From birth to early childhood, children use their five senses to make sense of the world around them. According to childhood development experts, providing opportunities for your child to use their senses and explore through play, is vital for their brain development.
Children solve problems using their five senses- sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. When a child engages in sensory play and uses all five senses, it encourages scientific processes and builds cognitive skills.
This is why babies and toddlers will often try and touch everything within arms-reach and put unsuitable objects in their mouths. They are just exploring and making sense of the world around them.
Sensory play is the building block for all the skills that your child will be taught in school. For instance- reading, writing and solving math problems.
The core benefits of sensory play are improved- cognitive development, social skills, emotional development, physical development and language development.
So, what is Sensory play exactly?
Sensory play includes all activities that stimulate the five senses and engage movement and balance. Examples of sensory play are- moulding play dough, mixing water and flour, digging in sand, cutting paper and using tweezers to move items.
Squashing, rolling and cutting develop a child’s hand and arm muscles, resulting in improved fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Sensory play can even improve your child’s memory, by interacting with different textures, smells and tastes children can enhance their memories.
Some practical ideas
Different age groups will need age appropriate activities. For sensory development in babies- blow bubbles and let them gently land on their skin, you can also scrunch up coloured pieces of paper and cardboard. The babies will feel the texture of the paper and hear the scrunching noises.
Ideas for sensory play for toddlers are- finger painting and sponge painting. The toddlers can see the different colours of the paint mixing and feel the smooth, wet texture of the paint.
Play dough is another favourite sensory item and you can even make the play dough yourself with simple kitchen ingredients. Add glittery sequins and feathers to the dough to make the experience even more tactile.
Slightly older, pre-school aged children can play with musical instruments. Beating drums and blowing on a recorder teach a child about tone, pitch, and loud and soft noises.
Utilise these wonderful sensory play ideas at home and you will find yourself enjoying some fun and messy quality time with your child.
By Liesl Silverman
Photo credit: Freepik.com