Children love to mess around. They squish whatever soft their hand falls on, splash water and mud as and when they can, pull anything long that hangs down freely and try to gobble up almost everything that fits into their little mouth. Though this doesn’t go too easy on your nerves, never try to cut this messy play short. These are a few ways in which your little one is trying to understand the world around them.
The amount of things to identify once they come out of your womb is overwhelming. Only by having maximum experience with each can they learn about them. These activities which involve inspecting multiple aspects of the objects, stimulate the senses, develop the brain’s architecture, and prepare it to retain information. This is called sensory play. The benefits of sensory play in children are too many to be overlooked. Read further to get a detailed insight into them.
When To Start Sensory Play?
Although the benefits of sensory play aren’t hidden from anyone, what makes new parents wonder is when to start sensory play. The answer to this would be, from the beginning. In reality, sensory stimulations continue to happen even when the baby grows inside you.
They get attuned to your voice, taste the food you eat, and get acquainted with your smell. This is the reason why children are inherently drawn towards their mothers immediately after birth. In short, your baby communicates with you even before they are born.
After birth, sensory play can be done through simple yet intimate activities like looking at the baby’s face and talking with prominent expressions. Soon after babies start imitating.
Playing different sounds, hanging objects which allure them enough to stare at for long, giving them objects to hold, shake, bite and throw align all their senses to work in a coordinated manner.
As they grow older, you can take them out for sensory play classes where they will have a bunch of other children of the same age to interact with.
However, the earliest stimulations will always come from you in the form of cuddles, lullabies, and the stories you read out for them. Group activities go a long way in bringing about holistic development in children.
In addition to enhancing cognitive abilities and motor skills through sensory play, being with other children will help your child learn to communicate, be a team player, cooperate and regulate their emotions while around others.
Benefits Of Sensory Play For Children
Listed below are a few ways in which sensory play benefits children
1. Builds New Neural Pathways
Sensory play and brain development share a very profound relationship. This can be better understood by zooming into our brains. We are born with trillions of brain cells, but not all of them are connected.
Over the years, through frequent stimulation and myriads of sensory experiences, our brain cells form connections known as synapses. These neural pathways pave the way for us to perceive the world in different ways, enhancing our awareness and capability of comprehending novel experiences.
Sensory play activities allow children to use their senses to the maximum. When they explore the world around them through touch, vision, and noise, their brain will be stimulated to form new connections, so as to store what has been learned, process the simulations if exposed to in the future, and respond in the best possible manner.
2. Levels Up The Motor Skills
Sensory play benefits are not restricted to cognitive development. It extends much beyond that and has an important role to play in bringing about coordination of movements in a child.
Experts say that sensory play exerts immense influence in developing fine motor skills. Since sensory play is inclusive, it spreads across a wide array of activities.
This enables children to engage in actions like pouring, stirring, tying, pulling, pushing, and so on. This increases the coordination of their movements, channelizes their energy and focus towards a single action at a time, gives them insight into the expected physical response to an object in hand, and puts them in a loop till an action is perfected.
It basically carves an outline of necessary skills for children to build up on as they continue to grow.
3. Induces Behavioral Changes
Sensory play for kids is a crucial means of letting them express themselves in the most subtle manner. Often as children, their emotional needs remain unfulfilled as they can barely voice what they want.
While for some it might be a tornado swirling inside, for others the chaos around might be too agitating. Exposing them to various sensory play activities is a big enough opportunity to help them regulate their emotions. While jumping on the trampoline or molding the dough of clay can help restlessness flow out of kids, sensory play bottles with glittery water can help them enjoy the quiet in and around them.
Staying engrossed in a particular act alleviates anxiety and induces calm. Exposure to the giant spectrum of activities helps them choose how they want to soothe themselves.
This has a lasting impact since it builds a foundation for the children to identify and satiate their own emotional requirements.
4. Reinforces The Senses
In addition to playing a key role in the beneficial association between sensory play and brain development, sensory play for kids is salubrious to the capability of perception as well.
The activities are deliberately designed to stimulate specific senses. Based on which form of perception they bolster, sensory play activities can be classified as follows:
1. Visual Sensory Play
These activities improve the sense of sight in children. When kids are made to play with colors, trace shapes, cut out papers, mold clay in varying degrees to make objects, they tend to identify colors and patterns which make up the world they live in.
2. Auditory Sensory Play
Sensory play activities including noise might not be too pleasant for you, but they are extremely important for your child to develop their hearing abilities.
Differentiating between various kinds of sounds, using hearing as a weapon to stay alert, and exploring the possibilities of sounds that can be produced from the objects which surround us are some of the necessary sensory play benefits you should make sure your child doesn’t miss out on.
3. Tactile Sensory Play
This refers to the activities which stimulate the sense of touch. When children hold objects, explore their shapes and sizes, they also get exposed to the idea of temperature, state of matter, vibration, and so on. This expands their ability to perceive the different states in which substances might exist.
4. Olfactory Play
When children run around smelling the flowers in the garden, or taking a sniff of the freshly purchased clay, they attain exposure to a variety of smells.
Often, putting things in the mouth to explore gives children an idea about the smell in addition to the taste. This enhances their ability to identify objects through the odor they usually carry.
5. Vestibular And Proprioception Sensory Play
These activities are centered towards aligning the balance system of the body and imparting awareness about how the body exists as a whole in space.
Movements like swinging, rolling, hanging, which call for different orientations of the head, activate receptors in the ear, and bring about better balance.
Other physical activities give children an idea about the spatial arrangement of limbs, and the immense possibilities of postures they can engage in.
Polishes Communication Skills
The multifarious benefits of sensory play in children are hard to track. However, in addition to the above-stated advantages, reinforcement of language skills is an important one. Sensory play often involves the use of props, be it things available naturally around us or crafted for the very purpose.
More the exposure, more the knowledge about objects and their various aspects. For instance, while playing with water, children can learn that water flows, it is blue, it can either feel hot or cold to the skin; when sand is the center of attraction, they get to know that it feels granular and carries an impression when pressure is applied; they feel that clay is squishy.
The point is that, while having a fun time, their subconscious picks up a whole lot of words and bolsters their vocabulary. This lays the foundations for adulthood of seamless and effective communication.
Sensory play goes beyond just developing children’s senses. It builds their confidence and vocabulary too. It lets them absorb the patterns and processes that make up our world and supports a different dimension of perceiving them.
Children in the process also learn to interact and manage their emotions. They develop focus and find out what they love to do. Summing it up, it can be said that sensory play lays out the foundation for organized adulthood.
The more aware they are about themselves and the world around them, the better ways they can come up with to cope with it. So, if you are wondering when to start, then the simplest answer would be, now; because the earlier, the better!