Why is Sensory Play important?
As humans, we utilize 8 senses on a daily basis.
The last three might be unfamiliar to most people. In short -
The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and has to do with balance (also knowing when your body is moving, swinging, spinning, hanging upside down, etc). The key with vestibular movements is getting the head into as many different positions or planes as possible since that is what activates the various receptors in the inner ear.
Proprioception is being able to know where your body is in space and where your limbs are in relation to your body. Muscle planning, grading muscle movement, being able to move your arms and legs without necessarily looking at them all fall under proprioception.
Interoception is the sense of knowing what is going on inside your body. Hunger, thirst, body temperature, needing to use the bathroom, breathing rate, etc. are all part of interoception.
As adults, we are able to utilize these functions and senses without much thought. However for children, they require stimulation to engage and activate these systems in order for them to grow and develop these skills. This is particularly important especially now with the influence of digital technology. Increased time spent in front of the screen and television means reduced exposure in muscle movement and vestibular actions.
A baby’s brain grows at the most rapid rate during the first three years of its life, having about 50 trillion synapses from birth and increasing to 1000 trillion by age 3. With sensory play, a child will obtain the required stimulation that aids in brain development which strengthens the associated synapses and its relevant functions.
Synapses in the brain are added or cultivated based on life experiences, known as experience dependent plasticity/neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change neural pathways or synapses to rewire the brain.
Exposing children to various sensory experiences is necessary for them to develop proper sensory processing capabilities which develop best during the critical period – the time between ages 0 – 3 years.
When your child uses multiple senses to accomplish a task, they will learn more from the ex
perience and retain more information.
Sensory play from young hence encourages children to learn:
1. Tactile Learning
What is hard? What is soft? What is rough? Through sensory play, they will be able to learn all these things that require the sense of touch to learn about.
2. Life Skills
Learning how to scoop, pour, mix, and shift things around are all important life skills that adults take for granted! However for children, these are all a necessary skills that they need to acquire.
3. Mathematical reasoning
How many toys are there in one box? How many trees are there? What happens if you take away one tree? By having these problems placed in front of your child, they will be able to learn mathematics and understand the reason behind simple calculations.
4. Problem Solving
If the bowl they’re filling with rainbow rice is overflowing, they will be able to learnt to split the contents between two or more bowls to even out the contents.
5. Scientific learning
What happens when you mix blue with red? What is the resultant colour? Through sensory play, your child will be able to learn the fundamentals of science which will pave the way for more experiential learning in future.
Let them learn to differentiate different animals, objects, toys – basically just about anything with curated sensory bins for them. This teaches them to identify and classify different objects.
Hence sensory play does help to assist in a child's learning process!
What do you think? Have you had any experience? Let us know!