In the early years children use their senses as means to explore the world around them. The world is new, stimulating and sometimes scary too. Babies are natural explorers and have a never ending curiosity. Their brains constantly explore “what if” scenarios: “what If I touch this or put it in my mouth what will happen?”
Exploring material through taste and touch provide valuable understanding that leads to cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction. “As the child develops trust and understanding of this texture it helps build positive pathways in the brain to say it is safe to engage with this food. Sensory play literally helps shape what children to believe to be positive and safe in the brain. Ultimately, shaping the choices children make and impacting behaviour” (2016, Educational Play care). Exploring materials through the senses helps children learn sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry) as well, which reinforces their language skills.
Sensory activities allow children to concentrate and focus differently when they are using toys that tells them what to do (such as video games) or how to do it (light up toys that talk and ask questions).
At Mongio, Fir Room has a variety of sensory activities for young children: they can squish the material, feel the movements through their fingers and investigate the nature of the material. For example, a child might discover that gelatine is a substance that feels gooey and can be mushed till there is a puddle of gelatine on the table. Another child will approach the sensory material differently and find instead that the gelatin tastes unappealing and has a smooth texture; While one may dive right in, the other may just watch.
For me as an educator I now know that the children are not just playing, they are being present while engaging with the material, exploring its qualities and learning how to manipulate it. The nice bonus or the amazing part of sensory play is that while they’re learning all these things – you’re probably getting to sit for a second and enjoy watching them go trough all of these realizations. Messy play is fun, always brings out beaming smiles all while allowing children to learn. And if the child is an infant or toddler, then messy is also a state of being, so we might as well enjoy all the positives it can bring.
PS: At this stage (of infants and toddlers) the attention span is one minute for the child’s chronological age.
Educational Play care. (2016, October 20). Why Sensory Play is Important for Development. Retrieved from https://www.educationalplaycare.com/blog/sensory-play-important-development/
Miss Lilly, Richelle, Richelle, Laura, & Laura. (2018, April 23). Why is Sensory Play Important? Retrieved from https://busytoddler.com/2018/04/why-is-sensory-play-important/
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