Children use their five senses from birth to approach the amazing and sometimes overwhelming world that they have been introduced to. They explore through what they are able to see, hear, smell, taste and touch, assessing whether they feel something is safe, enjoyable or to be avoided.
Unlike adults, who are able to use both their senses and their prior knowledge to make decisions, children have only their senses and guidance from their trusted carers to rely on. This makes sensory play crucial to their development.
The impact of sensory toys:
When playing with sensory toys, children develop skills in decision making, problem solving, motor skills and language. By presenting a baby with different textures and colours to play with, they will adjust their mind-set and become more accustomed to feeling slimy or rough objects. This could support them when it comes to weaning and holding a variety of different foods. Seeing patterns emerge when painting is a way for children to consider the relationships between colours and how these can change when mixed together. They develop understanding (in simple terms) that there is often a reaction when two things come together – again, this relates to many things in life. So how do you expose a child to sensory play?
Things to do at home:
Home based activities are a great way to engage children and sensory exploration is easy to achieve. Possible activities could include:
☑ Touching and smelling foods before they are chopped up and cooked = being a part of the process can help children to connect with food.
☑ Finger or sponge painting = a great way to explore, just make sure there is a table cloth at the ready.
☑ Creating shakers out of dry rice and pasta to test the different sounds.
☑ Blowing bubbles and popping them.
☑ Baking = children love to be involved in the baking process and getting their hands messy is a great opportunity for experimenting
☑ Sand pit = if you have a sand pit and some water outside, your charge could have a great time building, knocking down and exploring the textures.
☑ Playdough = homemade or bought, but again a great way to explore with textures, colours and shapes.
☑ Listening to music and singing songs = excellent for developing hearing of familiar sounds and for language development.
☑ Nature = the BEST way to explore the five senses is to get outside and become little explorers. Nature has it all!
Choose carefully which elements you decide to baby proof and which you will use to help teach the child about every day dangers. Living in a cotton wool house is no fun; making sure that serious dangers are removed will allow you to remain calm and teach your little one the ins and outs of safety.
As well as doing activities at home, there are plenty of baby sensory classes and toddler sense classes open to the public. They encourage children to get messy and experiment with different objects without you having to clean up after them. So, if you’re looking for an opportunity to get out and about and allow your charge to get stuck in to some sensory fun – try out one of these classes. They’re great!
Education through play is the best way to encourage children to learn and to help them develop a range of important skills that become the foundation of everything they do. Don’t be afraid of the mess, embrace it and awaken your charge’s senses.