Saturday, November 24, 2012

Benefits of Sensory Play - Guest Post

Hey new geeky friends!  I'm Margaux, a stay-at-home/work-at-home wife to Steven and mama to Darwin, our 15 month old.  I write a family friendly blog called Young Nesters where you could find me sharing about our family adventures.  While Mama G is taking some well deserved R&R from blog-land I thought I'd share something that we love to do over at our house.  I've got a very busy toddler on my hands so I'm always looking for new ideas to pique his interest.  Sensory play is a great way to break up the routine at home and offer stimulating activities that occupy the kids for a while.  But it isn't just fun and games (and possibly a way to get a few minutes time to gather your thoughts), there's some great opportunity for learning.

Motor skills.  I think this is probably the most obvious benefit.  Grasping tiny objects, putting things in and taking things out, scooping, splashing, digging...  All of these skills are put to use when toddlers are allowed the opportunity to explore sensory objects in their environment.  And how does practicing these skills help in other aspects of their (and our) life?  They are practicing and fine tuning the very same muscles and motions as picking up and putting away toys, brushing teeth, holding their cup with out spilling, the list goes on and on.

Toddlers learn through their environment.  Without advanced language skills they are constantly learning based on what is presented to them by their senses.  Given the opportunity to play and explore with a variety of objects gives them the chance to continue to process new details about their world.

Cognitive-emotional regulating.  Have you ever wanted to smash something when you were beyond angry?  Or how about relieving anxiety by squeezing a stress ball?  These are examples of how we use sensory experiences the same way we can inspire our toddlers to explore.  Certain activities can even be great pre-bed time calm down time because it focuses the child's attention and energy on an experience that can be very calming.  And other activities can give our kiddos the chance to smash, bang, or otherwise release negative feelings and self-regulate.

So especially with the colder months approaching and opportunities to play outside becoming limited, I recommend digging around your cupboards and using your imagination to create some new play experiences for your toddlers and older children.  Plastic baby pools or large storage bins are great for containing some of your exploring and the bathtub is a great place to play with those exceptionally messy creations.

Some of our favorite sensory play items are:
Dry beans
Dry pasta noodles (different shapes)
Acorns gathered from the back yard
Pine cones
Good old dirt
Cornstarch and water (try adding some flour too!)
Baking soda and vinegar
Bath foam
Dry Corn
Cooked Spaghetti

What else can you think of or have you tried?

Want to read more about this topic?  Here are some great resources:
Not Just Cute - A Handful of Fun: Why Sensory Play is Important for Preschoolers
HighScope Extentions - Look, Listen, Touch, Feel, Taste: The Importance of Sensory Play
The Imagination Tree - Sensory Play


Margaux is the Feminist Social Worker wife of a Veteran turned Ecologist and a newly domesticated first time Mama. Follow her adventures in home ownership, do it yourself projects, living sustainably, and growing a baby... on a budget.

I love all these ideas, Margaux! Thanks for sharing!

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