Do you ever observed your child wandering around his or her environment, with their eyes darting in different directions and their hands always reaching out for something to touch? In the younger ones, we even see them grabbing, pulling, rattling and even putting things into their mouths - and you're wondering to yourself, what in the world are they doing?
Well these little actions our children are doing are actually impulses that help them to explore and learn about the world around them. Whether it is the mesmerizing colours in a kaleidoscope, digging their hands into sand and mud or simply splashing around in the shower, our children are discovering the world through their senses! We are not just talking about their sense of touch here but everything from their sense of sight to their sense of taste.
I know what you're thinking, "It makes a huge mess and the children and the house get so dirty!" - sensory play can be a dirty job for parents and caretakers AFTER the adventure is over but we are here to tell you that it is all worth it for these 3 main reasons.
But first, what IS sensory play?
What is Sensory Play?
As the name suggests, sensory play involves the stimulation of all the senses that we have including movement and balance. A wonderful way to embrace your child's natural curiosity, sensory play can be designed to take on different formats - from seeds and fur, to light and sound, and even water play! Depending on how old your child is and what materials you have around the house, the design of your child's sensory play time is only limited by your imagination. No matter the setup, sensory play has numerous benefits that can contribute to your child's growth and development - but here are 3 key areas we feel most excited about!
1) Maintaining The Spirit of Exploration and Curiosity
It is clear that our children have an endless supply of curiosity and adventure but it is easy for this spirit to be dulled down or put out of use when the little ones are not given the opportunity to express these impulses! Sensory play is a great way to maintain the spirit of exploration and curiosity and it does not have to involve anything fancy or large scale. Something as simple as having an assortment of seeds and spices is a great way for your child to be little investigators and explorers. It can also double up as a little snack if your young ones cannot help themselves!
The most important part of sensory play activities is to ask your child questions that allows them to make sense of and verbalise what their senses have pick up on. Some examples of such question include:
What does it feel like?
What do you smell? What does it remind you of?
What do you think it tastes like?
2) Enhancing Fine Motor Skills
Finally, all the grabbing and the pinching and the pulling is not for nothing! Another great thing about organising some sensory play time is that it gives your child all the space and opportunity to flex those little hands and fingers and the muscles that move them while having a ton of fun! Whether it is sorting objects of different sizes, looping colourful yarns through holes or pinching and moulding dough, the use and practice of these actions will help to refine your child's motor skills in a multi-sensory way. What you can do is to switch up the difficulty level every now and then to give your young one a good challenge!
3) Developing Problem Solving Skills
We know it is hard when we see our child with furrowed brows and twisted frowns when they are buried in a problem they are trying to fix...like a tangled shoelace. Our first instinct would be to dive in and be our child's hero, solving all their problems and taking their worries away but wouldn't it be great if they could do that all on their own? Apart from just honing physical abilities and fine tuning our senses, sensory play is also a great time and place for our child to exercise their thinking caps and put their problem solving skills to the test. Besides finding the right solution, your child is also experimenting with different ways to get to the same goal - which in turn trains creativity and imagination. It's a win-win-win!