Research has shown that people retain most of what they learn when they engage with their senses. This applies to both children and adults. Before children learn how to talk and walk, they learn about their surroundings using the five senses, which are touching, smelling, hearing, taste, and sight. That is why most of the time, you will see your toddler putting everything they pick up in their mouth. It is this learning through senses that is now called sensory play. When you think about it, your child is already naturally engaging in sensory play activities at home.
After the discovery of the benefits of sensory play in early childhood, educators and psychologists are encouraging schools and parents to incorporate it into the children's daily activities intentionally. Now that education has moved online, we at the Global Indian International School, Bangalore, are happy to advise parents on the best sensory play activities for their children at home. That way, they can still engage in sensory play while attending preschool online.
Below are some of the best sensory activities your children can take part in while at home.
A sensory bin is a simple and creative way to keep your toddler busy as they engage their tactile senses. If you have some empty boxes in the house, you can repurpose them and use them to create a sensory bin. You can fill the bin with different textured materials like rice, shaving cream, blocks, beads, and many more things. Ensure that the materials you use are safe for the child but even so, do not let them play unsupervised when they are young.
Messy play is just as it sounds- messy, and toddlers enjoy making a mess. Before you get stressed out about all the cleaning you will have to do later, first understand how it helps your child. When a toddler participates in messy play, they play with materials such as paint, whipping cream, ice, flour, and much more. These materials have different textures and will help a child's brain get used to experiencing various sensations. Additionally, children will also grow their motor and cognitive skills through messy play.
Now that you understand the benefits, you can find a way to control the mess to make your life easier. You can place a vinyl sheet on the floor and put their playing materials on top or let them make a mess outside. You can also use a large plastic basin and add in some plastic toys to make it more fun. Messy play doesn't have to be an everyday activity, choose a day and a time when you are not too busy or too tired to clean up.
Food play is among the safest sensory activities a child can engage in while at home. You can use either fruits or vegetables or any leftovers you have in your fridge because children will end up putting it in their mouths. Children will taste every food you set before them during play, and they will be willing to try other new foods after. This can make mealtimes a little easier for you because as your children grow older, they tend to accept or refuse food depending on their texture. It will be best if you separate mealtimes with playtime so as not to confuse the children.
Pushing and pulling activities are great in developing proprioceptive senses among young children. Proprioceptive senses help a child become more coordinated and aware of the activities that their bodies can do. Pushing and pulling exercises can also be very soothing to a child. If they have a toy truck or a toy trolley, encourage them to do pushing and pulling activities. You can make the exercise more challenging by adding more toys in the trolley or on top of the toy truck. Another fun activity that can help improve coordination and focus is pouring water from one container into another.
There is not a playground or park in which you won't find swings. When it comes to sensory play, however, you have to think more creatively. For example, instead of pushing your child from behind, as usual, try pulling his feet gently from the front and then releasing them. If going to the park is not an option, try making a swing using a big blanket or shawl or a tire and some rope. Even a hammock will do. To make it more fun for your toddler, two adults can grab two corners of each side while the child climbs into the middle and swings them from side to side.
If there is something that toddlers have in plenty, it is energy. An easy way to release that energy is by playing jumping games. Jumping helps children with their movement and balance. They also get to exercise to maintain their physical health. Jumping activities include skipping ropes, trampolines, exercise balls, or you can create obstacle paths in your yard using toys, stones, and other materials you can find. You can bring the fun indoors too and use pillows, blankets, cushions, among other things to make fun obstacles paths.
Nobody enjoys playing with water like young children because they don't mind getting wet. Water play is a sensory activity where children use their whole bodies to play. You don't have to have a baby pool, you can put your toddler in a big basin filled with water and throw in some plastic toys, squishy ducks, etc. Once they are in the water, let them play to their heart's content but always be there to supervise.
Sorting activities are a great way to keep your toddlers busy as they engage their senses to learn about size and colour. For this activity, you can use puff balls, beads, bottle tops, coloured blocks, among other things. Give your child a couple of boxes or containers where they will put the balls of the same colour or size. If your child is old enough, you can make the task more challenging by making them do it with a pair of tweezers or tongs.
Young children often get to a stage where they ask questions about everything. Playing guessing games is an excellent way for them to figure out the answers to their questions. You can use sound or smell to play a guessing game called, 'what's that?' You can make them listen to different animal sounds and make them guess the animal. You can also place foods and fruits such as onions, coffee, or flowers and make them guess what type of food it is. The best way they can fully engage their sense of smell and hearing is if you blindfold them.
Most of the activities mentioned above do not require you to spend a lot of money. You will find that you already have most of the things needed in every activity listed. Always remember to use safe learning materials such as edible finger paint, or skittles instead of beads. Always have adult supervision present during water play and all other activities, especially for children under the age of 5.
As a leading preschool in Bangalore, we use these methods to keep our young students engaged.