Sensory play is any activity that stimulates the senses, which include the five senses: touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound.
Sensory play is an important part of a child's development; all five senses must work together in order to experience the world around us. Children learn through their senses, the touch of sandpaper, the smell of a flower, the sight of a blue bird, the taste of a lemon, and the sounds of music. It’s making sense and organizing all that stimuli that comes through senses, that a child begins to learn how their bodies function. So how does sensory play involve all of the five senses? It uses the five senses, and strengthens our experiences and understanding in the world we live in.
When you think of sensory most of us think tactile, but in sensory play it's more than touch, it involves using all of our senses in play. Sensory play reinforces language, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, problem solving, motor planning, thinking, creative play and it can also be used as a calming tool.
How do you get your child involved in sensory play? This type of play enhances learning through hands on activities that stimulates a child's senses. There are many things you can make with ingredients from home that are great sensory play ideas. To name a few: play doh, slime, sensory rice bags, homemade pizza and calming bottles. Many of the recipes can be found online, make a list of some of the things you can do with your child and pick one to do each day.
When making, for example, slime:
1) Write down the ingredients, “let’s write down what we need to make the goo.”
2) Work together to gather the ingredients, “can you get the flour for me?”
3) Build anticipation “this slime is going to be so gooey.”
4) Don’t do for your child what they are capable of doing for themselves. If your child has weak gross and fine motor skills, work hand over hand, if needed.
5) Once all your ingredients are in a bowl, have your child put his hands in and mix it together. “ wow that must feel so gooey!” “you’re doing a great job mixing!”
By taking things that you already have in the house you can create many fun experiences for you and your child. These activities will allow a child to explore, create, and communicate. When a child is allowed to use his senses, they will learn from the experience and retain more information.
The senses shape our experiences and when we draw attention to our senses and discuss them, children begin to get a better understanding of and communicate about the world we live in.
Sensory play is calming for children, not only does it help a child regulate, it also helps your child in finding a source to regulate his/her internal discomfort. The slime you made with your child may be the tool he/she needs to support their sensory system and your child just learned what he/she needs in order to find comfort.
-Lissette Gray, L3 Paraprofessional, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.