Stimulating Children’s Senses in the School Playground

Here we explore what the senses are, and what activities can be enjoyed in the school playground to help children develop them.

We use our senses all day, every day. As we are engaging and interacting with others, as we make decisions, as we eat and drink – our senses are continually at work and we rely on them for almost everything we do.
So it’s important that children are able to go out into their school playground, their safe space for discovery, to explore everything that their senses have to offer.
Let’s take a closer look at the senses – touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell – and how you can use the outdoor playground to allow children to explore them all and enhance their learning experiences.

1. Touch

We are aware of what we touch through receptors in the skin known as the body’s ‘tactile system’. This has two dimensions to it – the first telling us the whereabouts of the touch on our body and the second telling us whether the touch is safe or dangerous, and how we should respond.

The outdoor playground is the ideal place for children to explore different textures and sensations. It’s packed with many different surfaces and naturally occurring variations in textures, such as trees, soil, grass, bricks and puddles. And with the introduction of Sensory Play equipment, we can provide plenty of additional variety.

Mud, Sand & Water Play are super sensory activities. There are many experiments children can try, even simply exploring the change in texture of mud and sand when it is wet or dry. You can use all sorts of different objects – sieves, rakes, scoops, containers, watering cans – to explore the way they feel, move and behave.

Water is another extremely versatile resource. Whether children are just dipping their fingers in at different temperatures, or channelling its flow and causing a splash with all sorts of wet-play experiments – it’s one of the best, readily available resources for tactile play. And being outdoors, it’s easy to offer messy play activities without having to worry about clearing up or the limited space available in the classroom!

2. Sight

Vision is our interpretation of what we see. It helps us to recognise objects and guides our responses, movements and actions accordingly. Visual appeal is a key element of a play space – it’s what attracts the children to the area and encourages them to start playing. However, there is much more to it than that.

It’s important to plan a playground carefully with a child’s visual system in mind. We think about their lines of vision, for example – so that there are different sights at different heights to suit different age groups. If a child is unable to see others or a staff member, this may cause stress and therefore creating pockets or areas where this limited vision should be avoided.

Some schools prefer play areas created with more natural materials. In contrast, others are looking for bold and bright colours to excite their pupils and help teach colour and shape recognition. Our colourful range of play surfacing and playground markings can be used as fun resources to educate and support physical activity, as well as boundary markings to designate between zones or to alert children to a change in environment. Colour contrast in an outdoor learning environment is particularly important for children who have visual impairments.

Tracking moving objects and being able to predict and follow the trajectory of objects is another important part of the visual system. Ball games and target activities are always a good way to practice this skill.

Mirror Panels are also an engaging way to engage this sense, especially with curved or convex options providing distorted reflections.

3. Hearing

Our auditory system is another of the senses that can be developed in the playground, and identifies the direction, type and quality of sound.

Our Playground Telephones enable children to speak across a large distance, which enhances their ability to focus, listen and understand, as well as their speaking skills.

Story telling is an age-old favourite enjoyed by children, and Story Telling Areas are the perfect facility for children to develop their listening abilities. Such areas can also include a Role Play Stage, enabling children to take turns acting out scenes of the story.

We also have an outstanding range of Outdoor Musical Equipment are perfect for children developing auditory skills, as they can learn different sounds, volumes, pitches, and rhythm and understand how they can use the instrument to create these different sounds. There are many benefits of musical play which you read more about here.

4.Taste and Smell

Our taste and smell senses are closely linked. They allow us to identify foods that we enjoy or dislike, and give us a good idea as to what is and isn’t safe to eat.

Creating a sensory garden or a wildlife area is not only good for scientific, explorative learning, but can also provide a real feast for a child’s sense of smell and taste.

Children love to plant, grow and care for scented herbs and flowers. Species like mint, rosemary and lavender all have distinctive smells. We have a range of growing planters, some with integrated benches to encourage this.

Children can also enjoy easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, potatoes and salad leaves. This will enable this children to explore the different tastes and textures.

So, there we have it! There are many ways your school playground can stir the senses of children to the maximum.

Create a playground for the senses at your school

If you are considering ways to enhance your play provision at your school, please get in touch today and we will be pleased to discuss how we can make this happen for you.

We would love to hear from you on 01322 279799 or online here.