We have five different senses and, according to Heike, sensory play helps babies and toddlers to learn about their world using these senses: feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting. “There is much more to sensory play than just being a buzzword on Pinterest and fun ideas to interact with your child.”
While modern technology has so many benefits, it is also the cause of much of the decline of our children’s exposure to sensory play opportunities. “The outdoors is full of sensory play opportunities but unfortunately our children don’t play outside as much as previous generations and indoor time is often dominated by TV and technology, thus depriving children of opportunities to develop play skills and sensory experiences that are important food for their brain.”
So, what exactly are the benefits of sensory play? Heike says sensory play involves hands-on activities that stimulate the senses and help to build neural connections important for thought, learning and creativity. These activities are crucial for fine and gross motor development, problem solving skills, language development and cognitive growth as well as social interaction. “It develops and enhances memory and the child learns about sensory attributes such as hot, cold, smooth, rough, sticky and dry.”
Many people would be surprised to know that sensory input starts from the very beginning when we swaddle our little ones in blankets. “The developmental milestones between 3 and 12 months are vast and, as the little ones learn to clasp their hands, roll-over, reach for things, sit up and start crawling, age appropriate sensory activities should be introduced to enhance their development and help with sensory integration.”
It’s not difficult to find ways to stimulate your child’s senses. Simply taking them outside and letting them see and hear the leaves move on a tree with the wind rustling through it. You can use household items to let them smell different scents and taste different things – and your pantry at home provides endless ingredients for fun messy play. From squishy spaghetti, magic goop made of Maizena and water, to the less messy dry ingredients like rice, lentils or flour.
Messy play: let your child play with food during mealtimes – mash, spinach and butternut. They are more likely to try out something new on the menu if they can feel and experience it involving more than one of their senses.
Add some rice or pasta to a balloon and encourage your little one to reach for the balloon, hold it and listen to the sound it makes when shaking it.
Old plastic bottles are also great to make sensory discovery bottles. Fill them with different items (small pieces of tin foil and pasta), colour water with a drop of food-colouring, add some glitter and a few buttons, washers or any other items you might find in the house. Mixing cooking oil with coloured water makes your very own lava lamp. Colourful pom-poms or pieces of craft pipe-cleaners in a plastic bottle are also very pretty. Endless different bottles can be created for your little one to explore.
Sensory baskets are a great way to engage your little one too. Fill a basket or container with all kinds of different objects using different textures. Velcro hair-rollers, pot scourers, a little mirror, a make-up brush, a piece of sand-paper.
On a hot day, frozen jelly is a great way to keep them entertained – feeling the cold unusual texture and seeing what happens when it warms up in those small hands.
There are endless fun ideas to stimulate your child at home but make sure that you do not over-stimulate those little brains. Everything in moderation!
Get In Touch:
Heike at Mothers & Miracles Ballito
Heike / 084 371 0860 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Get It Magazine (Ballito/Umhlanga) October 2017