Ever noticed how children use their senses to engage with the world from a really young age? When they have rich sensory experiences whether at a playgroup, at home, in the park or anywhere else, it boosts their brain development. Research has found that children learn by interacting, practising and observing, so rich learning environments can help them grow.
Helping children to become aware of and use their senses is a great step to encouraging brain development from an early age. The good news is that you don’t have to try hard – children’s senses are already developed by the time they’re born. In the womb, babies can already recognise your voice. By creating a sensory environment for children, you can boost their development in various ways. Here are some practical suggestions.
Let Them Explore While They Play
Playtime is not just fun for kids. It allows them to discover their environments. Let them play hide-and-seek in the garden, feeling the crunch of autumn leaves under their feet. Let them cloud watch and see what interesting shapes and figures they see in the sky. Nature is a natural sensory environment that’s just waiting for curious minds to explore it!
Allow Them To Get Creative
When they make things out of building blocks and homemade play dough, children not only use their senses, such as by feeling items, but they also use their imagination to create things. This can help them develop. A study by Australian National University found that imaginative play – when kids pretend an object is something else – can help them learn language skills.
Make Them Play in a Group
Playgroups help children to learn while they play with their peers, which can boost their social skills as well as emotional and cognitive know-how. Children also engage with their senses during this playtime. One of the best ways for them to play is to let them have free play. This is play that happens spontaneously and it allows them to use their imagination. Examples of free play include building things with friends and playing dress-up.
Give Them Space
Free play is also great for children to develop their senses while exploring space. Children love to find interesting spaces that as adults we don’t even notice, such as the space between a sofa and wall or an interesting-looking cabinet in the kitchen that was left half-open. They’re curious to look at these spaces and discover what they’re about, and while doing this they can engage with their senses.
You can help them learn about space and acquire skills such as balance by designing your home to encourage play. For instance, by using cushions to create different spaces in the playroom, or by placing blankets around that are destined to become tents or castles in the eyes of a child!
Children learn about the world by using their senses. There are many ways in which to appeal to children’s senses, and doing this regularly will develop their skills. Best of all, you can do it with simple play ideas that they’ll enjoy without realising they’re learning valuable things in the process.
Jackie is an editor, researcher, writer and mother.
For more ideas on sensory play please visit our fantastic list of resources here.