Sensory play is a type of play that stimulates children's five senses. Often times people steer away from sensory experiences because they're 'messy.' However, children need to roll in mud, dig in sand, and lay in crunchy leaves. Not only is it an amazing part of being a child, but it is also an important part of brain development.
Our brains are made up of trillions of brain cells, called neurons, and connections among them, called synapses. Research shows that sensory stimulation is essential for brains to develop and strengthen synapses and functions. Synapses in the brain are added or pruned based on life experiences. This is called neuroplasticity.
In addition to developing and strenghtening synapses, sensory play also supports language development, motor skills, creativity, and social interactions. These experiences can be inside or outside with both natural or man-made materials. Remember that sensory play is not only important for babies and toddlers, but also for preschoolers and elementary children. Even adults retain more information when multiple senses are engaged.
Post in the comments below what kinds of sensory experience your children enjoy. If you are hesitant to provide sensory experiences with your children, start outside. There are so many things for children to experience in nature using all five of their senses.