Connecting Children’s Science Learning to Sensory Play
Sensory play is any activity that stimulates one or more of a kid’s five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Different types of sensory play impact different senses. For instance, a kind of sensory play may be a child playing with toys in a sandbox. The kid develops his sense of touch by feeling the sand and running his toys through it.
A child also can participate in sensory play by smelling different scented stickers to know his favorite scent. This particular activity develops a kid’s sense of smell. Sensory play allows kids to form an understanding of the world as it unravels around them by exploring and investigating scientific inquiries in a natural, playful manner.
Why is sensory play essential?
To an unsuspecting eye, it could seem like sensory play is all fun and games for enjoyment. In reality, it’s a lot more than just play. Sensory play is instrumental in a kid’s development in many areas:
- Sensory play builds and strengthens nerve connections in the brain, allowing the child to know more complex concepts afterward.
- Sensory play enhances language development, fine and gross motor skills, cognitive development, and social interaction.
- Sensory play has been shown to strengthen memory.
- Sensory play can also calm kids when anxious or angry.
- Sensory play enhances scientific thinking and problem-solving skills.
How sensory play encourages scientific thinking
Research shows that the best way for young kids to learn is play-based inquiry. Sensory-based inquiry naturally teaches kids to use the scientific process. During sensory play, kids learn the value of close observation. During sensory play, kids may notice the different textures, sizes, shapes, and colors of manipulating objects. Children can use this opportunity to observe the effects of gravity on various things, noting that larger blocks usually feel heavier.
Sensory play also teaches kids to unravel problems. Children may begin to imagine and investigate:
- How will I build a tower that won’t fall?
- What happens if I hold this cube tightly?
- What happens once I add water to sand?
- Which objects float on water, and which ones sink? Why?
- What happens once I add blocks to my boat?
These investigations during play are instrumental in shaping a kid’s capacity to know cause and effect.
Help kids connect their sensory play to their science learning
Sensory play seems fun for kids but time-wasting for adults. It doesn’t need to be this way. You can quickly help your child develop sensory skills by providing a few sensory materials that will likely entertain him for hours. The excellent part of sensory play for parents is that you don’t need to micromanage it! Children will naturally get the scientific benefits of sensory play independently without much assistance from you.
The following are examples of sensory play materials that you can make for your child:
- Die dried rice in different colors and place each rice color in separate bowls.
- Color cooked spaghetti and mix them with different objects such as coins or small toys
- Set up a kiddie pool. Fill with sand, a few shovels, and buckets with water
- Create a sensory bucket. Fill it with water, pebbles, and water toys
- Create homemade edible finger paint
Indeed, the possibilities are endless. Please help your child develop her future scientific inquiry skills by promoting sensory play in your home or classroom. She will love you for it!