My name is Katie, I’m 28, a primary school teacher and I have a 2 year old daughter. I first started sensory play with Daisy when she was 4 months old and she absolutely loved it! She much preferred a tray of coloured spaghetti to her regular toys! Around June 2014 whilst making up different sensory bins I wondered whether anyone would like to buy ready made treasure baskets or sensory bins. I started a Facebook group ‘Sensory Sensations‘ and pretty soon I had orders from local mums, nurseries and childminders… fast forward to February of this year and I decided to branch out into Sensory Sensations weekly toddler classes offering sensory & messy play activities. It’s a lot of fun and we’ve had a lot of mums join us. After our second baby is born (due April) we will be offering weekend classes and hopefully will continue to grow.
From birth, babies explore the world around them using their five senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. In recent years there is a decline in Sensory Play as the TV, computer games and battery operated toys are becoming more popular.
Sensory play has long been a favourite in our house since my daughter Daisy was 4 months old. She’s now 2 years old and we’ve enjoyed lots of creative, messy and sensory play which has really helped her early development. Sensory play is all about exploring through senses and experimenting in new experiences. It’s fun play with lots of learning too! I’ve put together a list of the benefits of sensory play and how it will help your child to develop:
- Independent play
Sensory play can be enjoyed together, where you lead your child into an activity, give input into what they can do and ask them questions… however, sometimes it’s more beneficial to take a step back and let them explore their activity without you. You may be surprised at how they play with something and maybe it’s not how you intended the activity to be played with, but this is key to helping children develop their own personality and preferences.
- Wide age range
Sensory play isn’t just for babies and toddlers. Any child can enjoy sensory exploration. As sensory activities are naturally open-ended they can be enjoyed with older siblings as well as younger ones, as the play ‘outcome’ can vary so greatly. A lovely way to bond and share experiences together.
- Developing imagination
Following on from point one, sensory play leads to lots of imaginative play. Creating stories from sensory toys with different smells, sounds and textures can make play come to life!
- Building fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are important later on in life when children learn to write, tie their laces, do up buttons and zip up their coats. All these skills can be practiced and developed with various sensory play activities.
- Enhancing memory
As adults whenever we smell a certain scent we are reminded of a certain time or place, as with a piece of music… it is the same with babies and toddlers. Repetitive sensory play helps children to develop their memory skills and in turn their appreciation for cause and effect.
- Learning new vocabulary
Exploring your different senses through play leads really well into developing new vocabulary. Parents naturally talk to their children about what they can smell, see, taste, feel and hear and this will lead to children eventually describing what they are doing themselves. It is also fantastic for learning colours, shapes, animals…everything! You can tailor make the topic of your sensory play so you are in control of your child’s learning.
- Problem solving/Reasoning skills
Learning how to solve problems and the value of cause and effect are very important skills to learn from a young age. It gives great satisfaction to solve a problem independently and using logic and reason to gain conclusions.
- Learning from real life experiences
Toys that help our children explore through their senses help them to understand and learn from real life experiences. For example, playing with different musical instruments can help develop an ear for pitch, pace, rhythm and learning songs.
- Sharing and turn taking
Sharing is such an important (and sometimes tricky!) skill to learn when you’re a baby or toddler. Sensory play is so open-ended that it lends itself really well to sharing an activity and taking turns.
- Calming effect
If your child needs to calm down when anxious or frustrated, sensory play is an ideal calming solution. Playing with something with a familiar smell or texture can calm a child and make them feel safe and secure.
Bigjigs Toys offer a wide selection of toys for babies and toddlers that support sensory play. From shape sorters to arts & crafts, musical instruments to water & sand toys.
Written by Katie Lane, Sensory Sensations