little boy crawling across playground steppers

How Playgrounds Stimulate Children’s Senses

How playgrounds stimulate children's senses

Playgrounds are an important part of childhood, providing fun, escape, and a focus on learning through organic play. Because play is an integral and natural part of childhood, it forms an essential part of children’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development.

One of the most vital facets of play is sensory play — activities that engage the senses. Through sensory play, children can explore the world and find their place in it.

When you incorporate sensory elements in your play areas, you boost the value of playtime. Sensory stimulating playgrounds can help develop children’s imaginations and encourage them to reach important milestones.

The Science of Sensory Play in Child Development

Sensory play is a holistic way of learning new skills. Sensory play activities use colors, scents, textures, and sounds to help children develop new skills. Sensory play activities include these elements:

  • Auditory: Children explore sounds when they engage in auditory activities. Auditory activities help children develop listening skills and explore music and rhythm. Auditory exercises during play can include kids clapping their hands and stomping their feet, or closing their eyes and identifying different objects by the sounds they make.
  • Olfactory and gustatory: Olfactory and gustatory relate to the sense of smell and taste. Both senses are vital to quality of life, and the olfactory sense can even transfer important information that helps regulate emotions. Ideas for activities that engage these senses are playing with scented bubbles or closing the eyes and guessing food or drink by smell or flavor alone.
  • Proprioception: Proprioception, also called kinesthesia, is the body’s ability to perceive position in movement in relation to space. Proprioception plays a significant role in developing coordination and gross motor skills. Playgrounds are excellent tools for sharpening proprioception — children become very aware of their movements and their surroundings as they climb, jump, and swing on the playground.
  • Tactile: Tactile play is all about learning and exploring through the sense of touch. Tactile play can teach children about temperature, pressure, texture, and vibrations.
  • Vestibular: The vestibular system relates to balance and spatial orientation. Once again, playgrounds are effective tools for developing the vestibular system, as children naturally practice balance while climbing, swinging while shifting their weight, and walking across beams.
  • Visual: Visual sensory play focuses on sight and can include activities with colors and interesting patterns and shapes. Activities that incorporate following movements can also stimulate vision.

As sensory play stimulates the different senses, it is possible that sensory play and child development are linked. Sensory-rich activities help children to form new neural connections and are also beneficial in the following ways:

  • Sensory play enhances gross and fine motor skills.
  • Sensory play boosts a child’s concentration.
  • Sensory play promotes cognitive growth.
  • Sensory play encourages both social interactions and independence since children can engage in sensory play together or alone.

Developmental Milestones and Sensory Stimulation

As with any other area of a child’s development, there are important sensory milestones that children reach at different ages. For young children, sensory milestones can include:

  • Vestibular: Looking around while the body is in motion and shifting weight are examples of vestibular milestones.
  • Proprioceptive: These milestones can include new movements such as climbing.
  • Tactile: Tactile milestones include understanding temperature and becoming accustomed to different textures.
  • Auditory: Understanding the direction of sound is one important auditory milestone.

Playgrounds can form an important part of meeting these developmental needs. With the right elements like monkey bars, balancing beams, swings, and climbers, you can have a play area that helps children achieve their sensory milestones in a fun and enjoyable environment.

Sensory Elements in Play Areas

You can enhance your play areas by adding features that encourage sensory exploration in playgrounds. While it may not be practical to include features that engage taste and smell, you can easily make your playground auditorily, visually and tactilely stimulating.


Using the right colors and tones on a playground offers visual stimulation without overwhelming kids

Using the right colors and tones on a playground offers visual stimulation without overwhelming kids. It is well known that different colors can create different environments and responses. For example, yellow may heighten concentration, and green can be very calming.

Color is an effective way of building associations and improving learning environments. Incorporating color in your playground design can be as easy as using different shades of paint, or you can take it to the next level by adding artwork and other fun designs to different elements of your playground.


You can add auditory elements to your playground design with unique features like bells, chimes, and even drums. Consider adding these musical play structures to your playground:

  • Chimes and Vibes: Both the Chimes and Vibes play structures from Little Tikes Commercial make a diatonic scale. You can use Chimes and Vibes to teach children about real musical notes and scales.
  • Cabasas and Congas: These fun percussive play elements encourage children to learn about rhythm and beat in a fun and unique way.

As you consider incorporating sound elements into your play space, you should think about placement. Putting musical equipment in one area helps to contain the auditory stimuli of these structures. This allows kids who may be overwhelmed by noise to avoid the music section of the playground.

Tactile Elements

A playground is a naturally tactile structure, but you can enhance the power of touch in your play environment by incorporating elements made from different materials. Your playground can include metals, plastics, and even rope, all of which encourage children to explore different textures. You can also include fun features like chains, dials, latches, and sandboxes.

Creating the Right Sensory Balance

Sensory-stimulating playgrounds are highly interactive areas, but part of creating a sensory-friendly and inclusive play area is ensuring no experience is overwhelming. It is vital to consider children who may experience sensory overload.

Design quiet spaces that children can escape to when they are feeling overwhelmed. Adding a quiet space can also be encouraging for children who have reached their social threshold and need some independent play. Look for ways to add these spaces for a sense of isolation while still being visible for adult supervision.

Build Sensory-Stimulating Play Spaces With Little Tikes Commercial

Build sensory-stimulating play spaces with Little Tikes Commercial

Are you ready to build a play area that features sensory play activities for kids and adds value to your school, daycare, park, worship center, or community project? At Little Tikes Commercial, we strive to provide quality commercial playground equipment and inclusive solutions. We’ll work with your organization to create sensory-rich playgrounds and custom play spaces that enrich children’s lives.

Browse our wide range of playground equipment and solutions, including sensory play equipment like Traffic Lights, Garden Sensory Walls, and other premium products. Contact us today if you have any additional questions or need support.