What are the benefits of sensory play in your child’s development? At what age can we start sensory play? Let’s learn more about it in this article.
Babies and Their Senses
Children use their senses to explore and make sense of the world around them from birth to early childhood. They accomplish this through touch, taste, smell, sight, movement, and hearing.
When children and adults use their senses, they learn and retain more knowledge. Many of our favourite memories involve one or more of our senses. Such as the fragrance of a summer night campfire or a song you memorised with a childhood friend.
When your nose and eardrums are triggered by those familiar smells and noises, your brain produces a flashback recollection of those unique experiences.
Our brains are made up of trillions of brain cells, known as neurons, and the connections between them, known as synapses. The first three years of a baby’s life are critical for brain development. While an infant’s brain has roughly 50 trillion synapses at birth, a three-year-brain old’s has grown to have 1000 trillion.
So, how can parents ensure their children’s healthy brain development? Engage the senses! Sensory play is one of the many ways you may assist your newborn in achieving brain development as early as their age!
baby girl laughing in a sensory ball pit
Sensory play refers to activities that engage children’s senses such as touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight, and hearing.
Sensory activities encourage youngsters to employ scientific processes while they play, create, study, and discover. The sensory activities allow youngsters to fine-tune their thresholds for various sensory information. All while assisting their brains in developing stronger connections to process and respond to sensory information.
As the child gains trust and comprehension of this texture, positive neural connections in the brain are formed, indicating that it is safe to engage with it. Sensory play literally shapes what children believe in their brains to be positive and safe. Ultimately, moulding children’s choices and influencing behaviour.
Why Is Sensory Play Important?
Providing opportunities for children to actively employ their senses as they explore their world through “sensory play” is critical to brain development because it aids in the formation of nerve connections in the brain’s circuits.
This improves a child’s ability to perform more difficult learning tasks and promotes cognitive development, language development, gross motor skills, social interaction, and problem-solving abilities.
Benefits of Sensory Play
Below are some of the benefits of sensory play for your child’s holistic development:
It helps with cognitive growth.
Sensory stimulation for babies is vital for brain development, hence sensory play is important. It can help to strengthen sensory synapses and functions.
Synapses in the brain are added or pruned through life experiences. It is vital to expose youngsters to a variety of sensory experiences in order for their brains to develop the appropriate sensory processing abilities.
Many of these senses develop best (if not exclusively) during a period of time known as the crucial period. The majority of crucial times are discovered to exist in the early postnatal years, which is why sensory play is so vital for young children.
However, as brain development advances into maturity, it is not exclusively beneficial to children. New and recurrent interactions form links that boost a child’s ability to perform increasingly complicated educational tasks.
Sensory activities help to expand knowledge.
Any use of sensory material supports innovation and experimentation by providing a practical, self-directed, self-centred play environment. This strategy appeals to children with a variety of learning and reasoning styles.
It is inclusive.
It fosters inclusivity because there are no right or wrong ways to exercise sensory. Sensory experiences benefit children with special needs, second-language learners, and anyone who have a realistic learning style.
It develops and improves your child’s memory.
Scientists have defined the sense of smell as one of the most powerful links between sense and memory. Other research linking memory and senses indicates that our memories are distributed throughout the brain in sensory regions. Allowing your child to use many senses to complete a task allows them to learn more from the experience and remember more knowledge.
It encourages the development of gross and fine motor abilities.
Infants’ motor capacities have trained acts involving acceleration. Sensory play allows children to move and play in a variety of ways, frequently with repeated motions.
It promotes problem-solving, creativity, and exploration.
Squishing, pouring, pulling, tapping, rubbing, sniffing, pushing, listening, combining, transporting, and playing position are all activities that children enjoy, including playing loose parts.
It encourages calmness and teaches self-regulation.
Children who engage with sensory play are frequently engrossed in their activities. The image and loudness of the bubbles, as well as the water, distract the children, which serves to develop awareness, as does the use of scented candles to create a soothing fragrance scape.
Moreover, sensory activities like running one’s hands in rice or pouring water in a cup can distract and calm a child who is feeling over-stimulated or anxious, helping them to build self-regulation skills as well.
