A Handful Of Fun

Nov 2, 2016

Why Sensory Play Is Important For Preschoolers

Preschool children are wired to receive and utilize sensory input from day one. Children will dive in hands first, exploring a new substance. The senses are their most familiar, most basic way to explore, process, and come to understand new information.
During our day-to-day activities we allow our students to learn through experience, not just lecture. We believe that children need to use their senses and be engaged in meaningful experiences. As we talk with them about what they are observing and sensing, we give them new language tools to connect with these more familiar sensory tools, building language as well as supporting cognitive concepts specific to the experience.

Just as children learn through their senses, they also are developing the ability to use those senses and are building the neurological pathways associated with each one. With added sensory experiences, combined with the vocabulary of adults and peers, children become more understanding of the concept as their sensory intake and processing becomes more acute.
The sensory table is the usually the first place people think of for sensory play. The sensory table certainly stands as an open invitation for hands-on exploration, but it is not the only place where the senses become activated. Throughout our preschooler’s day, there are appeals being made to the five senses. The sound of toppling towers in the block area, the feel of finger-paint sliding through their fingertips, the glow of the interactive board or the smell of cinnamon playdough. As educators, the more we implement sensory of our planned activities, the more our students will be engaged and therefore the more they will learn.

At the sensory table, we can find many more benefits to sensory play. That bin of mixed beans, slimy pasta, or colorful rice is more than just a busy factory of developmental growth. Besides honing sensory and science skills, sensory play builds language, social, and dramatic play skills as the children negotiate with one another to share tools, create stories, and build dialogues. Both fine and large motor skills get a boost as well. Creative thinking is displayed as the children are invited to explore and come up with new ways to use the materials. Cognitive skills are fostered as well as the children learn about specific concepts pertinent to the sensory table’s contents.

As one of the truest open-ended activities, sensory play provides an opportunity for every child to succeed. No matter whether you are gifted or delayed, learning a new language or mastering your first, you can’t really fail with a bin full of beans or a ball of playdough. The simple act of pouring water or running fingers through rice is often calming to many children who may be struggling emotionally. It can soothe the nervous child, distract the homesick child, and serve as an outlet for the angry child.

Examples of how to incorporate sensory activities in your home:

  • Provide a bin of sand to explore
  • Give your child a dish wand and plastic dishes to “wash” at the sink
  • Add different soaps and lotion for bath time
  • Experiment with bathing foam on bathtub walls
  • Let your child mix ingredients while baking
  • Allow your child to help vacuum

Most important is making every experience a handful of fun!

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