From the time we are born, our senses are our guide through the world around us. Particularly for babies and young children they provide endless opportunity for fascinating discovery. Simply gazing at a colourful toy, hearing a dog barking, smelling a flower, tasting a lemon or touching a furry soft toy are all opportunities for sensory learning about the world.

Research has found that young children learn best when they can experience new things with all of their senses; they need to see, hear, feel, touch, smell, and sometimes even taste a learning material in order to really understand it fully. As parents, one of our roles and responsibilities is to provide sensory opportunities to facilitate our children’s learning.

Learning and independence are two key factors that are learnt through play. The use of sensory materials and sensory boxes provides opportunities for self-directed and guided play to encourage a variety of different skills to develop. Through the manipulation of materials - pouring, moulding, lifting, carrying and sorting children will improve their fine and gross motor skills.

Child led play with simple materials will help the development of creative skills. Self-confidence increases as children master what they are trying to achieve and they will develop socially as they learn to share materials and increase their vocabulary.

Children will develop their cognitive skills through sensory play by observation, experimentation, exploration, the formulation of solutions to problems and manipulation of the sensory materials. Sensory play also gives the opportunity for learning basic concepts such as shapes, colours and numbers as well as more complex concepts such as counting, sequencing, sorting, constructing and much more.

Recently, sensory play has become understood or regarded as ”messy play”. Although exploring different textures, even messy ones, is part of sensory integration/exploration activities, it is most definitely not limited to this!

The word “sensory” itself lends the thought that it is about the senses, and as it is, we have FIVE common senses - sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing, as well as three others - so the sense of touch, although very important, is not the only sense to be addressed during sensory exploration!
Copyright 2011 SPOT on TOTS