It aids in language development.
Children learn to think, feel, and relate to their surroundings and things by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. Learning and language, particularly descriptive words, are stimulated at the same time by engaging several senses.
It aids in learning distinctions and characteristics.
When it comes to colours, sensory play provides the learning environment for youngsters to investigate each colour difference. The qualities of an entity or idea are discovered by children using their senses.
It assists in adapting to new environments.
The natural environment provides a plethora of free opportunities to develop an infant’s senses. It’s also excellent for messy play. Indoor dirty play, on the other hand, can be explored while the home is maintained secure or clean.
While your youngster is dirty playing, cover the floor or table surfaces with an old plastic table cover. The bath or kitchen sink is a great spot for messy play, especially when paints or water are involved. Sensory containers and containers might help you get rid of loose parts.
It encourages scientific thinking.
Sensory play comprises research, creativity, hypothecation research, and research, and it helps a youngster to utilise their senses to investigate new features.
It provides enjoyable experiences.
The senses are distinct from one another. Children are able to learn new things about themselves and their world on a daily basis as a result of the establishment of limitless opportunities and a variety of one-of-a-kind challenges.
Sensory Play Ideas and Sensory Toys for Babies
As she takes in the sights, sounds, scents, and textures around her, your infant will begin as more of an observer than an active participant in sensory activities. But it won’t be long until your baby is clutching, mouthing, reaching, crawling, and cruising towards everything that piques her interest.
Use high-contrast photos. Black-and-white contrast forms can be beneficial to newborns. You can hang them around your child’s play area to boost optic nerve development.
Go for a walk (or just window watch). Take a walk about the neighbourhood, pausing to observe the chirping birds, beautifully colourful flowers, or simply the feel of the breeze. As you walk, tell your infant things like, “Here’s a gorgeous red flower,” or “That chilly air feels nice!”
- On the play mat, try tummy time. Tummy time can be transformed into a sensory experience by providing a bright, colourful playmat to explore.
- Let’s make contact. Explore different textures while describing them to your baby: “Sparky’s fur is so soft, Daddy’s beard is scratchy, the grass is damp…” and make sure she is secure in any area she is experiencing, wherever you are.
- Provide noisy toys. Sensory toys that squeak, rattle, trill, or twitter when touched or shook are likely to pique your baby’s interest for about 4 months. Provide her with a variety so she can try them all.
- Allow your baby to be mouthy. Infants learn by placing things in their mouths, so make sure there are lots of clean and baby-safe objects for them to reach for and chew on, such as board or cloth boots, rattles, and teethers.
- Have fun in the tub. Toss in some floating toys when your infant is old enough to sit up in the bath. She’ll like watching them move in reaction to her splashes.
- Consider using a sensory bag. Fill a zip-top bag with tactile things like shaving cream or hair gel for older babies. Seal the bag with strong, robust tape and let your child squeeze until she’s satisfied (always under close supervision, of course).
- Turn regular home items into your child’s sensory toys. You’ve most likely seen your youngster play with the most basic “things,” such as a paper towel roll, a pot and a spoon, or straws. You and your child can have a lot of fun by using objects that you already have around the house.
- Create a sensory board/ bin together. Gather a variety of objects from around the house that can stimulate the senses. Just ensure that they are safe to use. Attach them to a large piece of cardboard or place them all in a bin.
Allow your child to feel and play with the textures. Ask questions questions about your child’s sensory exploration. Create a dialogue in which your youngster is encouraged to use descriptive terms.
For example, ask these questions:
- How does it feel?
- What does it look like?
- What’s the smell produced?
- What sound does it produce?
- How does it taste?
Smooth, slimy, cold, and lovely are just a few of the exciting adjectives your kid can learn by playing with a sensory board. Help your child develop their senses while also nurturing their linguistic abilities.
So, the next time you notice your kid playing with random items such as paper towel rolls, pots, straws, and toys, encourage them. A child can use anything to learn about the world. Allowing her to follow her instincts also helps to develop her senses.
Image source: iStock
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