Sensory play is an important part of early childhood development. Providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through ‘sensory play’ is crucial to brain development. Before we get to the benefits of sensory play for children, we must first answer a couple of questions.
What is sensory play?
All toys are meant to give kids some kind of experience, whether it’s role-playing toys, outdoor toys, artsy toys or educational toys. Picking things up and feeling their texture is what people often associate with sensory play, but it’s about much more than touch.
Sensory toys focus in on touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell and try to direct kids’ attention to one or more of those sensations.
Types of sensory play.
Let us look at some of the sensory games which are useful for developing children’s different abilities.
- Visual sensory games. The purpose of visual sensory games is to develop the sense of sight and improve observation skills. They help to recognise different types of colours and classify different objects according to their characteristics. They also make it possible to discriminate, visually, both positively and negatively.
- Auditory sensory games. Aims to develop listening and attention skills. They also associate the sound they hear with a real object.
- Tactile sensory games. These allow the child to discover new textures, discriminate and recognise objects by touch. In this way, they can explore new materials that they find in their surroundings and determine, from a very early stage, the risk or benefit that they may bring.
- Taste sensory games. Although these are less frequent games, it is also possible to develop activities to develop the ability to taste and recognize new tastes. Not all foods are sweet or salty.
- Sensory and gross motor skill games. Most sensory games work on fine motor coordination in the fingers, so that they can better hold the pencil to draw. But there are also others that allow the development of the whole body, such as their legs or arms.
- Olfactory sensory games. These are games that allow children to discriminate odours. This helps the child to learn to anticipate certain situations, such as detecting the smell of bad food.
What are the benefits of sensory play?
Sensory activities, in addition to being fun and interesting for babies and young children, encourage children to explore and investigate. Furthermore, these activities support children to use the ‘scientific method’ of observing, forming a hypothesis, experimenting and making conclusions.
Reasons you should invest in sensory toys.
There are a bunch of reasons why you should get sensory toys for your little humans. Below are a few of them.
- They help developing brains bridge nerve connections. But it isn’t just good for the little ones as brain development continues into adulthood. New and frequent experiences create connections that improve a child’s ability to do more complex learning activities.
- Sensory toys encourage the development of motor skills. For instance, gripping, holding, squeezing, stacking, poking, pouring or scooping will help children strengthen the muscles in their body, and also helps them to develop stronger hand-eye coordination.
- They support language development. Being given sensory toys encourages children to talk about new textures and shapes, subsequently stimulating language practice and the use of words associated with the toys or activities they are engaged with.
- They encourage problem solving. Sensory stimulation is vital to develop sensory pathways in the brain and thus promote normal development. This stimulation also helps the child learn about the world, as well as communicate and form attachments to other people.
- They also help with cognitive growth, fosters social interaction and encourages experimentation.