Letting the little ones explore and play is always a good thing even if it means creating a little mess in the kitchen or in the living room. When you allow your kids to use their different senses like touch, sight, smell, taste, and hear, it helps their brain to develop and it encourages scientific thinking and problem solving. This method is called sensory play. What is it and what are its benefits? Today, we’re here to break it down for you!
Sensory play is a type of activity that uses the different senses to explore and learn: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, as well as anything that engages movement and balance.
Sensory exploration actually comes naturally to babies and young children. As parents, we know that our kids explore and understand their environment through their senses. Remember how they use their mouths to taste and explore everything in the house? This is why sensory play has a big role to brain development and early childhood learning.
Aside from it being fun and interesting for both you and your kids, stimulating the senses of your children is actually crucial to brain development. Research shows that sensory play establishes nerve connections in a child’s brain pathways, helping them accomplish more complex learning activities. This is because it facilitates exploration which naturally encourages the little ones to practice scientific thinking while they play.
Most sensory plays encourage touching, pinching, pouring, and lacing movements that improve the coordination of muscle groups, also known as motor skills, of your little ones. And since they are exposed to different textures, tastes, colors, and scents during playtime, they also start to develop their language skills – learning to describe objects based on sensory attributes.
This type of play also promotes mindful activities that can enhance memory and has a calming effect.
You can start by putting out a large container and filling it with different types of objects around the house that are safe to use and of various shapes, textures, colors, smell, and taste to stimulate different senses at once. Let your little ones feel and play with different textures so they can observe different sensory attributes.
To make this a little extra, try asking your kids relevant questions about their sensory exploration to encourage them to use descriptive words and enhance their language skills.
Inspire creativity and exploration by setting up regular home items and letting your kids turn it into art. For example, you can use non-toxic food color and paper towels for a fun painting activity. Take it up a notch by encouraging them to use their hands and feet to paint. This way, you can incorporate movement to improve their motor skills.
For older children, the use of play dough is a great way to encourage them to mould their own beautiful designs. Although this would take them a lot of time and patience to get the results they wanted, it instils decision-making skills and enhances their creativity. This is also a fun way to bond with them while creating something beautiful.
This one is perfect for pre-school to elementary level children. Invoke their curiosity and creativity by drawing different objects in a piece of paper and then challenging them to color it by attaching various items from your household (just make sure that the items they get are safe). This will surely introduce different smells, textures, and hues.
This activity can get a bit messy but don’t be afraid to let them explore new things because that’s what sensory learning is all about!
- Educational Playcare, Why Sensory Play is Important for Development, October 2016