This is a sponsored guest post.
Do you know what’s going on when your child engages in sensory play? Well, any hands-on play in which all of the child’s senses – hearing, smell, taste, touch, and sight – are engaged constitutes as sensory play. Babies and toddlers benefit from the freedom to explore life using all of their senses by gaining observational skills, cognitive skills, fine motor skills, and abstract thinking skills.
Sensory activities allow children to understand every aspect of an object. When a baby picks up a board book, for example, he may want to flip it open at first, then examine the pictures, and finally, as most parents have come to expect, put it right in his mouth. All of his senses are activated through this sensory play and he is learning how the book feels, tastes, smells, sounds, and looks. He is acquiring and practicing the skill of observation, which is one that will give him an advantage in school and everyday life.
A popular sensory activity is a sensory table, a table which holds a collection of different objects in sand, uncooked rice, or some other textured material. Children feel around in the table to find different toys hidden inside. Sensory tables, and other sensory tools that contain different types of objects, help develop cognitive skills, such as pattern recognition, spatial awareness, experimentation, counting, and others.
Fine Motor Skills
Sensory play also helps improve fine motor skills or the skills that coordinate small muscle groups. Children develop these fine motor skills with sensory play by manipulating small toys or objects with their hands or individual fingers. Fine motor skills are used in many everyday tasks, including writing, typing, tying shoes, pushing buttons, and myriad others.
Abstract Thinking Skills
After your child has used sensory play to make observations about objects, he will be able to think abstractly about those objects. For example, learning about the qualities of a board book helps your son understand the book and other books like it. He is then able to use sensory details to help him place all of these books into the same category. As he begins to learn words, he will begin to associate the word “book” with the objects he has placed into this category. The word “book” will eventually define this pile of books. Thus, over time, this hands-on learning with concrete objects brings about abstract thought.
Sensory Processing Disorders and Sensory Play
Children with sensory processing difficulties may be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to sensory input. Children who are over-sensitive (or hypersensitive) may want to avoid certain sensory input. Children who are under-sensitive (or hyposensitive), on the other hand, may long for sensory stimulation. Some children may experience both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity at different times. Children with these sensory processing difficulties can benefit from sensory play because sensory play can both stimulate the senses and be calming to overstimulated senses.
Help your child engage in sensory play with these Sensory Play Ideas and Activities, and leave a comment about your child’s favorite sensory activity!
- Morin, Amanda. “How Does Sensory Play Help With a Child’s Development?” Verywell Family, Verywellfamily, www.verywellfamily.com/why-sensory-play-is-important-2086510.
- “Cognitive Development and Sensory Play.” MSU Extension, msue.anr.msu.edu/news/cognitive_development_and_sensory_play.
- Team, Understood. “Understanding Sensory Processing Issues.” Understood.org.
Genevieve Kotasek is a mother and writer from Michigan, who focuses on pregnancy, parenting, and children with disabilities. She writes for ABC Law Centers.