In this blog post, we’ll take a look at why sensory play is essential for developing physical, social, cognitive and many other skills in toddlers.
What is the Importance of Sensory Play?
The importance of sensory play cannot be understated. By encouraging the use of all of a child’s senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste, smell, motion and balance) through play, you can support cognitive growth, language development, gross and fine motor skills and much more.
Preschoolers require exposure to activities that stimulate all of these senses, allowing them to dive in and explore new materials and concepts. Using their senses is one of the most natural and most basic ways for toddlers to learn new information about the world around them.
Building Nerve Connections
Research demonstrates that as children actively use their senses in conjunction with one another, this helps to build pathways between nerves within the brain. When it comes to the importance of sensory play, this is a crucial factor because it establishes a foundation for preschoolers to be able to work towards more complex tasks, strengthens language development, improves problem solving skills and supports cognitive growth.
Preschoolers first learn to understand new things via their senses. Each time that they encounter something that is cold, sticky, or wet, for example, it reinforces their understanding of which types of objects typically have these characteristics. A child will then begin to form connections between things that have similar properties.
Improving Social Skills
During sensory play with their peers, preschoolers will watch how others use the same materials they are playing with. Children communicate amongst each other different ways that they can use the material and together will uncover new ways to shape, move, hold or manipulate a substance or object.
Strengthening Fine Motor Skills
Sensory play activities often involve touching, pouring, pinching, sorting and moving actions. Preschoolers primarily use their hands to explore, and in doing so, they build upon their fine motor skills that will later be used for writing, buttoning clothes, zipping jackets and tying shoes.
Enhancing Language Skills
Through the exploration of new tastes, smells and textures through sensory play, children will discover new ways to describe objects they find in the world around them. For example, a rock will become much more than a rock as they feel it – it is now smooth or rough, or perhaps cool to the touch. Foods begin to be described as sweet, salty, spicy or crunchy.
For more information on learning through play in the early childhood classroom, we recommend you check out the following posts from the HiMama Blog: