The importance of sensory play

Sensory play is seen as one of the key areas of play for babies and young children and a crucial part of their development.

Sensory play is seen as one of the key areas of play for babies and young children and a crucial part of their development.

Sensory play is play that involves the use of one or more of the five senses, touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing.

Our senses are our guide through the world around us and for babies and young children they provide endless opportunity for discovery. Simply gazing at a colourful toy, hearing a bird sing, smelling a flower, tasting a juicy orange or touching a furry soft toy are all opportunities for sensory learning about the world.

Young children learn best when they can experience new things with all of their senses; they need to see, hear, feel, touch, smell, and sometimes even taste to learn the different senses.

As parents or caregivers, it is our responsibility to provide sensory opportunities to aid our children’s learning.

The use of sensory materials provides opportunities for self-directed and guided play to encourage a variety of different skills to develop. Through the experience of pouring, molding, lifting, carrying and sorting children will improve their fine and gross motor skills.

Child-led play through different activities will help the development of creative skills. Self-confidence will increase as children master what they are trying to achieve and they will develop socially as they learn to share and increase their vocabulary. Children will develop their cognitive skills through sensory play by observation, experimentation, and problem solving.

Sensory play also gives the opportunity for learning colours, counting, sequencing, sorting, constructing and much more. Some examples are,

l Sight — looking in a mirror

l Smell — smelling a flower

l Sound — playing with a musical instrument

l Taste — trying new foods

l Touch — exploring outdoors picking up pines cones, rocks leaves, etc

Play is very important to a child and is how he or she learns and develops in many different areas. Play especially promotes cognitive development and through play children develop an understanding of concepts such as wet and dry.

Through sensory play, children respond to what they see, smell, hear, touch and feel and they respond with excitement, surprise and happiness. These responses can be verbal and non-verbal.

It is important to provide opportunities where children can express themselves freely, as this encourages their sensory development.

Unexpected incidents (unplanned) can also greatly influence a child’s sensory and intellectual development, examples include: snow, thunder and lightning, or grass being cut.

Many factors will influence a child’s sensory development including: firm attachment to a parent or primary caregiver, and playing with others.

So as you play with your child have fun exploring all the different sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touch the world has to offer.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Erin Visser, a family outreach worker with Family Services of Central Alberta. Visser can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.

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