Sensory Equipment Is Great For Play
Not all play zones are ball pools, soft play equipment and rope bridges. Sensory play equipment is one type of play equipment used to help cognitive and social development in children. Below you can find everything you need to know about sensory play equipment, including how it meets the needs of children, and even some adult populations.
What Is Sensory Play Equipment?
Sensory play equipment is a special type of play equipment that is used to enhance cognition in children and improve their social skills. The equipment itself is made to activate the five senses and also body awareness. It is usually colourful, includes numerous shapes, patterns and lots of different textures.
Sensory play equipment is not always for children either. Research has identified ways that this type of equipment can benefit special needs children and dementia sufferers. We’ll come back to these points later in our post.
What Is Sensory Room Equipment?
If sensory play equipment is individual types of play equipment to activate and challenge our sensors, a sensory room is a whole room dedicated to this equipment. Many schools, play venues and care facilities will install a sensory room to benefit its users.
The sensory room is not always an active play setting but may take on characteristics that make it therapeutic and calming for some users. Sensory rooms are not exactly new either and were first used by the Dutch back in the 1970s.
What Does a Sensory Room Look Like?
A sensory room usually looks colourful with lots of patterns and shapes in different places. In fact, a sensory room can often look a bit wacky to the untrained eye, but there is always a method behind the madness.
Some of the common sensory equipment that gets installed into a sensory room is:
- Interactive panels that users can touch to make decisions
- Fibre optic strands from the floor or ceiling
- Mirrored panelling
- Interactive floors
- Light tubes
Sensory rooms are usually tailored to the age group who will be using them and can be made bespoke to specific care needs.
What Are the Benefits of Sensory Equipment?
The benefits of sensory equipment will be different for different people. As we will explain further below, children, special needs children and even some adults get something personal from using sensory equipment.
Yet, the overarching benefits are:
- Improved mental health (reduced anxiety and stress)
- Problem-solving skills
- Communication and teamwork
- Some motor skill development
- Cognitive development
How Sensory Equipment Meets Children’s Needs
Children, especially those at a very young age, are highly sensory orientated. Most of their early experiences and thoughts are commanded by what they feel, smell, see, hear and taste. It shapes how their brains develop and react to different materials, colours and more.
Sensory equipment is a safe way of introducing children to many different objects and getting them to use their senses frequently. As the aforementioned benefits suggest, this is crucial for their mental wellbeing and their cognitive and social development.
For very young children, introducing new textures and shapes is also a way for them to identify danger and teach them how to respond to stimulus safely.
Special Needs Sensory Equipment
Sensory equipment may be a fantastic inclusion for the development of children, but its advantages can go even further within special needs populations. Extensive research has already been conducted to identify how sensory stimulus can benefit children with special needs.
Some children suffer from a condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and it is common in children with autism. It prevents them from interacting with objects, light and smells in the effortless wat that other children do. Sometimes these things can even be painful for them.
But by using sensory play, these children can slowly adapt and become more comfortable with their sensors, which continues to benefit them outside of sensory-stimulating environments. Naturally, special needs teachers need to be trained on how to use sensory equipment with special needs children.
This is why sensory curriculums are now the norm within special needs schools.
It is no surprise that sensory rooms are becoming increasingly popular within special needs education centres and school. An alternative option that has also been researched frequently is the use of sensory gardens. These gardens work with the same principles but incorporate elements of nature as well, which can be apt for tapping into the sense and use of smell.
Sensory Equipment Helps Dementia Sufferers
The benefits of sensory stimulation within dementia populations has long been known.
Back in 2010, a group of scientists published their findings on this subject in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. Their experiment was to test the effects of sensory stimulation in older adults with dementia. They tested over fifty people with dementia and found that after sensory stimulation sessions they:
- Had better social interactions with others
- Were less bored and more active
- Became more independent
- Showed an increase in alertness
This is just one of many studies that has proven the benefits of sensory stimulation among dementia sufferers and is why sensory play equipment is not always just for children.
Where to Find Sensory Equipment for Children and Adults
Because sensory equipment is a unique and niche part of the play equipment industry, it is usually only designed and installed by a number of experts.
Rather than asking any good soft play equipment provider to try their hand at a sensory room, it is highly recommended to use a team who understand sensory equipment and how to maximise its benefits in a bespoke sensory room design.
Create Your Own Sensory Play Zone!
House of Play is an experienced specialist when it comes to play equipment, including sensory play equipment for children and adults. We can design and install sensory equipment that meets your venue’s and user’s needs.
Whether you want more information or to bring your sensory room vision to life, speak with our friendly team now!