Sensory play is a great way to foster early childhood development by engaging in the senses. It comes with some big benefits, so let’s go over a few of them!
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play includes any play that stimulates a young child’s senses. You may immediately think of the five senses, taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. But it also covers movement, balance, and spatial awareness.
Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to learn while they play, create, and explore. These activities allow children to refine their threshold for different sensory information and helps their brain to create stronger connections to process and respond to sensory information.
For babies, a sensory activity can look like scrunching colored paper to hear noise and see shapes change. For toddlers, comparing light and dark and sorting colors are great options. And for preschoolers, playing with musical instruments and building different shapes with various objects and materials will encourage more independent development.
Here are just a few top benefits your child can experience from sensory play:
Supports Cognitive Development
The way your child thinks, explores, and figures things out is supported when they participate in sensory play. This offers your child a chance to figure things out for themselves! For younger children, you can offer opportunities to learn more about cause and effect, object permanence, and the concept of in/out by using containers. By exploring physical materials, small children develop spatial awareness, too. Children a little older can participate in activities that include colors, shapes, numbers, counting, sorting, and matching.
Improves Fine Motor Skills
Another sensory play benefit is improving fine motor skills. There are many interesting objects and kid-sized tools for children to grasp and learn with. With sensory play, your child can work on their physical development, including hand-eye coordination, grasp strength, and dexterity. They can also work on using the muscles in their wrists, hands, and fingers to pinch, squeeze, scoop, pour, and pick up objects. This helps lay the foundation for pencil and writing skills (among other things) in the future.
Encourages Social Development
Social development is the way children connect with others and learn to get along. When children engage in sensory play with others, they learn to parallel play, collaborate, and tune into what others are doing and feeling. They also learn to share tools and space.
Promoting and fostering creativity is a great benefit of sensory play! Sensory activities are explorative and oftentimes organic – there’s no prescribed action a child must take. Having more open-ended activities can support flexible thinking, resilience, and independence. You can inspire curiosity and creativity by using open-ended art and craft materials and focusing on the process of creating art. This will allow children to discover their own techniques while working on their development.
Nurtures Language Skills
Sensory play can also support children’s linguistic development. While they play, narrating actions and describing what they’re doing can introduce them to new vocabulary and how to use words for description. Discus color, temperature, texture, weight, shapes, smells, patterns, and sounds as a child plays. Experiencing the meaning of these words firsthand can help children understand and eventually use more descriptive words to communicate.
Helps Children Adapt to New Tastes, Textures, and Experiences
Sometimes, children can be picky about new tastes and textures. They can also be resistant to trying new things. Playing with an array of different sensory tools can help them grow more comfortable with new textures and experiences. Making the process fun can help them associate trying new things with good memories. And most importantly it creates a safe space for them to engage with textures, smells, and other senses without expectations.
Let Giggle and Grow Help Your Child Learn and Grow
For children, sensory play is a wonderful tool for developing cognitive skills, developing valuable life skills, and adapting to new things. At Giggle and Grow, we love incorporating sensory play into curriculum as it has clear benefits for children’s development.
If you’re looking for the right daycare in Gilbert, Arizona, Giggle & Grow may be the option for you and your child! At our daycare and preschool, we focus on the needs of very young children. We strive to make a positive difference in the life of every child by partnering with parents to provide an environment that is safe, nurturing, educational, and individualized. Let us help your child learn, play, and grow.