Your Guide to Sensory Play And Why It Is Important For Your Child
If you are a parent of a child born in the iGeneration, and you spend a considerable amount of time on social media and Pinterest, you have no doubt stumbled upon your fair share of sensory play activities. Sensory play. What is it? Why does the Internet have so many sensory activities and most importantly, should your child be doing a sensory activity too?
First, the basics, what is sensory play?
Sensory play is any activity that stimulates the senses a child is born with – smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing. Sensory play activities are set up in a manner where the child will have to explore using senses, and this helps develop thinking, language, social, and even motor skills. Sensory play is similar to free play (with a few rules), where the child is encouraged to explore and discover through the things in front of him. Engaging the senses encourages your child to talk about the new sensations they feel.
What do sensory activities teach your child?
Sensory development is vital for overall healthy development and children to need to be able not just to use their sense of sight and to hear to make sense of the world around them, but also actively engage their other senses as well. Think of when you are blindfolded and have to make your way across a room to reach the door. What senses will you use to navigate? We tend to use our senses in isolation and sometimes use one more than the other. That is why it is so important that children learn to explore the world around them, using all their senses. Sensory play teaches children language development, to explore different tastes and textures, improves motor skills, and enhances cognitive development.
- Research proves that sensory play builds nerve connections in the neural pathways enabling the child to complete complex tasks. Touching different textures evokes sensations and creates learning that a child may enjoy. For example, this organic plush toy works on tactile and auditory senses.
- Sensory play is a great way to calm down anxious or fussy children. It can also have a calming effect when played at the end of a long day.
- Sensory play works at various levels and should not be limited to toddler play alone. Preschoolers and even, grade-schoolers can learn independent thinking and problem solving with sensory play.
Intrigued and can’t wait to try out sensory activities with your child? Here are a few easy ones you can start with.
Bring a few blocks to the table and ask your toddler to memorize them. Now ask her to close her eyes and remove one block. When she opens her eyes, ask her which one is missing. This activity can be played with toddlers, too by using these brightly colored, wooden blocks from Shumee.
Rattle and hum: Gather a few different rattles and sound makers. Play them all for your child and let him explore independently as well. Now tell him to close his eyes, you pick a rattle and shake it, and he has to tell you which rattle is making that sound. This crochet wooden rattle makes distinct sounds and can be a great addition to this game.
Tactile (Touch) Activity
Set up a sensory bin with colored rice, kinetic sand, pompoms, or even just water. You could hide small toys in the bin or set up a pouring activity with funnels and bottles. This allows your child to feel different sensations and explore the sensory bin box. For younger children, add small toys of different textures in the bin and allow them to explore freely.
This is an easy one. Put out salt, sugar, coffee/cocoa powder, and lemon/sour yogurt in tiny bowls and set them in front of your child. Now ask them to go ahead and taste each one and describe what it feels like to you. Ask them to talk about the taste, the texture of the food, and what other foodstuffs it reminds them of. Get creative with the foods you put in front of them!
This one is as easy to set up as it is fun! Grab a few things from around the house that your child smells daily – toothpaste, lotion, powder, vapor rub, etc. and a few other common ones coffee/tea, smelly socks, your deodorant or perfume. Now ask them to close their eyes and inhale the smell deeply and guess what it is! Hours of fun and sensory exploration guaranteed!
Sensory activities can be easily set up with things around the house and are things you can get really creative with. Make sure you indulge your child’s senses and allow them plenty of sensory play so they can explore freely. The activities listed above are just a few basic ones, and we hope you try them at home with your child. Write in and tell us what you thought of them and if you have any sensory play activities, you would like to share.