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Sensory Exploration

Sensory Exploration

We’ve been exploring our seven senses.

yep! you read it correctly!

We have seven senses.

Read on to find out what they are.

Why is it important to learn about senses?

From birth to early childhood, children use their five senses to explore and attempt to make sense of the world around them.

It’s an important part of early childhood development and providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through ‘sensory play’ is crucial to brain development.

Learning through sensory exploration comes naturally to babies and young children, which makes sense when you consider that the skills they’ll come to rely on to build an understanding of objects, spaces, people and interactions are yet to be fully developed.

As adults, our senses provide us with vital information that we use to inform decision making thousands of times a day. We may take this ability for granted and barely notice it, but it’s for this reason that helping children to learn about their own senses is so important.

Why sensory play is important for development?

From birth through to early childhood, children use their senses to explore and try to make sense of the world around them.

They do this by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, moving and hearing.

Children and adults alike, retain the most information when they engage their senses.

Many of our favourite memories are associated with one or more of our senses;

For instance, the smell of a summer night campfire or a song you memorized with a childhood friend.

Now, when your nostrils and eardrums are stimulated with those familiar smells and sounds respectively, your brain triggers a flashback memory to those special times.

Providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through ‘sensory play’ is crucial to brain development – it helps to build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways.

This leads to a child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks and supports cognitive growth, language development, gross motor skills, social interaction and problem solving skills.

We often talk about the five senses;

Taste – the stimulation that comes when our taste receptors react to chemicals in our mouth.

Touch – the stimulation that comes from touch receptors in our skin that react to pressure, heat/cold, or vibration.

Smell – the stimulation of chemical receptors in the upper airways (nose).

Sight – the stimulation of light receptors in our eyes, which our brains then interpret into visual images.

Hearing – the reception of sound, via mechanics in our inner ear.

However, there are two others we commonly miss;

Body awareness (also known as proprioception) – the feedback our brains receive from stretch receptors in our muscles and pressure receptors in joints which enable us to gain a sense where our bodies are in space.

Balance – the stimulation of the vestibular system of the inner ear to tell us our body position in relation to gravity.

So, what is sensory play?

Great question! Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing.

Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. 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.

For example, initially a child may find it difficult to play appropriately with a peer when there are other things going on in the environment with conflicting noise. However, through sensory play exploring sounds and tasks a child learns to adapt to being able to block out the noise which is not important and focus on the play which is occurring with their peer.

Another example is a child who is particularly fussy with eating foods with a wet texture such as spaghetti, the use of sensory play can assist the child in touching, smelling and playing with the texture in an environment with little expectation.

As the child develops trust and understanding of this texture it helps build positive pathways in the brain to say it is safe to engage with this food. Sensory play helps shape what children believe to be positive and safe in the brain.

Ultimately, shaping the choices children make and impacting behavior.

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)

An insight into our week

Vegetable prints 

To start with, I provided children some Onion, Potatoes and lemon cut into different shapes. The children loved creating different prints on the paper using the different shaped vegetables dipped into different coloured paint. The children also loved to smell the vegetables while doing the painting and I extended their interest by naming the vegetables. Little babies also got a turn with a slice of lemon tasting, while sitting on the highchairs. Throughout this activity, the children got to develop their senses such as touch, smell and feel.

Ice cube painting

Following up on our learning about the five senses, I tried another cool activity with the children preparing some coloured ice cubes for children to explore. This is the first time we have tried this technique of painting and it provides a sensory rich experience that is just perfect for toddlers and babies. It gives children the opportunity to explore colour mixing, patterns and feel the texture of the slippery, cold, wet paint. It was lots of fun watching our children use the ice paints. They did lots of different pictures and enjoyed the whole process as much as the end product. They loved – mixing the colours together to make new colours, the sense of urgency as the ice paints began to melt, the cold sensation felt at their fingertips and the soft colours the ice paints created and how easily they could layer the paint. The little have also got a chance to explore the ice cubes feeling the icy cold sensation in their hands.

Rainbow Spaghetti

And lastly, we explored rainbow spaghetti. At first the children were a little unsure about the texture of the spaghetti but after a little bit of encouragement from their educator there was lots of squeezing, squishing and manipulation fun exploring the textures of the wet, slimy, stringy spaghetti. Sensory play is a great opportunity for the children to explore all different types of textures and use descriptive words to explain the textures they are feeling like slippery, wet, slimy, squishy etc. Sensory play also encourages the children to manipulate and mould materials, building up their fine motor skills and coordination.

That’s all from Miss Roshin and Miss Maddy until next month

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