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The Benefits of Sensory Play

What do you see? What do you feel? What do you hear? These are all questions we may ask during a sensory play activity. 

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is much more than a buzzword in early childhood education. This thought-provoking style of play stimulates a child’s five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell—giving them a deeper understanding of the world around them. 

Top 3 Reasons Why Sensory Play is Important

Sensory development is a key component of early childhood development. “Sensory play” is a good way for parents, caregivers and teachers to encourage sensory understanding and growth in babies, toddlers and preschoolers. These are a few reasons why it’s so important:

 

  1. It Strengthens their Brain

Sensory stimulation strengthens our neural pathways at an early age. Sensory processing as a brain exercise sets a foundation for our ability to complete complex problems and conduct critical thinking later in life. 

 

  1. It Encourages Communication 

Introducing new objects means introducing new vocabulary. Sensory play is a perfect time to see if a child can respond to commands and comprehend different feelings and situations. Therefore sensory play can aid with language development and social interaction.

 

  1. It Supports Memory and Retention Skills

Sensory play can introduce cause and effect outcomes. It will help a child understand patterns and develop personal preferences through their senses. When multiple senses are used simultaneously, your child can learn and remember more easily.  

Sensory Play Ideas for Babies

Newborn babies need more sensory stimulation than interactive play. This includes mobiles above their beds, skin-to-skin contact, being sung and spoken to, looks in the mirror, gentle touches and smiles.

As they grow, they can begin to touch and hold objects on their own, crawl, discover toys and focus on objects. You can begin to have them crawl towards certain objects, play peek-a-boo, and tell them the names of all the objects in their environment.

Sensory Play Ideas for Toddlers

A basic formula for toddler sensory play is: talking about a tactile thing a child is experiencing. They can look at it, taste it, touch it and/or smell it. Here are some examples:

  • Tactile objects: dried oats/beans/rice, flour, clay, water, slime, sand, soap, cotton balls, bubble wrap, shaving cream.
  • Commands: pick [object] up, make a circle with [object].
  • Yes/No questions: is [object] soft?, does [object] smell nice?, do you like [object]? Are you being careful?
  • Sentence-building questions: Does [object] remind you of something?, How does [object] feel?, What do we do when our hands are sticky?

Examples of sensory activities that children experience at The Malvern School include finger painting, slime making, sensory bottles, and more.  

Sensory Play: The Malvern Way

Sensory Bins: At each Malvern School, sensory bins are available for children to explore in their classroom or during their time in a specialty room. These bins are filled with different materials such as rice, cotton balls, or feathers and are specific to aiding children in the discovery of sensory play. 

“These bins are a great way to give children the opportunity to explore their senses. We change the materials in the bins often so there is always something new for them to discover.” Amy states, “We always talk the children through their experiences and guide them through their exploration to give them a sense of what they’re learning.”

Learning while playing: The Malvern School makes it a priority to promote sensory learning with play in many aspects of the curriculum. Amy Woodward, Director of Education at The Malvern School of Frazer, touches on the topic, 

“Sensory play encourages discovery and exploration, enhances problem-solving skills, promotes scientific thinking, and much more. I love to incorporate this style of play throughout the day through special activities and lesson plans.”

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