When my 2.5 year old daughter asked me “Mommy, what does damp mean?” I didn’t pull out the dictionary and robotically regurgitate its definition: slightly wet or moist.
Ok, so I did but, then I brought her over to the sink, slightly moistened a sponge and handed it to her. “Feel this, it’s damp”. Then I soaked it, handed it to her again and said “now, it’s wet”. I watched as the little gears spun in her head as she worked it out for herself. I could see the a-ha moment in her eyes when it finally clicked.“So damp is a little bit wet?” she asked. Exactly.
Children learn through all five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and sound; and that is why sensory play is so valuable.
Sensory play not only helps young children to understand the world around them, but did you know that by letting children explore materials without explaining them first, you’re helping them to develop and refine their cognitive, fine motor, creative and linguistic skills? Here’s how:
Problem solving - Without realizing it your child is analyzing, observing and making predictions through sensory play. By choosing how to manipulate the materials on their own they discover cause and effect and come to their own conclusions about how the materials work.
Mathematics - Counting and shape identification and differentiation are excellent early math skills honed by sensory play. How many smooth rocks can i find? How many dinosaurs?
Language - Children can’t define parts of language until, like the sponge example with my daughter, they experience it first hand. Sensory play allows us to teach our children descriptive language and new vocabulary while they play with new textures, sounds, and scents.
Fine Motor - By scooping, grasping, pouring, molding and squeezing children are developing their hand-eye coordination and pre writing skills.
Creativity - Sensory play provides open ended opportunities where how your child uses the materials is more important than the end product. When your child thinks creatively in order to engage in make-believe, it helps them build self-esteem.
And don’t forget that sensory play is fun. When children find something interesting, they tend to repeat it over, and over, and over again. Repetition helps them master skills, boost confidence, increase understanding and the best part is, they don’t even realize they are learning.