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. But what exactly is sensory play? Why does the Internet have so many sensory activities? Most importantly, should your child be doing sensory activities too? Let's look into each of these questions!
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is any activity that stimulates and hones the senses your child is born with – smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing.
Babies are born with brains packed full of neurons. Learning about the world through their different senses helps them develop pathways between these neurons. Building nerve connections in these pathways will help them complete more complex learning tasks as they grow. The more of one type of experience your little one has, the stronger that pathway becomes. And that is what sensory play offers.
Unfortunately, if a pathway is not used often enough, it can disappear completely. So sensory play is not just beneficial, but crucial for a growing child.
What do sensory activities teach your child?
Sensory play is similar to free play (with a few rules), where your child is encouraged to explore and discover through the things in front of them. The activities are set up in a manner where your child will have to navigate using their senses. This helps develop their thinking, language, and social skills.
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 to explore different tastes and textures, improves motor skills, and enhances overall cognitive development.
Looking for the perfect sensory toy for your child? We recommend our Crochet Sensory Cube. This toy has 6 unique sides with fun ways to stimulate tactile, visual, and auditory senses!
Here is how sensory play helps a child:
1. 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.
2. Sensory play is a great way to calm down anxious or fussy children. It can also have a soothing effect when played at the end of a long day.
3. Sensory play works at various levels and should not be limited to toddler play alone. Preschoolers and gradeschoolers can learn independent thinking and problem solving with sensory play.
Intrigued and can’t wait to try out sensory activities with your child? Read on to find out a few easy ones you can start with!
Sensory activities your child will love
1. Sight activity
Bring a few blocks to the table and ask your toddler to memorize them. Now ask them to close their eyes and remove one block. When they opens their eyes, ask which one is missing. This activity can also be played with slightly older children using these brightly colored shumee wooden blocks.
Did you know that newborns can only see in black and white? Read more about how their sense of sight and colour develop and what activities help them along this journey.
2. Hearing activity
Gather a few different rattles and sound makers. Play them all for your child and let them explore independently as well. Now tell them to close their eye. Pick a rattle and shake it and ask them 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!
3. Tactile (touch) activity
Set up a sensory bin with coloured rice, kinetic sand, pompoms, and 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.
4. Taste activity
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!
Cooking together can be a wonderful sensory activity to do with your child. Here are some healthy snacks that you can whip up together!
5. Smell activity
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 such as coffee/tea, smelly socks, your deodorant or perfume. Now ask them to close their eyes, inhale the smell deeply and guess what it is. Hours of fun and sensory exploration guaranteed!
As your little one is growing, sure you indulge their senses and allow them plenty of sensory play so they can explore freely. The activities listed above are just a few basic ones. There is endless scope for creativity and fun in sensory activities as they can easily be set up with things around the house. If you try any of these activities, write in and tell us what you thought of them and if you have any sensory play activities you would like to share!
Written by Rati Girish with inputs from Soumya John.