Did you know that sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste all play an important role in helping our brains develop? From the time we’re born, we use our senses to learn about the world around us.
That’s why sensory play is so important: it actually strengthens the neural pathways in kids’ minds, laying strong foundations for learning in the future.
Sensory activities can be great for all infants and toddlers, but they’re particularly beneficial for children with a disability. While every child has their own likes and dislikes, most find it both fun and therapeutic – and in the process, can help their development in a whole range of ways.
Let’s take a quick look a few of the key benefits.
Kids learn about the world around them through exploring, and having plenty of sensory experiences gives kids the chance to discover and share what they’ve seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted. For example, each time a child plays with a texture, they start to identify things that are similar or different. Sand for example is dry and gritty, and in time, they will notice other materials, such as sugar, feel similar to sand.
Sensory play involves lots of action, from lifting and throwing, to splashing and shaping. While these actions may seem small, they all support the development of different muscle groups and help kids to build their fine motor skills – this strength and coordination comes in handy in day-to-day life such as using a spoon to eat.
For kids, sensory play can often be very calming and can help them to work through troubling emotions such as anxiety and frustration. Working with materials that require pressure and manipulation, such as play dough, can help kids release physical energy or tension – and other materials can trigger positive feelings like joy and excitement.
Kids have no shortage of opportunities to communicate during sensory play, both verbally and non-verbally – whether they describe what they are feeling, squeal in delight at a new sensation, or share a moment of surprise. After all, who doesn’t like having exciting new stuff to talk about?!
Sensory play is most fun when it’s done with friends – and it’s also a great chance to learn! When kids play together, they see how other kids handle the materials, share their own ideas and discoveries, learn to make friends, and make friends!
We all like and dislike different things – and a great way of finding out your own personal preferences is through firsthand experience! Through sensory play, kids can explore and communicate how they feel, and learn that their feelings are valid – whether they love the smell of lemons or hate the feeling of slime. This leads to a greater sense of self.