From birth to early childhood, your child use their five senses – touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing to explore and make sense of their surroundings. It is a crucial part of their early childhood development and giving a medium for your child to actively use their senses as they explore their world through sensory play is important to brain development as it aids to build nerve connections in their brain’s pathways.
So, what is sensory play? Sensory play involves anything that stimulates your child’s five senses as well as anything that engages movement and balance.
Why is sensory play important? Sensory play could also help your child to complete more complex learning tasks as well as supports cognitive growth, language development, gross motor skills, social interaction, and problem solving skills.
How does sensory play benefits your child?
In addition to being a fun activity for your child, it encourages your child to explore and be investigative. It also helps your child to exercise the ‘scientific method’ of observing, forming a hypothesis, experimenting, and drawing a conclusion.
It also allows your child to improve their threshold for various sensory information, helping their brain to form stronger connections to the sensory information and learn which are useful and which can be filtered out. For example, your child may find it difficult to play with other children when there is too much happening in their environment with conflicting noises or sights. Through sensory play, your child can learn to filter out the unnecessary noise and focus on the play instead.
Another relatable example is a child who is especially fussy with eating foods with a wet texture such as spaghetti. This is where sensory play comes in handy as it can assist the child touching, smelling, and playing with the texture in an environment with little expectation. When trust and understanding have been developed, it signals the brain to say that it is safe to engage with this food.
Some examples of activity to encourage sensory play
- Playdough – you can make your own or purchase here on Babydash. It’s an excellent sensory tool for hands-on early learning activities like letters, numbers, and colours. Playdough also acts as a muscle strengthener for little hands preparing to write! It is definitely a fun activity that parents can join too – knead, roll, stretch, flatten, pound and build! (One of the ways to prep your child to help you baking too! 😉)
- Sensory board/bin – your child will enjoy this so much and it is easy to create too! Gather different types of objects around the house that can stimulate senses (ensure they are safe to use!). Attach them to a big cardboard or put them into a bin. Let your child feel the texture and play with them. And to help them enhance their sensory exploration, do ask relevant questions! Questions you may ask:
– How does it feel
– How does it look like?
– What’s the smell produced?
– What sound does it produce?
– How does it taste?
Smooth, shiny, beautiful, cold – some of the fun adjectives that your child can learn through playing with a sensory board/bin! Other than helping your child to develop their senses, it also helps in nurturing their linguistic skills.
- Sand foam – the simplest to create – add sand + shaving cream together and voila! Perfect for messy play on outdoor days!
The next time you find your child is playing with random items around the house like pots, paper towel, face powder (children LOVE this! 😅), straws or anything at all, just encourage them (& clean up after 😂). A child can use anything around them to explore the world! And by allowing them to follow their instincts, you are helping to nurture their five senses!