Why Do Sensory Play?
Play is often called the work of a child, and research shows that babies and young children learn much more from interacting with their environment than they do from passive observation. While all types of play are valuable, sensory play encourages and facilitates this interaction and encourages the development and integration of the senses through exploration and has a huge role to play in your child’s physical, emotional and brain development. The great news is, providing opportunities for sensory play for your little one is easy and inexpensive. Take a look at some of our other blog posts for some simple ideas to try at home, and of course you can find lots of inspiration at our classes.
Encouraging Learning and Development
Sensory play is firstly a physical activity; the actions required of young children to engage with the materials improve their fine and gross motor skills as well as their concentration and ability to coordinate movement.
Sensory play also has the added benefit of being a great way to introduce various different concepts and wider learning opportunities into your play times.
When planning your sensory play, think about the variety of different materials you provide. Young children explore and learn about the world using all their senses, so the more stimulus you provide, the easier it is for them to integrate the information the senses are receiving and the quicker they will start to understand the world around them.
The great thing about sensory play is that it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. You will be able to find things around the house that a young baby finds fascinating, as long as you are mindful of any safety implications. You probably already have everything you need to provide a safe, fun and educational sensory play experience, so there is no need to get your credit card out!
Contrasts and Opposites
To encourage investigation and the exploration of different concepts during sensory play, aim to provide resources that offer contrasting experiences. It aids your child's awareness and they learn the skill of differentiation.
Think about it:
How can you know that something is soft until you have touched something hard?
How can you know something is bumpy until you have touched something smooth?
How do you know that something smells sweet until you have smelt something sour?
The list goes on...
You can explore this idea with a particular sense, or to introduce the idea of opposites. Why not try a few of these ideas?
Sense of Touch
As you search for objects and materials that your baby will enjoy playing with, use this list and try to find something that fits a variety of these descriptions. About 5 –10 objects are enough to make a sensory treasure basket - you don’t want to overload the senses as this can inhibit the learning experience. Just take care when selecting the items that they all provide something different and ideally provide contrasting textures.
Sense of Smell
In some of our previous blog posts, you may have seen ideas of how to provide stimulus for babies to develop their sense of smell. The activity you provide will depend on the age of your baby, but allow them to experience the contrast of the eight basic smells listed below that the human nose can recognise. Actually, there are the additional smells of decay or ammonia that we haven’t included here as you probably don’t want your baby playing with rotten meat or bleach!
The more variety you provide, the more opportunity your baby will have to explore and compare their experiences which will aid their understanding of the world.
You can also set up play experiences for your little one to explore the different properties of objects, highlighting opposites. Some examples might be black and white, like in the picture above, or heavy and light using feathers and pebbles as shown here. You could also try big and small, rough and smooth, wet and dry - have some fun coming up with new ideas.
Another fun experiment for older babies and toddlers is sink and float. A small tub of water and a range of small objects are all you need to add science to your sensory play.
Explore the Senses at Tots Play
Your child’s senses will continue to grow until they are 8 years old (and beyond) but they will never develop as quickly as when they are babies. Use this time and have fun exploring the world together.
If you need more inspiration, or just some focused time to enjoy playing with your little one, then why not come and join us at classes? You will be introduced to lots of fun games and activities you can play with your baby or toddler to help to develop all of their senses using music, yoga, massage and sign language, as well as dedicated sensory and exploratory play time, where contrasts is just one of many themes you can discover. Find a class near you HERE, and get in touch with your local class leader to book a place.
If there isn’t a class in your area but you are still enthusiastic about the idea of bringing five different types of developmental activity together in one exciting session, then why not consider running your own classes via our franchise programme? We provide quality support and guidance, enabling you to build your business and earn money that fits into your growing family. Find out more HERE.
Sensory play has such wide-ranging benefits, but most of all it's fun and easy to do, so whether at class or at home, why not enjoy some sensory play contrasts with your little one today?
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