The Importance of Sensory Play for Children
Children are naturally curious and creative, which is why sensory play is so important in their development. Sensory play is an activity that engages children’s five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, allowing them to explore and learn about their environment. Through sensory play, children can build essential skills that help them participate successfully in everyday life. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of sensory play for children and how it can be used to promote their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.
What is sensory processing?
Sensory processing is the ability to take in information from our environment through the five senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – and use that knowledge to support children’s development and learning. Kids need sensory processing knowledge to understand the world around them, as well as to interact successfully with others. It can affect their ability to concentrate, be aware of their surroundings, and understand how their body moves and feels in response to different sensations. Parents and caregivers can provide support for a child’s sensory processing by introducing sensory-rich activities and providing opportunities for exploration.
How can sensory processing help children participate successfully in everyday life?
Sensory processing is an important skill for kids to develop and can help them take part in everyday activities. By using their senses in a more productive way, children are better able to understand and respond to their environment. Sensory processing helps kids interpret sensations like sound, touch, and sight so they can successfully participate in activities. For example, having sensory processing skills helps a child to focus on a task, maintain balance and coordination, and regulate their behavior. This can be especially helpful when engaging in physical activities, like sports or outdoor play. Additionally, understanding how to manage sensory stimuli allows kids to process emotions, remain organized, interact with peers, and develop problem-solving skills. All of these skills make it easier for kids to navigate their day-to-day life.
What are some everyday activities that can benefit from sensory processing knowledge?
Everyday activities that can benefit from sensory processing knowledge include dressing, eating, brushing teeth, playing games, taking baths, and participating in sports. For example, when getting dressed, children can be taught how to identify the sensations of different clothing textures and how to regulate their emotions during the dressing process. During meal times, understanding the flavors and textures of food can help children engage in more positive mealtime experiences. To ensure that teeth are properly brushed, kids can learn about the tactile sensation of toothpaste and understand how brushing keeps teeth healthy. When engaging in playtime, children can learn how to interact with other kids and understand how to better self-regulate their behavior. When taking a bath, kids can be taught how to become comfortable with the sensation of water on their skin and to enjoy the experience. Lastly, when engaging in sports, kids can learn how to stay focused and motivated while pushing their physical limits. By understanding these everyday activities through the lens of sensory processing knowledge, children can participate successfully in everyday life.
How can parents and caregivers support children's sensory processing?
Parents and caregivers play an important role in helping children to participate successfully in everyday life by using their sensory processing knowledge. By creating a supportive environment that takes into account their child’s individual needs and preferences, parents can help them better understand and respond to their environment. This can be done through understanding their child's sensory system and using strategies such as offering choices and breaking down tasks into smaller steps.
The most important factor in supporting a child's sensory processing is to listen and observe their behaviour. Understanding what activities or environments they find calming or stimulating is key in helping them become more regulated. This can help you tailor the environment to meet their individual needs. For example, if your child finds busy, noisy environments difficult to cope with, try taking a break in a quiet area where they can relax and self-regulate.
You can also make the home environment more sensory-friendly by adding objects that provide comfort and stimulation, such as weighted blankets, aromatherapy diffusers, or sensory balls. Having an understanding of the different senses and how they can affect your child can also help you anticipate their needs and create a more enjoyable experience for them. For example, if you know that certain smells are calming for your child, you could diffuse essential oils or add scented candles to the room.
Finally, it’s important to recognize the impact of positive reinforcement and celebrate any small successes. Celebrating successes helps build confidence and encourages children to keep trying new activities. You can also encourage them to identify sensory activities that work for them and use these as rewards for completing tasks or milestones. With patience, support, and the right tools, parents and caregivers can help children develop a positive relationship with their sensory environment.