Sensory play is defined as any activity which helps to stimulate a child’s senses such as touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight, and sound. Sensory activities support children to be curious, explore, to use scientific processes, while they play and engage in positives experiences.
Sensory play is important for children’s development. From the moment children are born right through childhood children use senses to explore and make sense of the world around them. The best learning experiences for children happen when they are encouraged to use their senses.
Encouraging children to engage in sensory play is vital for brain development as it supports the building of connections within the brains pathways. Sensory play helps children’s development of cognitive growth, language development, and social interactions and helps them to complete more complex tasks and problems. When we talk about our five senses, we often forget our sense of balance and our sense of body awareness which are also just as important to develop through activities for children.
Sensory play is a great tool when introducing children to new types of foods. Some children may feel hesitant to try new foods due to slimy or wet textures such as spaghetti. Allowing the child to play and get messy with the texture, build trust. This will help towards developing positive pathways within the brain that teaches the child that it is safe to engage with this food.
Examples of DIY sensory activities that most people will have in their press at home.
Ice Cube Painting:
Ice cube trays: filled with water
Ice pop sticks
Add extra pieces if you like such as stars, flowers, leaves, etc
White plain paper
Pour water into the ice cube trays, using food colouring (any colour) and pour few drops into the water. Using the ice pop sticks mix the food colouring properly into the water in each cube. Add glitter, stars, pom poms ect. Place an ice pop into each square to make like a paint brush effect, which will be good for building and developing fine motor skills, it can also be done without the ice pop stick. Place in the freezer overnight and it will be ready the next day.
This activity is great for children of all ages. For this activity allowing children to be part of the preparation, the process and have fun with the end result has many benefits. From the beginning, allowing the children to pour the water into the ice cubes using the jug helps to develop co-ordination skills such as hand eye co-ordination and gross motor skills. A suggestion would to do this activity outside, so if anything does spill it won’t matter.
Using a variety of food colouring helps to encourage children to develop their knowledge around the different colours. It also allows children to get creative with mixing colours to see what happens.
Adding glitter, stars and other embellishments will help to build and encourage the development of fine motor skills for children. It is also a great opportunity for parents/caregivers to explore different shapes and textures with the child. This is also a great time to get scientific with the children by adding the different embellishments to see what floats and what sinks.
· 6 large marshmallows
· 3 (or more) tablespoons of corn starch
· 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (other oils will work as well).
· Food colouring
· A microwave
· Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat up the mixture until the marshmallows expand (30 seconds).
· Carefully removing the bowl from the microwave (careful not to burn your hands) and mix the ingredients as much as possible with a spoon. (If the mixture is very sticky don’t panic just keep mixing).
· Once the mixture is cooled down using your hands knead the play dough with your hands. (If you feel like the dough is too sticky add more corn starch).
· The play dough should be soft now. (When adding more corn starch do it slowly so the mixture doesn’t turn to crumbly texture. Wash your hands and once more knead till the dough is fully mixed.
· Now it should be ready to enjoy.
· Repeat above steps for different colours of marshmallow playdough.