Sensory development is important to children’s growth. When children take part in activities that require the senses, their brains learn to process sights, sounds, smells and tastes, as well as feelings related to touch. Processing helps children translate a sensory experience into something meaningful. For example, a child might hear soft music and learn to associate it with the feeling of calming down.
There are many fun ways to help children learn through the senses. Here are a few you can do at home.
- Fill a bucket with sand and bury a toy. Have your child search for the toy, using both hands.
- Fill a bucket with seed or pasta and bury a toy. Have your child search for the toy, again, using both hands.
- Have your child roll up in a soft blanket. Then have your child unroll.
- Put a small, metal container in a bucket of seed. Have your child fill the container and slowly pour it out. Mention the sound the seed makes as it moves from the container back into the bucket.
- Put a small bucket in a filled bathtub. Show your child how to pour water from the bucket into the bath water.
- Play some soft music, and then play some louder music. Use words like “soft” and “loud” to describe what the child is hearing.
- Using cards of different colors, hold up each card and say the color. If your child is of speaking age, have him or her say the names of the colors.
- Show your child pictures of geometric designs. Have your child trace the lines with his or her finger.
- Collect stuffed animals. Show your child each toy and name the animal. If your child is of speaking age, have him or her repeat the words.
- Have your child help you bake cookies or bread. Ask your child to smell the dough before, during and after the baking process. Note the differences in the smells.
- Have your child close his or her eyes. Hold pieces of different fruits under your child’s nose. Name the smells and have your child repeat the names. If your child is old enough, see if she or he can identify the smell without help.
- Make a pot of coffee and have your child smell it as it is percolating.
- Have your child taste a ripe grape. Then have your child taste an orange. Talk about the differences between sweet and sour.
- Have your child eat a salted pretzel. Then have your child try a ripe apple. Talk about the differences between salty and sweet.
- Encourage your child to try a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Talk about how each tastes differently.
Activities that integrate multiple senses include:
- having your child play in a pit of soft balls
- encouraging your child to play with musical instruments
- letting your child “draw” on the table with scented shaving cream or lotion
- letting your child pop bubble wrap
As with any new activity, it is important that you introduce your child to sensory play slowly. Some children are extra sensitive, and not all children will enjoy every activity. Some children might have allergies that need to be taken into consideration. Experiment to see which activity appeals to your child.
Sparkles! incorporates sensory play into the curriculum to give your child ample opportunity to learn how to process external stimuli. If you have a concern about your child’s progress, please contact your child’s teacher.