Play is one of the numerous aspects vital to the development of babies, toddlers, and young children. It is a crucial part of several physical and developmental stages. Play instills the learning in children that they retain for a long time. Having ample play opportunities wherein the children can discover a variety of avenues for learning is essential.
Exploring the World
Children love to discover their world by using all their senses. Have you seen them glee with utter excitement when they are left to play with sand, squishy toys such as slime, or rattles? It is all because children use their senses to explore the world around them. For them, shaking toys, scooping sand, oozing water, and sprays are the height of adrenaline.
Giving children the opportunity to play with such things is sure messy, but it is the most beneficial playtime. Sensory plays and toys help hone your children’s motor and fine skills. The true essence of sensory play is to teach your child how to use and engage all of their senses, including sound, taste, smell, touch, and sight.
Whenever sensory toys stimulate the senses of your babies, their little developing minds establish a neural connection that paves the way for articulate brain architecture.
What are Sensory Toys?
A list of all sensory toys might be very lengthy to mention here as these toys come in various forms or shapes. We can say that sensory toys are made to grab children’s attention by engaging all the senses for defining purposes. Such toys are beneficial in stimulating the children’s minds and making them work diligently.
Sensory toys stimulating sight include the ones with vibrant colors and contrasts. Picture the interior décor of a nursery. You can imagine mind-captivating toys and pictures that stimulate visual interest.
Such sensory toys grab a child’s attention by making a noise. These sensory toys can help develop and build on the auditory senses of the children.
Although many toys can stimulate the sense of touch in children, various forms and finishes of the toys can teach them about different materials. For instance, children can learn about textures such as soft, fluffy, bumpy, or hard.
Captivating the sense of smell through toys awakens curiosity in children. Toys with specific aromas help their minds in developing the sense of smell.
Sensory toys that soothe children’s teething or oral satisfaction are the most popular. Children have numerous teething toys that help settle them when their gums require rubbing.
Examples of Sensory Toys
- Crinkly books
- Sensory Shapes
- Wooden puzzles
- Activity walkers
- Percussion instruments
- Shiny surfaces
- Activity tiles
Benefits of Sensory Play for Children
1. Cognitive Development
Sensory toys help in catalyzing brain development by enhancing memory. Moreover, children who have the opportunity to play with sensory toys remain engaged for a long time. It instills the ability to complete more tasks with extra attention. Such play also helps in improving hand-to-eye coordination.
2. Language Development
When you hand sensory toys to your children, they tend to talk about it and express their feelings. They will tell you how different the toy feels, how they find the shape different, and so on. This practice of talking and expressing aid significantly in language development. Children’s vocabulary expands, and they become more confident.
3. Gross and Fine Motor Skills Development
Your child’s ability to use small muscles for tasks such as writing, handling things, and tying shoelaces are called fine motor skills. On the other hand, gross motor skills refer to the coordination between large muscle groups, such as jumping, running, and walking. Providing opportunities to your children to explore their surroundings with their tactile sense benefits their fine and motor skills development immensely. Baby gym is an excellent example of stimulating tactile senses.
4. Social Interaction
The play essentially teaches children to share and play together. Children interact with other children and thus, develop social skills. It also instills effective communication, confidence, and decision-making in children.
5. Has a Calming Effect
You must have witnessed how a crying baby instantly calms down when handed a stuffed toy to hold close by or given a rattle to make some noise. It is because sensory toys help in the regulation of the internal discomfort causing children to become cranky.
Children who can play with sensory toys grow up to be more vigilant of their surroundings and become mindful. Active sensory play helps babies in being more alert. They also develop the skills to filter the information out and be more focused.
7. It is the Most Fun
In the exhausting list of counting cognitive and developmental benefits of sensory play for children, this one tops all. Sensory play is entertaining and engaging. Children can remain busy for hours while playing with wooden-shaped blocks or puzzles.
Benefits of Sensory Play for Children at Various Developmental Stages
1. For Babies
Young minds are like blank canvases – you can paint anything on them. Providing opportunities for sensory play aids in developing new connections for babies. They form a strong base for language and sensory development. Their response mechanism also enhances drastically as they explore the world around them by touching, sucking, or hearing various stimuli.
2. For Toddlers
In this stage, sensory play helps develop higher thinking abilities in children. It is the developmental stage when children and parents are at a tug-of-war for independence. Toddlers learn basic everyday concepts such as light and dark, various colors, smooth and rough, etc.
This type of learning encourages toddlers to explore their surroundings with an open mind.
3. For Preschoolers
Language is an essential skill that preschoolers require. Sensory play helps in expressing their feelings to the fullest. They learn to share and demand back. Most importantly, sensory toys can help develop and enhance your children’s attitude towards different fields of life, such as music, art, etc.
Jean Piaget’s Child Development Theory
Jean Piaget is considered a celebrity when it comes to child and developmental psychology. He advocated the importance of sensory play in children’s development throughout his career. Piaget was the first one who claimed that there was a lot more to children’s play than it merely being a part of their everyday life.
His developmental theory revolves around how play is a well-defined developmental tool for kids. Children learn through their sensory toys to interact with the environment, which is an important cognitive milestone. According to him, children can soak up a lot of knowledge from play which gets stored in their minds for future reference.
Introducing a Sensory World
Creating a sensory environment for your children is not synonymous with expensive items and toys. You can facilitate sensory play for your children by decorating and furnishing the play area with simple sensory items, such as mobile drawings or cutouts, hanging rattles, wooden puzzles or mazes, or a soft board with felt stickers or pictures with Velcro on them.
Also, children develop their senses ideally when they explore the outdoors. So, let them feel the grass, the sand, and play with pebbles. Let them smell flowers and get fresh air.