Sensory Play for Babies
Sensory play encompasses much more than picking objects up and feeling the different textures. It includes any activity that stimulates the five senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing, as well as anything that engages movement and balance. From birth to early childhood, children use their senses to actively explore and discover the world around them.
The main reasons why sensory play is beneficial:
- Providing opportunities for sensory play for your little ones is crucial to brain development as it helps to build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways. When a sense is engaged, neural pathways are being created to assist with more complex learning tasks as the child grows.
- It supports language development. During sensory play, a child can describe what they are touching, tasting, seeing, smelling, or experiencing through their body sensations with descriptive words such as “smooth”, “rough”, “sweet”, “spicy”, “fresh”, “sour”.
- It supports fine and gross motor skills and increases coordination, dexterity and muscle strength as they squeeze, pinch, roll, sort, place and scoop exploring their environment.
- It supports cognitive growth and problem-solving skills. Sensory exploration promotes critical thinking by giving babies the opportunity to use their senses in new and meaningful ways. By offering them different materials to see, touch, hear, smell and taste, babies will use their inherent curiosity to investigate these objects and see what they do. In addition, children are encouraged to use the “scientific method” of observing, forming a hypothesis, experimenting and making conclusions.
- It fosters positive social interaction and cooperation. When babies explore together, they interact with one another, increase their communication skills and share their ideas.
- It aids in developing and enhancing memory. Children learn best and retain the most information when their senses are involved. Many favorite memories are associated with one or more of our senses such as the smell of roasted marshmallows taking you back to summer camp.
- It can help regulate emotions and calm a frustrated or anxious child. Sensory play has a calming effect by allowing your child to focus on one sense and block out others.
Most importantly, don’t forget that sensory play is just plain FUN so encourage your little ones to utilize all their senses to discover themselves and their surrounding environment.