Children like discovering new things, tastes, and fragrances. They are fascinated by strange textures and curious about why certain objects stay on the floor while others don’t, which is where sensory play excels.
Giving kids hands-on activities that engage their senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste—like making mud pies or spreading homemade goo—is known as sensory play. But sensory play plays a significant part in children’s brain development; it does more than merely engage and stimulate the five senses.
For instance, when shaving foam is used to create faux snow, the result feels soft and squishy and may have a pepperminty fragrance. As activating several senses at once creates the neuronal connections in the brain that children require for lifelong learning, this exercise is exactly what Suzanne Gainsley refers to as “brain food.” But why are brain pathways significant, and how does play with sensory input support their growth?
Let’s break down five important developmental areas that sensory play fosters, and after that, we’ll give you some fantastic sensory play suggestions that you can implement into your environment at any time.
5 benefits of sensory play.
Children require time for their brain circuits to develop after birth. These pathways are formed by their experiences and environment, which is why the first few years are so important for the formation of young brains. In fact, every second during those early years, more than 1 million new brain connections were made.
As the brain absorbs and processes information, neural pathways constitute the basis of a child’s learning process. They are the means through which the brain communicates with the body as a whole. If young children are not sufficiently stimulated, their brain connections won’t grow and get stronger, which can result in serious learning disabilities as they age.
During their early years, children are more sensitive to language, and sensory play is the ideal way to start them talking and utilizing new words. Take advantage of the chance to utilize new terminology and phrases to explain what you’re doing with all these novel and intriguing textures, aromas, and noises, such as “Why is the playdough soft and squishy?” “Can you make it longer?” “Why don’t we introduce it?”
A shared activity that numerous kids may do simultaneously, like a sensory box, helps kids develop social skills when they begin interacting with one another. If they are investigating the items side by side, they could converse and debate them, or they might band together and begin exploring. This not only teaches kids how to cooperate but also allows them to improve their communication abilities.
Observation is the first step in developing cognitive skills, which are the abilities we utilize to begin problem-solving. When kids truly look at and investigate new things, their brains are putting all the information they’re absorbing together to understand what they’re looking at. Giving kids wooden blocks of various sizes and shapes teaches them that some are heavier than others, for instance. As they are developing the neural connections that connect their use of reasoning, it is essential to teach children at a young age that different items have varied feelings, tastes, and smells. Realizing that all the playdough wouldn’t fit into a little bucket will have been a huge assistance when they eventually start tackling actual challenges.
Because they are necessary for grasping pens, pencils, and paintbrushes, motor skills are extremely crucial in later life. Playing with sensory items, such as pincers to pick up dried beans, can help children develop the essential muscles. Children may learn to regulate their hand motions by doing even the most basic tasks like pinching items and pouring liquids. Children can focus on gripping and manipulating items while using implements like pincers and little jugs.
Since sensory play is fully open-ended, providing children with colorful, imaginative, and novel things that they can investigate whatever they choose helps them develop as creative thinkers. There is no objective other than exploration; if they want to use the lentils and the dolphin figurines you brought in to make an undersea scene, they may. Because kids are allowed to be as creative as they desire and the emphasis is on stimulating the senses, it fosters their imaginative abilities.
Making mud pies in the yard or stuffing a box with dry lentils and dinosaur figurines are just a few examples of how sensory play allows kids to explore their senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste with new items and textures. Giving kids the chance to engage in sensory play helps them develop vital abilities they need to succeed. It improves their verbal abilities, social skills, and grasping and controlling of items.