With sensory play, you can expose your child to a variety of fun activities which eliminate the formalness of being in a classroom.
Sensory play encourages toddlers to explore what they find in their environment, activating their touch, smell, taste, balance, sight and hearing senses.
The sensory activities allow children to refine their thresholds for different sensory information helping their brain to create stronger connections to process and respond to sensory information.
Learning through sensory play comes easily to toddlers as the skills they will depend on include understanding objects, spaces, people and finding out how to interact with these.
Sensory play places the focus on the child and the sense which they are exploring through playing with clay for example. As they mold the clay, they learn to focus on the clay and shaping it despite any external distractions which may occur in their immediate environment.
The result is that the child connects the item being explored with a pathway in the brain which receives stimuli, accepts and sends a message back that it is safe to engage with the item.
Sensory play literally helps shape what children to believe to be positive and safe in the brain. Ultimately, shaping the choices children make and impacting behaviour.
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Here are 5 reasons why sensory play is beneficial:
- Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
- Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
- This type of play aids in developing and enhancing memory
- Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
- This helps children learn sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry)
How to make your own sensory activity
Make your own sensory activity by using the recipe below. Once the rice has been coloured, you can place it in a sensory bin and get your toddler to sift through the colours, feeling the rice and grouping the colours. He can also use the rice to decorate or make his own textured painting.
Recipe for coloured rice:
1 cup dried rice. (I use jasmine rice because I love the smell!)
1 teaspoon food colouring (I have also used diluted paint before with the same outcome.)
Tray or plate (this for drying the rice)
A container with a screw on lid on.
- Add food colouring to the container and pour in one cup of rice.
- Screw on the lid and shake, shake, shake until the rice is completely covered.
- Add a little more food colouring if needed to achieve desired colour.
- Place the wet rice onto a paper towel and plate.
- Using a spoon spread the wet rice out evenly to dry out. If it is a sunny day, I place the wet rice out in the sun to air dry.
- Give the container a wipe and a rinse, and proceed with your next colour!
- When the rice is dry, gently rub the rice between your fingers to break up any rice that may be stuck together.
- Coloured rice will last for several years if stored correctly in an air-tight container.
Additional sources: Happyhooligans.ca