How Sensory Play Helped Me Bond With My Son

How sensory play helped me bond with my son

Date: 31 May 2019

Our Recruitment Co-ordinator, Rizvana Khan, talks about her experience with sensory play.

How sensory play helped me bond with my sonMy son Eesah’s first trip to the beach seemed like it was going to be a lovely day out for our family. What can be better than playing in the sand, stepping into the waves of the sea and eating fish, chips and ice cream?

Turns out that going to the beach was a massive sensory explosion without me even trying! He loved feeling the sand and pebbles under his little feet and exploring the textures by picking them up with me. Getting the sand wet to make sandcastles also gave him a little insight into how something that could slip through his fingers could be used to build great castles.

We sat on the beach towels to have our snacks and just listened to the waves crashing, the seagulls chirping and the other families laughing. We even went on a mission to find seashells and put them close to our ears to see if the myths were true!

It was this that made me realise that my son is still taking in the world around him with a sense of wonder, and this is easy to miss out on as a mum. In the build up to the day I was worried about packing snacks, spare clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, plasters, towels, water bottles- the list goes on! But I learnt to just enjoy it and take pride in the fact that my son had such an openness to learning through play.

Sensory play at home 

I used to take Eesah to weekly mum and toddler groups when I could. But when I returned from maternity leave and was unable to go during the week, I decided to see if I could replicate the activities he enjoyed at these groups at home. He really enjoyed water play so I bought a small tray for the garden. We filled this up with warm water most days, so to make it more exciting I asked my childcare friends for some ideas. They suggested adding washing up liquid and whisking the solution to form lots of bubbles. I would also include food colouring or scents to the mix to add even more ways for my son to get excited about all of the human senses.

It was these little things that made me realise just how special activities like this could be used to bond with my son. I was also so glad that they not only taught him to think, ask questions and wonder about the world around him, but could create fond memories for us to remember for years to come.

Want to try this for yourself? Here’s my top tips:

  1. It doesn’t have to be messy.
  2. If it does get messy, don’t be afraid – have fun with it!
  3. Don’t overthink it, sensory play uses any of the senses- touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.

Looking for some ideas to get started?

Messy Sensory Activities

  • Make ‘Sensory Trays’ using water, sand, bubbles and foam.
  • Eating messy peaches – an apron will really help!
  • Make slime.
  • Practice writing in sugar.
  • Paint with fingers and toes.

Tidy Sensory Activities

  • Create ‘Sensory Bottles’ – fill up an empty plastic bottle with lentils, glitter, or coloured water and shake them up (make sure you seal the cap tightly!).
  • Construct a ‘Treasure Basket’ – a hamper made with a particular theme using lots of different textured objects (we made a seaside themed Treasure Basket, inspired by our trips to the beach).
  • Bath time with foam and bubbles.
  • Make music with tins and bottles.
  • Collect leaves and acorns during autumn.
  • Go on a ‘Sound Walk’ with a checklist to tick off what you hear.

How I dealt with separation anxietyDon’t forget to just have fun and stay safe when you try sensory play. For more ideas on how you can incorporate sensory play into your family time, please speak to your local Bright Horizons Nursery Manager who will be happy to support you.

Bright Horizons are proud to be working in partnership with NCT. We support their mission to help parents through the first 1,000 days, to have the best possible experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. If you would like more information on the topic of sensory play from NCT, please visit