From birth to early childhood, children use their five senses (touch, sound, smell, taste, sight) to explore and try to make sense of the world around them.
It’s an important part of early childhood development, and providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through ‘sensory play’ is crucial to brain development.
What is sensory play? Why is it important for kids in the early years of development?
1. Sensory play builds nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, which trigger a child’s inclination for and ability in competing more complex learning tasks
2. Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction
3. Sensory play aids in developing and enhancing memory functioning
4. Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
5. Sensory play helps children learn vitally important sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry, etc)
My 5 year old has Autism and in the early years it was very difficult to grasp the concept of sensory play. For example getting him to hold a crayon or marker and getting him to draw a circle was a STRUGGLE! He would cry and have a total meltdown. It was difficult for him to even attempt to do something so simple. The same with trying to get him to use scissors. His occupational therapist and I started slowly working sensory play into his everyday play time. I bought a small Etch A Sketch and let him play with it and that’s how he started to slowly start using his hands (touch).
A lot of people do sensory bags where they fill ziplock bags with different textures and let their kids play with it, however I wanted to do something different and fun with my kids. I wanted to work with DINOSAURS!
You can actually work with whatever your kids are interested in, but I wanted to incorporate learning about dinosaurs along with the sensory play.
- Dinosaur Book (I got from DollarTree )
- Miniature toy dinosaurs (I also got this from the dollar store)
- Colorful Kinetic Sand (I got from Michael’s for $1 on sale)
- Storage container to put the toys and sand in
Take the toy dinosaurs and sand and put in storage container. Hide the dinosaurs really well with the sand.
We read about each dinosaur one at a time.
After we have read about a specific dinosaur. I ask them questions about what we just read and then I tell them to find that particular dinosaur.