Did you know that sensory play is vital to your child’s development? Children often use their senses to explore and try to make sense of the world around them.
As the term suggests, sensory play refers to any activity that stimulates one’s senses. This includes touching, smelling, tasting, sight, hearing, and even movement and balance. All of these are critical ways through which children get information about their world.
Sensory play can help your child grow in many ways. It strongly encourages young ones to explore and experiment. Through various sensorial activities, children develop motor skills, language skills, creativity, and also heighten their sense of curiosity. As they explore in groups, they also nurture cognitive skills and foster social interactions with others.
There are many simple sensory activities you can try with your child to reinforce what we do at our 43 centres island-wide. Here are some you can easily carry out at home!
1. Sensory Bins
Sensory bins are an open invitation to children to immerse themselves in fun, hands-on play. Created by placing safe, open-ended materials and tools into a big container for children to interact with, sensory bins are a great tactile experience for children as they engage with the materials and form their own learnings and knowledge.
To create a sensory bin, you should first identify the material to anchor the bin. Ask yourself some key questions such as – Is the material developmentally-appropriate? Is it taste-safe? How much of the material is available to fill the bin? How will your child likely play with it?
If you are a parent who hates mess, do choose a material that’s easy to clean up after the activity’s done!
Some taste-safe materials you can place in sensory bins are rice, water, cereal and oats. But if your child is above the age where everything goes into his or her mouth, you can also pick out other items from your kitchen such as beans, dried corn kernels, pasta shells or even ice cubes!
Once you’ve picked your base, add in the tools. Similarly, you can rummage your kitchen for household tools like scoops, cups, measuring spoons and funnels. As children hone their life skills in pouring and transferring, they can even develop estimation skills in the process!
Besides household tools, you can also add plastic toys to create scenes such as an animal farm or a construction site. Such toys are also made for easy cleanup!
2. Sensory Sorting
An extension of the sensory bin is sensory sorting. This is a quick and easy activity that can help toddlers learn how to identify and sort items based on their attributes. For starters, they can start with colours.
First up, ensure that your sensory bin includes items of a few same colours that can be grouped together. Then, get some coloured construction paper of the same colours.
With the sensory bin in front of your child, place the construction paper sheets around the bin. Get your child to match the colour of the items in the bin to the colours on the sheets, by placing the items onto the corresponding sheets. It’s as simple as that!
You may ask – how would such a simple activity benefit a child? Sorting is a dynamic skill best learned in the early years. As children sort, they make decisions, look at attributes, and categorise based on observations. They also develop visual perception skills as they notice differences between items. By repeating this activity in multiple ways, children nurture their visual processing skills, which are essential for reading and arithmetic tasks in the future.
Besides using traditional painting tools, allow your child to try out different materials to create an art piece. Be sure to include a variety of textures such as ice cream sticks, cotton balls, clay, buttons and even dried leaves and twigs!
4. Pretend Play
Pretend play is another good form of sensory play for little ones. To make it more exciting for them, tap into a common interest such as animals!
You can start by teaching your toddler some simple movements that imitate an animal’s actions or poses.
After that, move on to the sounds that the animal makes. Show your child how to pair the sounds with the actions, honing both verbal and motor skills while having fun.
This is a great way for children to learn about or recognise animals as they learn how to move their bodies in new ways. It also develops their ability to mirror the actions of others and repeat them should they enjoy it.
Children can learn about themselves and the world around them with a simple activity like this. Pretend play is actually one of the first ways many of them learn about their own likes, dislikes, interests, and abilities!
5. Balloon Tapping
Is your child still of the age where they love balloons? Then this is the perfect activity to try!
Taking turns with you or another child, encourage your child to tap or bump a balloon upwards with a stick or their hands to keep it in the air. While keeping it airborne, everyone has to work together to move the balloon toward a destination, e.g. into a box. In large groups, the children can even form relay teams that pass the balloon to each other at predetermined spots.
This game is great for training children’s motor skills and reaction times. It challenges their sense of balance and hand-eye coordination as they work to keep the balloon from hitting the ground. When played as a team, this activity is also a great way to teach cooperation and teamwork!
There’s so much more to sensory development
These activities are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to activities that promote sensory development, carried out in the comfort of your home.
Leave it to our experienced educators at Star Learners to create even more fun and engaging opportunities to stimulate our children’s senses in their early years!
To learn more, register your interest at any of our 43 centres island-wide. Who knows, you may even see some of our preschoolers immersing themselves in sensory play during the tour!