Wednesday, October 7, 2015

SENSORY PLAY: IS IT REALLY NECESSARY?

Several months ago I posted THIS ENTRY about two sensory activities I carried out in the classroom with my 3-year-olds. Now I found this article that sums up nicely the importance that sensory play has for today’s kids.

“If you frequent kids activity blogs, you know that “sensory play” has been a hot topic for quite awhile now.  There are even entire websites devoted to sensory play for your tots, and while they are super fun to read and full of creative (and sometimes elaborate) ideas, you may find yourself asking, “Is all this REALLY necessary for my child’s development?”

To answer this question, let’s first look at what we know about sensory play.

 

What is sensory play?

Sensory play is simply play that encourages children to use one or more of the senses.  Often called “messy play,” sensory play experiences focus on stimulating children’s senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, and movement.

Research tells us…
  • Young children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment.
  • Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.
  • Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.
  • Children’s exposure to sensory play opportunities is declining.
What does this mean to us?

The first three points on the list above are pretty self-explanatory. In a nutshell, sensory experiences are like food for the brain…they provide valuable input that allows the brain to build new pathways that in turn support growth in crucial areas of development.

The fourth point, however, is what sheds some light on the answer to our original question, “Is all this REALLY necessary?”  You may be thinking, “My parents didn’t do sensory play with me, and I turned out ok!”  The fact is, our little ones spend much less time outdoors than their parents and certainly grandparents did as children.  Since the outdoors is naturally full of sensory play opportunities, this has definitely had a part in the decline of sensory play.  Secondly, although children can definitely fulfill their need for sensory play indoors when given periods of unstructured playtime with stimulating materials, the truth is that indoor time is often monopolized by television, battery operated toys, or toddler/preschool programs that focus on drilling academics rather than fostering important play skills.  This has resulted in a generation of children who may not even know how to play when given the opportunity…how sad is that?

So in short, the answer to your question is yes, sensory play is crucial for your child’s development. And since children today are no longer given ample opportunities for naturally occurring sensory play, it is up to us as parents to be sure their needs are met.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

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