Sensory Play is play that involves the use of one or more of the five senses. One could argue that all play involves the senses. A child cannot play with blocks without touching them. He cannot do puzzles without seeing the picture on them. But in sensory play, the play is focused on exploring and sharpening one or more of the senses. When a child plays with blocks, he is focused on building something, creating a project either on his own or with a friend. When a child plays with sand paper, he is discovering how it feels. He may sniff it, lick it, shake it, and tear it to pieces. He is focused more on what his senses can tell him about sand paper, rather than on what he can use the sandpaper for. Sensory Play is often synonymous with messy play.
Young Children Learn By Exploring With Their Senses.
First they may see something new, using their sense of sight. Then they will want to reach out and touch it – their sense of touch. They will shake it, to discover if it makes a sound – their sense of hearing. Then they bring it close to their face, and will smell and taste it, using two more senses. This is the way infants, toddlers, and preschool children learn. Once children learn how to read, then they may learn by reading about something, but it is still best whenever practical, to involve two or more senses in the learning process. You can help your young child by teaching him about his five senses, and giving him lots of experiences to use those senses.
Children Love to Play Looking Games
You can help them to learn the vocabulary to describe what they are seeing. Whenever you have a moment to talk with him, ask him to describe how something looks. You can play word games with him, like “I spy” and “I’m thinking of something”. Play the card game Memory – looking for matched pairs of things. Teach him to recognize colors – but go beyond the basic eight crayola colors! Teach him to notice different shades of red, like crimson, rose, burgundy and salmon. Help him to see the differences between two similar objects. This is an important skill, as the letters d, p, q, and b are all very similar indeed!
Help Your Child Develop His Sense of Hearing
Lots of parents complain that their child has selective hearing. When he’s busy playing, you can tell him a dozen times that it’s time to wash up for dinner and he won’t hear you. But whisper to your spouse that there’s ice cream for desert, and your little child is suddenly jumping up and down and asking you for a bowl right now!
There are some studies which may indicate that listening to classical music can actually raise your child’s I.Q. This is known as the Mozart Effect, if you’d like to read more about it. I’m not sure if the results of the study are even important. You certainly can’t harm your child by playing classical music for him, so go ahead and give it a try!
You can play various listening games to help your child develop his sense of hearing. Classic games like “Simon Says” and “Mother May I” require attentive listening. There are new lotto games available that has the child listening to various common sounds – like a sheep baaing, a cow mooing, or a man snoring – and then cover that picture on his playing board.
Every Meal is a Discovery of Taste
Be careful when serving casseroles and salads – most young children prefer their food separated. They may eat carrots, corn, and beef, but not an entree with carrots, corn and beef in it. They don’t generally like sauces and gravies. It’s best to serve them simple basic foods, cut in small chunks to make it easier to chew and to prevent choking. Don’t get them addicted to ketchup, which is high in sugar and low in nutrition. Let them learn to eat their foods plain. They will thank you when they grow up.
Don’t forget to teach your child when it’s NOT appropriate to taste something! If you garden, you need to teach him that some parts of some plants are not good to eat. Don’t let him eat mushrooms he’s picked in the yard, or chow down on crickets (yuck!) whether they’ve been sprayed with insecticide or not! (Okay, my youngest ate a lot of crickets in her toddler years).
The Sense of Smell is Often the Poorest Developed Sense
Most children’s toys have no real smell. Sometimes picture books or stickers may have a “scratch and sniff” feature, but it quickly wears out. Some things are not safe to smell, like ammonia or bleach. But you can still help your child develop this sense. Again, at every meal, ask him to smell the food and describe what it smells like. When you’re baking a savory roast, help him to identify that scent. When you wash his hair with lavender shampoo, help him to identify that scent. Let him smell your perfume, or an onion when you are slicing it. You can even make a smelling game. Collect a dozen small uniform containers, like empty plastic film cans. Then put six pairs of different scents into the containers. Cover the top with gauze, so the child cannot see what’s inside, but can smell it. Have him sniff each can, and match them up accordingly. You could put a pair of cotton balls sprayed with perfume in two, a pair of onion slices in two more, and so forth. This game will eventually lose it’s potency, but the ingredients are cheap enough that you can refresh it periodically.
Children Love to Touch Things
This can be a lot of fun for both you and your child. I just love to touch things! When I shop for clothes, I usually shop with my hands before I use my eyes. (My wardrobe probably reflects that!) Something has to feel right, before I’ll consider trying it on. I’m allergic to latex, and I really don’t care for clingy knits. I love pure cotton, silk, and wool. Hate synthetics, except for synthetic fur. Now all my kids and even my three-year-old granddaughter shop with their hands outstretched!
You might put a tray of different objects out for your child to touch. One day you might do “prickly” and put out a whole pineapple, a brush curler, a pine cone, pine needles, hair brushes, etc. Let your child touch them, play with them, and describe them to you. Help him to learn new words to describe them. Then a few days later, repeat this activity with “soft” things, like cotton balls, fur scraps, velvet, a feather.
Set Aside a Special Place for a Sensory Table
In a Day Care Center, this might be referred to as a Sand/Water Play table, but you can put so much more than sand or water in it. In fact, there are so many activities to do with this, that I will put it in another post.
Teaching your preschooler doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive. It means just being there, and being alert for the teachable moments in his life.
Tags: discovery table, five senses, hear, Importance of sensory play, lesson plans, play sensory, preschool activities, preschool ideas, sensory activities, sensory play, sensory table, sight, sound, taste, touch