The benefits of indoor play for children's development are endless! Sensory soft play is very popular with children of all ages and needs as soft play provides a safe and fun environment for them to explore and hone their skills.
This guide explores what sensory soft play is, the many benefits of soft play and our favorite soft play equipment for if you wish to create a soft play area.
What is Sensory Soft Play?
Sensory soft play refers to activities that stimulate our senses. Creating a soft sensory play area is a great way to provide a safe and engaging environment for children to explore their senses and process new information. For children with sensory disorders, soft play areas can be tailored to their specific needs with the inclusion of either superactive or calming sensory equipment.
The soft play environment helps children engage and react to stimuli, such as different textures, materials and colors. This includes stimulating their sense of balance (vestibular) and increases their awareness of their emotions, body and surroundings (proprioception). In turn, this helps children broaden their development skills, supporting them for independence in later life.
Soft play areas can be set up in many environments, including classrooms, sensory rooms, gyms, clinics, pre-schools or within your own home. Some activities and environments can be more stimulating than others, and each child will have a different sensory threshold. For instance, a setting that may be perfectly fine for one child might be either under stimulating or overstimulating for another.
The Benefits of Soft Play
Using sensory soft play equipment as an indoor activity to support children's development is a great idea. This development can range from improving their physical abilities to how they communicate with others. Pillows, cushions, bolsters, wedges and tunnels encourage exploration, creativity, motor planning and gross motor abilities.
Soft play areas provide a safe and fun environment for young children to interact and develop essential life skills. An indoor soft play area can be personalized to your child's needs, with the reassurance that they won't come to any potential injuries due to the soft nature of the sensory equipment. Here are nine key benefits of soft play:
- Cognitive development and growth
One of the main benefits of soft play is its enhancement of the thought process; soft play helps children understand cause and effect. Soft play also helps a child to gain a comprehension between the relationship of items and hand-eye coordination.
- Social skills
Although extremely popular with toddlers, sensory soft play is not limited to the younger years. Older kids often love to hang out on soft cushions and interact with one another. For some, social skills develop naturally. However, sometimes a motivator or safe place is needed.
Soft furniture can provide a hangout for such interaction and development. Using lights and sounds can also enhance the soft play area and make it even more enticing. What's more, if children are using the soft play area as a group, they will face new dynamics to share and practice teamwork.
When in a safe, sensory space, children can feel more secure within themselves, thus giving them a sense of security. The feeling of security within a soft play area can encourage movements and interactions that ordinarily might prove a challenge. As the child becomes more confident, these skills can then be transferred into the outside world.
- Problem solving and adaptability
A new environment, such as a soft play sensory room, offers new opportunities to experiment and tackle problem-solving. These new situations require creativity to try new approaches and techniques to adapt and absorb what works in these new surroundings.
One of the many benefits of soft play is how it can nurture and encourage creativity. Children can interact positively with the sensory soft play equipment to really engage their brain. A soft play area makes a great prompt for storytelling; for instance, a fort, playhouse or tunnel adds to the sensory experience.
- Communication skills
New environments provide new opportunities to extend vocabulary and different ways to communicate! Children can learn to describe what they are doing and label actions such as 'pull' or 'push' or even learn the names of different textures such as 'rough,' 'soft' and 'smooth' with the use of soft play equipment.
A soft play area can be very therapeutic for the user. Soft play helps with engagement and increased communication and helps children relax as they are in a closed-off and safe space.
- Exercise and sleep
When a child is in a soft play area, all their senses are stimulated. A soft play area is bright, colorful and most importantly, a fun space where a child can be free to explore! They can discover each piece of sensory equipment and run around as much as they want to. In turn, this should improve their quality of sleep that night – a positive result for parents and guardians!
- Motor skills
Soft play encourages motor development as children can work on stepping, climbing, crawling, jumping and rolling without fear of injury. Having an open space with good sensory lighting can provide the sensory-motor diet needed to move and learn. With movement comes speech and language skills, which will support them in an education setting.
Within a soft play area, children are encouraged to throw, squeeze, squish, pull and push the sensory equipment. This is not only fun for the child but also emphasizes strengthening their tactile skills.
Sensory Soft Play Room Equipment
The benefit of indoor play for children's development is that the child feels comfortable that they are in a safe space where they can focus on playing, interacting and learning.
When it comes to soft play room equipment, it's important to consider the walls and flooring. Finding the right panels, flooring, platforms, and matting is a key part of creating the desired environment in your soft playroom. Any sensory soft playroom should be both soft, safe and welcoming for its users.
Here are four sensory equipment products that you should consider for a soft playroom:
- Interactive wall panels
Our interactive wall panels can be situated along the soft play sensory room walls to quantify and control the space. Interactive wall panels also use the space efficiently while providing a soft means for touch interaction. When picking your interactive wall panels, you can choose from either touch panels, sound panels or a combination of both.
Flooring is a very important part of creating an effective sensory soft play room. A key part of the sensory room experience is that your flooring should be soft enough for everyone to sit and relax on. This can be grounding and helps users to feel safe and comfortable. The floor can also include a selection of cushions, plinths, interactive qualities or platforms. These will encourage engagement with the user's environment and create a more immersive, fun environment that will improve the user's mood. To keep the soft playroom clean and prevent damage, we recommend users to take their shoes off when using the soft play equipment.
- Motor skill equipment
Certain pieces of sensory playroom equipment are designed to strengthen motor skills, such as balance beams, tunnels, and balance boards as motor skill equipment. These can be very beneficial to the user's motor skills such as crawling, standing and balancing. Soft play equipment can also help with spatial awareness as the user gains awareness of their body in relation to their surroundings.
Some individuals may be unsure at first, but the inclusion of motor items will encourage them to become more active and improve their gross motor skills while still being in a safe and protected environment.
- Bubble tubes
Bubble tubes are always a fantastic addition to any sensory environment and are definitely one of our personal favorites! Bubble tubes offer a range of sensory benefits to help calm, stimulate and engage users with captivating effects that can benefit a wide range of sensory disorders. For example, why not consider the Interactive LED Bubble Tube Corner, which comes complete with a padded platform and mirrors to maximize its impact.
We hope you now understand the benefits of soft play and the positive impact of indoor play on children's development.
If you'd like help setting up a soft play area or an outdoor sensory play area, Experia USA has a fantastic team of sensory experts who are happy to help. Please speak to a member of our friendly team today by phoning 1-800-882-4045 for advice on the best ways to create or add to your very own sensory soft play room. Or fill out our contact form to make sure your soft play room is fun and meets your user’s sensory needs! Our blog about the five pieces of sensory soft play equipment for development is a useful resource for further advice.