Toddlers really enjoy exploring the world through sensory experiences, such as some fine motor: squeezing, squashing, squeezing and pinching. Or the big movements: digging up, dropping, throwing, spinning, crashing, running, etc. These may seem chaotic and messy, but they are actually a great way to stimulate the senses in your home. These movements may seem chaotic and make a mess in the home, but in fact these types of sensory stimulation games are very important to the healthy development of young children.
Through sensory play, children's cognitive abilities can be gradually enhanced, allowing them to understand the world. Today, I would like to bring parents to learn more about sensory play.
What is sensory play?
Fundamentally, sensory play is play that engages the senses of young children, including touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. However, the senses mentioned here also include movement, balance and spatial concepts. The senses of newborn babies are not yet fully developed, and over time, as babies become toddlers and toddlers become preschoolers, their senses mature as they continue to explore the world of the senses. Each new sensory experience creates new synapses in the brain and promotes brain development, which we will come back to later!
Characteristics of Sensory Play
Sensory play is characterised by a correspondence with the five human senses, in addition to two additional senses that correspond to balance and proprioception (i.e., feeling the connection between one part of the body and the rest).
Tactile Sensory Games
When you think of sensory play, you probably immediately think of tactile sensory play. When you see children using their hands to feel an object, this is tactile play. Through tactile play, children can experience pressure, heat and cold, vibration, and many other different sensations.
Vestibular Sensory Play
Rolling around, hanging, swinging, jumping, etc. can all bring some benefit to the development of a toddler's sense of balance. The reason for this is that balance and movement are controlled by the vestibular system in the inner ear. Parents who help their toddlers position their heads at different angles can activate different nerve endings in the ear, thus strengthening the vestibular system.
The proprioceptive game
Please think about a phenomenon: do you keep staring at your arms and legs when you use them? The reason you don't have to look is that these movements are proprioceptive in origin. Pushing, pulling and jumping help children to develop spatial awareness of their limbs. During play, children can feel where their bodies are and how their limbs relate to their bodies.
Auditory Sensory Play
Mentioning collisions, explosions and collapses may seem like scary games to you, but these auditory games can help your toddler distinguish between different sounds, which can be beneficial for auditory development. For example, you give your toddler a wooden spoon and a crock pot and watch how he/she explores the sounds different objects make through play, even though this type of play may not be too kind to your nerves.
Visual Sensory Play
Visual sensory play can help young children develop their vision. Think back to each time you brought a spoon to your toddler's mouth and how they stared at the "spoon plane" flying into their mouth.
Smell and Taste Sensory Play
It can be difficult for parents to determine when children are engaging their senses of smell and taste. However, it is very typical for children to engage their senses of smell and taste when they put their nose close to a flower or put a new block in their mouth and taste it.
Theoretical experts in sensory play
Jean Piaget, who has made a name for himself in the field of developmental psychology, was probably the first expert to propose a theory of sensory play. He argued that we may not know much about the concept of "play". In his "play theory" (also known as developmental stage theory), he states that play encompasses the process of systematic learning and can be divided into different stages.
Piaget suggested that children need the stimulation and experience of the environment to guide their cognitive development. He suggests that children should be allowed to absorb and store new knowledge through sensory play for future use. In conclusion, sensory play is the key to a child's brain development.
We may think of something as nothing more than "child's play". But according to Piaget, "Play involves a lot more than we realise." Different experiences stimulate young children's senses, enhance brain development, and build connections between the neural systems that control learning. This is very helpful in enhancing a child's ability to complete relatively complex learning tasks. It helps children enrich their knowledge, understand the world, hone their language skills, improve the quality of their socialisation and much more.
What are the benefits of sensory play?
1.Helping cognitive development
Babies and young children tend to be curious about the world around them and explore it through their senses. Through sensory play, their brains learn to categorise different things and identify different sensory experiences, e.g. hot, cold, smooth, rough, etc.; they learn about many different concepts, such as language (through communicating with each other's experiences) and maths (through filling in the blanks, absorbing a lot, categorising, etc.); and they discover that different substances react to other substances in a certain way, thus developing their ability to reason scientifically like cause and effect. They can also discover that different substances react to other substances in a certain way in response to a specific action, thus developing their ability to reason logically in a scientific way, like cause and effect.
2. Helping to develop motor skills, including fine and gross motor skills
Through sensory play, toddlers can build their physical fitness, develop a sense of direction, and improve muscle strength and agility. Toddlers develop fine motor skills by learning to pinch, shape, pour mould and sort small objects. For example, playing with playdough improves a child's hand strength.
These skills come in handy later in daily activities such as buttoning, zipping clothes, tying shoelaces, and writing. Through activities such as squatting, jumping, tumbling, pushing, crawling, and throwing, children can develop their gross motor skills.
3. Helping language skills develop
When talking about each other's experiences, young children learn new vocabulary, including nouns and adjectives. Their language skills are enhanced when they try to use these words to describe objects or a substance.4.Improve your memory
This one is not just for kids! Research has shown that even adults can enhance their understanding and memory by engaging multiple senses to complete a task.
4.Promoting the development of creativity: discovering oneself
When a new object or substance appears in front of them, young children are often able to create many different ways to explore it and learn more about it. Young children have to decide for themselves in which way they want to interact with the world around them, and in the process, they become more confident and independent.
5. Enhancing Social Skills
When toddlers are engaged in sensory play together, they tend to observe how other people play with a particular toy. This way they not only learn new ways to play (e.g., how to move and manipulate the sensory toy), but also learn to share, plan, and negotiate with others.
6.Calming a frustrated or anxious toddler
Sensory play can help children adjust to boredom, restlessness, and other internal psychological discomfort or frustration.
Sensory play can help children develop these traits
- mental qualities such as curiosity, co-operation, self-confidence, creativity, responsibility, enthusiasm, perseverance, imagination, and reflective awareness.
- a range of skills such as problem solving, questioning, experimenting, hypothesising, researching, investigating and so on.
- the ability to apply what is learnt in one situation to another.
When babies first arrive in the world, they cannot yet express themselves and can only perceive and explore everything around them through their five senses. If they are allowed to have a full experience of their senses, they will be able to learn more new knowledge and develop their corresponding abilities, and vice versa, it will affect the progress of their absorption of new knowledge and development of their abilities.