Many parents and caregivers have a love/hate relationship with sensory play. They love that their kids have fun and are enjoying themselves, but they hate the mess that comes along with it. Some educational classrooms avoid areas of sensory play because of the mess. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing for the children. Sensory play is a very important part of learning.
What is sensory play?
It is play that encourages children to use one or more of their senses. It helps stimulate a child’s sense of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste
Why is it important?
When young children are learning they rely on their sensory input to learn about their environment. It helps them build connections that support learning, thought and creativity. It supports a child’s language development, fine and gross motor skills, their cognitive growth and social interactions.
Letting a child touch something opens up a whole new world. That tree he sees in a book becomes real, with bark and sap and leaves. This opens up new words and expands his vocabulary and language skills.
Fine motor skills are enhanced when a child begins pouring sand from one container to another.
Social skills are learned when children are sharing, building and learning together at a sensory table.
Despite the importance of sensory play it is rapid declining in many educational classrooms. But, it doesn’t have to! Here are some examples of sensory play that you can incorporate into your home or classroom.
Examples of sensory play
- Sand, mud, water, shaving cream, beads, pasta, beans, etc can all be placed in a tub with small kitchen utensils. This allows your child to explore these objects in a closed environment and enhances their sensory play.
- Give children scarves, instruments, wands or another object and allow them to sing and dance to music.
- Allow children to build with blocks, boxes or canned goods, then knock them down.
- Pick out a variety of fruits and vegetables at the store and encourage your child to touch, taste, smell and play with the different produce.
- Go for a walk and let your child pick up items that interest them. Take them home and talk about them. Make a collage, let them hold on to their “treasures” and talk about them with friends and family.
For more information about sensory play please check out this article.