Importance of Sensory Play
Sensory play is important for children, particularly young children. When exploring sensory play, children use one or more of their senses- sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. These types of activities are crucial for children because they promote different areas of development, such as brain development, language development, social-emotional development, physical development, and critical thinking.
Sensory play provides opportunities for children to develop the connections in their brain. Activities such as playing with a mixture of cornstarch and water, playing with foam, and blowing bubbles allow children to make connections between play and developmental areas like math, science, reading, writing, and critical thinking. For example, exploring a bin filled with leaves is a great way to make connections with math by comparing different sizes and shapes.
Children also practice and improve language development by interacting with others while engaging in sensory play. Adults can support children by asking simple, open-ended questions such as, “How does the slime feel in your hands?” or “How does the playdoh smell?” These types of questions give children the opportunity to practice using language. This is also a great time to introduce new vocabulary words like, “sticky, smooth, rough, moist, gooey.”
A great way for children to connect with themselves and with others is through sensory play. For example, sinking their hands into sand focuses a child’s attention on themselves and what they are feeling, such as on how their little fingers feel in the warm and smooth sand. These types of activities can also help the child slow their breathing and calm their body when they might be going through different emotions, like sad or mad. Sensory play also helps children connect with others. This occurs through being present with each other and talking with one another. Having the chance to express themselves to someone who is listening and interested in what they say tells the child that they matter and that their words are important.
Did you know playing with playdoh helps children paint, draw, and even write? Sensory activities, like playing with wet sand, zippers, buttons, and stamps, help children develop the muscles in their smaller body parts. As these muscles develop, children gain different abilities like holding a pencil with their fingers, pulling a string through beads, and stacking small blocks on top of each other.
Sensory activities, such as playing with shakers, guessing what is making the mystery sound, and guessing the mystery box item by only using only their hand, give children the opportunity to analyze, make predictions, and test their predictions. These types of activities provide fun opportunities for children to practice thinking critically. Practicing these steps and mastering the art of critical thinking will help children be able to overcome both small and large challenges in life.
Child Lane offers different types of sensory play for children, such as water or sand tables, balance pods, and finger painting. These activities offer opportunities for children to explore materials, engage their senses, and develop critical skills. Remember, while children have fun using their senses to explore the world around them, they are building a solid foundation for their future.
In the Home
Sensory Play in the Kitchen
One way to introduce sensory play at home is by allowing your child to help in the kitchen. Letting your child help prep a meal opens them to hearing the sounds of the pots and pans and feeling water on their skin as they rinse fruits and vegetables. During dinner, let your child look at, smell, touch and taste their food. By doing this, your child is learning about the food before it even goes into their mouths! After dinner, your child can help rinse off dishes and enjoy the sight, sounds, and feel of the water and bubbles.
Baking is also a great time to get your child involved in sensory play. When making bread or cookies, have your child help you mix or pour ingredients. Your child can also help you knead and shape balls out of dough before it goes into the oven. These are great opportunities to use new vocabulary words related to the processes you and your child are doing together.
Keeping your child involved when preparing, eating, and cleaning up food is one way for them to experiment with their senses, develop their language skills, and help around the house!
Child Lane centers will be closed on the following days:
Thursday Nov. 11th in observance of Veterans Day
Thursday and Friday Nov. 25-26 in observance of Thanksgiving
Message from the Counselor
Language Development for Young Children
When we see children finger painting and craft-making with glue and paper, we not only see how much fun children are having, we also see how they use their hands and body to make their creations. They feel the materials, sometimes they taste it too. They are using all their senses in their play and yes, it can get very messy. Many studies have shown that this type of sensory play has many benefits for a child’s learning. It’s actually the best way for them to learn, as it fosters curiosity, imagination and exploration. With messy play, there is no right way to carry it out, it’s all about letting children explore and experiment with different objects and raw materials without any end goals to restrict them. For example, think of a toy car- children are limited in the ways that they can use them. When children use raw materials such as sand, water, chalk, paint, play dough or paste, their imaginations can run wild and they can spend a long time exploring these, making their own discoveries, stimulating their curiosity and developing their knowledge.
With messy play, the sensory experience also helps children to understand their senses. Children can explore how things feel, smell and taste, this type of play nurtures an awareness and understanding of the world that surrounds them. When children play outside, the natural world is a playground of textures, smells and sensations. So let them find some puddles or leaves to jump into. Going to the beach or park with a sandpit, is another great place for sensory play. Sand triggers many sensations, it’s a great place for your child to dig, pour and make sandcastles. When at home, make the most of mealtimes, especially with younger children, allow them to experience eating in its entirety. Allow them to feel, smell and taste their food to engage all of their senses, then when they are slightly older you can teach them about table manners. And let’s not forget bath time! Water is one of the best natural materials to play with, so why not add some sponges or empty plastic bottles and give your children an opportunity to play and explore.
Get creative with the mess, you can always protect your floors or table surfaces with an old plastic table cover. Messy play is about the way things feel so go crazy with ideas. Whether you’re using everyday objects like paint and dish soap or investing in materials such as play dough and slime, your children just need to be given the opportunity to play with and explore it.