Our guest blogger this week is Sovereign Design Play Systems Ltd who are the largest provider of school ground developments in the UK. Over the last 18 years, they have transformed over 10,000 outdoor environments into imaginative play and learning zones.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any type of children’s play activity that is designed to stimulate one or more of the five traditionally recognised senses:
Senses give us all the capacity to perceive the world around us, regardless of age. However, children of a young age are more receptive to their senses. Still new to the world, they are still quite sensitive to their sense impressions. Have you ever seen a child play with water with a look of such astonishment or wonder in their eyes? For adults, such sensations pose very little entertainment value. We’ve felt water a million times before; we’re bored of it. We’ve conditioned ourselves to not be so easily amused by such things because, face it, otherwise we would never get anything done. Washing the dishes would take hours. But for children, their senses provide endless ways to explore the world, discover new sensations and experience everything for the first time.
Why is it important?
Sensory interactions are how babies make sense of the world. With no language in which to communicate, they rely on their senses to develop their understanding of the environment around them. By encouraging sensory play to young children, you can help to expose the world around them and build a solid foundation of effective communication.
Whether it be through sight, sound, smell, texture and taste, young children are constantly exploring the world for the first time using their senses. These sensory experiences, no matter how seemingly small, are a source of excitement and allow children’s new ideas to be shared and communicated not only to you but also their peers.
Something as simple as playing with dry sand, then introducing a little water and playing with water and wet sand is a mind-blowing adventure that encourages their social and intellectual development as they question why the sand is wet now and compare the differences between wet and dry. They may not use complex language to describe the range of emotions that they are feeling, but there are complex connections being made in their mind between the different elements.
There are different types of sensory play equipment available for nurseries and schools, which allow young children to explore their senses together with their school friends using a variety of methods that stimulate their senses. Lessons at schools can be constructed around sensory play for more structured learning, but sensory play is an important learning tool to be used at home too!
You can incorporate sensory play activities easily into your kid’s nursery by creating an area of the nursery that allows your child to play with lights, sounds and a variety of different textures like fabrics that are soft, fluffy, hard, leathery, smooth, bumpy and more. Mobiles and toys that light up or make sounds when you push buttons are effective for sensory play areas, and let your children explore their senses in a controlled indoor environment that requires very little clean up! Or if you want to go for something a little more DIY, you can create a “texture wall” that could have scraps of different textured and coloured materials attached for children to explore.
Research has shown that when you stimulate a child’s senses, these signals being fired around in their brain help to strengthen neural pathways which is ultimately beneficial to all kinds of learning that will still affect them as they grow older. Their senses can help them to identify the traits of different objects which can be used for problem-solving activities, all the while they’re being introduced to new concepts and new vocabulary. The cognitive benefits of sensory play are endless.
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