The importance of sensory play

From birth, babies begin to learn about the world around them through their senses: touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting. This continues as babies grow into curious toddlers who have the natural inclination to explore and soak up their environments. Baby’s brain grows as she learns by exploring the world around her, and learning to process and respond to the information around her.

Since children learn through play, it’s important to incorporate a variety of activities into Baby’s regular routine that engage all of her senses to promote skills like problem solving, critical thinking, motor skills, and even social interactions.

Experience is key

Young children have so many questions about the way the world around them works, but so often, the best way to answer her questions is to let her figure it out herself. You could describe the way something feels or tastes to Baby, but she won’t be able to fully process what that means until she experiences it on her own. Through sensory play, toddlers are able to use their senses to understand new information, and answer their own questions through experience.

Sensory activities at home

  • Rice table: Who says rice is just for dinner? Fill a bin with some bags of dried rice, scoops, and cups then let Baby go to town. This activity is a great way for letting her explore independently as she learns about texture and cause and effect, as well as concentration and proportions, as she pours rice into different-sized containers, and learns about the amount of space it takes up.
  • Treasure chest: Time for a treasure hunt, matey! Grab a bag or a bin and load it up with items of your choosing. You may decide on a specific theme, such as hiding letters to find or shapes to sort, or opt for a more integrated chest filled with a range of assorted treasure for Baby to explore. Picking up smaller items will help hone those fine motor skills, and the learning possibilities are endless.
  • Edible finger paint: If it seems everything she plays with goes in Baby’s mouth, edible finger paint is an ideal play choice. This super simple recipe is made with just cornstarch, water, and some food coloring. Let Baby explore colors and textures as she learns in a creative way. Finger painting develops hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and teaches cause and effect. This is a fun way to let her be creative, and you won’t need to stress if your mini Monet decides the paint looks like a perfectly good snack. (If there’s extra paint after Baby is done playing, it can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 2 weeks. If it gets hard, some hot water can be added or it can be left out at room temperature to soften. And you should always, of course, just check to make sure it hasn’t started to spoil before letting your little one use it again.) Picture perfect!

Technically, anything Baby plays with is a form of sensory play, since the whole world engages her senses in one way or another. What’s generally called “sensory play,” though, is a specific effort to get different senses involved, and offering Baby new and interesting sensations to experience.

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