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Using senses can help determine whether something is good or bad – when a child puts something in their mouth they know if it’s ok to eat or chew. When we smell, we can tell if food is off, which means not good to eat! Children learn through their environment and adding sensory experiences enhances their everyday learning. This is so important for all types of learning and the best part is that children love it!
Sensory play also contributes to brain development. Think of it as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways, which is extremely important for all types of learning.
For example; as children explore sensory materials whilst using their hands, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills and using fine-motor muscles. The materials children work with at the sand and water table have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is the first step in classification, or sorting which links to other parts of the EYFS. (Mathematics, understanding of the world etc.)
5 easy sensory activities you can do at home
Simply chose the items you wish to have in your sensory bags, fill bag with your chosen items and seal. Let your little ones use different body parts to feel and explore the bags (Hands, mouth, feet). Please ensure the items inside the bag are safe for your child to eat, just in case the bag leaks…
All you need is:
Sealable Sandwich bag
Sellotape/ duct tape
Bag filler of your choice (gel, foam, paint, sequins, rice, pasta etc.)
Mess free squidgy painting
Place a piece of paper on the table, stick in place with blue tac or Sellotape to stop the paper moving whilst the children are exploring. Place a different colour blob of paint in each corner of the paper and cover the paper in cling film. Stick the cling film down with duct tape to avoid leakage. (You can also add different items to the paper and paint before putting the cling film on, this adds another texture for your children to explore.)
Allow your child to ‘press, squidge and squeeze’ the textures under the cling film. Talk to your children about what they can feel, is it cold? Is it bumpy? Do you like the feel of these textures mixed together?
All you need is:
Different coloured paint
Extras; rice, sequins, pasta, oats.
A trip to a park, the beach, farm, your garden or a little walk down your street is a great way to use the senses. Whatever time of year it is there are always a lot of things to stimulate your child’s senses, we just need to help them realise these by prompting & communicating what is around us.
When at the park let your children walk around, ask them questions, prompt them to touch, smell, look & hear. For example, stop & listen, say “What can you hear?” It could be the sounds of birds or other children laughing. Ask them to look around “What can you see on the ground?” dependent on the year they could see flowers or pine cones. They can look, feel & smell these. Use your imagination to find different experiences for your child/children.
Playdough is very easy to make at home with simple ingredients. You can add other items to the dough to create multiple sensory experiences. The dough can be made quickly without cooking (doesn’t last as long) or cook it using cream of tartar (lasts longer & has better consistency). Make it with your child/children so they experience feeling it. Ingredients as follows –
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.
When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the centre, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if your playdough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer!
Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like playdough.
Now you can add other things to it, glitter, food essence for different smells or anything else your child may like to put in! It could be buttons or other small items they find.
For the non-cooked method –
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
food dye (any colour, be creative!)
newspaper to cover the surface you’re working on.
Mix all these together, kneed & ta da! Playdough. Store in a Tupperware pot to help it last.
5. Food tasting
A lovely thing to do at home to get those taste buds tingling is trying new foods. A trip to the local supermarket, greengrocer or even a market with your child will let them feel part of the choosing & stimulate the sense of sight & smell. Choose things they have never tried before:
The list goes on. Sit together & discuss the feel, smell & what it looks like before trying. They may not want to try so if you lead by example it may spur them on to give it a go. When trying the food ask them how it tastes? What does it feel like in their mouth? Do they like it? Encourage words which help build language.
Use the above ideas to create your own unique activities. If you have older children who have a wide vocabulary, ask them what ideas they can think of to stimulate their senses. Above all, have fun and use your imaginations together!