The Importance of Sensory Play for Your Toddler
Did you know that while an infant is born with around 50 trillion neuron connections, a three year old’s brain has grown to have 1000 trillion? From 18 months old, your toddler will start to become self-aware. This is where we start to see curiosity and the drive to explore, which can both be achieved through sensory play.
Here’s why sensory play is crucial for development and helps prepare for life ahead.
What is sensory play and why is it important?
Sensory play is any activity that stimulates your toddler’s senses. When it comes to sensory play, we often think about the five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell. These help us to perceive the world. But sensory play also stimulates body awareness and balance.
Sensory play is so important as it helps your child to understand how to use their senses to explore the world around them. This kind of exploration encourages independent thinking, influences choices and impacts behaviour.
So, how does sensory play aid your child’s development? Here are some ways that prove why sensory play is so important for development and learning.
Builds nerve connections in the brain
Sensory play builds nerve connections in the developing brain’s pathways and encourages healthy brain growth. The more connections that are made, the easier it will be for your child to begin learning more complex tasks.
As we grow older, a lot of our favourite memories are associated with our senses, such as the smell of baking a cake or the sound of a playground song. This is because memories are scattered across the brain’s sensory centres; scientists have even identified smell as one of the strongest senses for memory recall. In essence, children form deep connections with and respond to sensory information.
Supports language development
Though you might not think it, sensory play is the perfect opportunity for your child to learn concepts. They can learn to be expressive by describing what something feels like, and learn receptive language by interacting with you. For example, you could ask them to ‘mix the playdough’, which would help them to learn the command ‘mix’.
Learning descriptive words in relation to the senses will also expand your child’s vocabulary. Something can smell ‘sweet’, for example, but feel ‘rough’ e.g. a pine cone. Taste can also improve language development through discovering new flavours such as sweet and sour. This is why it is important to encourage children to describe what they are experiencing during sensory play.
Helps develop fine motor skills
With tactile sensory play, there is no limit to the objects you can use (as long as they are safe and your child is of course supervised). Don’t be afraid to make a mess or try something new.
Smaller objects can really help develop fine motor skills, increase coordination and enhance physical ability. This means they will be able to coordinate smaller muscle groups, which will be beneficial for when they have to learn complex tasks like tying their shoelace for example.
Develops social skills
Certain types of sensory play, such as sensory tables, can give your child free reign to explore. This puts them in control of their actions and experiences, which is important for learning social skills later on.
Sensory play with other children can also be beneficial, as they can learn to express their thoughts and feelings with one another, or work together. Sharing ideas and building relationships through sensory play are key life skills.
Can help to calm anxiety
Focusing on a sensory activity can help soothe your child’s anxiety. Anxiety in children can be shown in many forms, from bad moods to sadness or anger. Sensory play is very immersive, and can be a great distraction from these feelings, by becoming absorbed.
Having some go-to, calming sensory activities will also help them learn to deal with their anxiety, and overcome it as they develop. Playing with sand, using scented candles (with supervision), and the sights and sounds of bubbles and water all help to promote mindfulness.
Sensory Play at Maryam’s
Here at Maryam’s Nursery, we understand how important sensory play is for your child’s development. That’s why we have sensory rooms especially designed to aid your child’s sensory development. You can learn more about what a typical day at Maryam’s is like here.