning about the world.
The senses that get most refined through play are sight, sound, and touch, although our littlest children may eat a handful of dirt every now and then – activating their sense of taste!
While human beings use their five senses all the time, playgrounds offer children a unique opportunity to actively engage their sensory system.
When given the opportunity to play, children’s senses are fine-tuned and used to build up the neural networks in their brains, which enhances memory and the ability to undertake complex tasks.
Activating, testing, and extending children’s senses through play teaches them how to gather and integrate information from the world around them – vital for language acquisition, problem-solving, and motor development.
Finally, sensory play can in some cases calm an anxious child, by providing them with an outlet for their emotions. Sensory play has also been shown to calm and engage children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Adding sensory play experiences to your playground is an easy and common-sense way to enhance learning outcomes and add inclusivity value.
Designing Playgrounds for the Sense of Sight
Many wonderful opportunities exist to activate the sense of sight in a playground. Brightly coloured, high contrast play equipment is not only visually engaging but invaluable for the visually impaired.
Bright, thoughtful use of colour also helps children develop and refine their ability to recognise shapes and objects, filter out unnecessary details, and intake visual information.
It is also important that moving objects, such as spinners and flying foxes, be bright and visually interesting, as this aids children’s ability to track an object through space.
Our Combination Play Units can be customised to use bright and exciting colours that help children make sense of their environment through enriching visual stimuli.
Designing Playgrounds for the Sense of Hearing
Playgrounds don’t have to be obviously musical to support and develop a child’s sense of hearing.
In fact, seemingly “regular” playgrounds can help children learn about sound, gather information through their hearing, and filter sound information.
The “whoosh” sound experienced when going down a slide activates the inner ear and refines sensory inputs.
Talking tubes can also be added to refine their sense of hearing. Talking tubes help children understand amplification and different levels of sound.
Tunnels muffle noise and create much-needed quiet spaces.
In play shelters, children can listen to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.
Children especially love to use sticks to test the sound of different materials. What does metal sound like when tapped? Will wood and plastic sound different?
Children also love to experience sound from different vantage points. What does the world sound like from high up in a Space Tower or inside a curving tunnel?
At adventure+ we have a wide range of play equipment designed to activate hearing.