sen­sory play 101

Young Parents (Singapore) - - New! Series -

A good va­ri­ety of sen­sory play ex­pe­ri­ences is an ex­cel­lent way for ba­bies to ex­plore and learn, says Char­lotte Wong, se­nior man­ager at the Kin­der­land chain of in­fant-care and child­care cen­tres.

Here, she shares how teach­ers cre­ate them and how you can do so at home.

What is sen­sory play?

It’s to pro­vide your lit­tle one with hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties that stim­u­late the sense of touch, sight, smell, taste and hear­ing.

When a baby is born, he uses the five senses to learn about the en­vi­ron­ment and to re­ceive com­fort. This could be a hug or a kiss, a lov­ing face, an as­sur­ing voice or a fa­mil­iar scent.

With sen­sory play, it sup­ports your young child’s fine and gross mo­tor skills, lan­guage and cog­ni­tive growth, so­cial emo­tional devel­op­ment and even prob­lem-solv­ing po­ten­tial.

How do the teach­ers do it?

At Kin­der­land in­fant­care cen­tres, ba­bies and tod­dlers are en­gaged with:

• The stroking of their palms or feet to a song stim­u­lates the sense of touch, sight and hear­ing so they learn lan­guage from an early age.

• Cold sen­sory bags filled with colour­ful paint or sparkles for squish­ing. The sight of colours mix­ing to­gether and chang­ing into another hue en­cour­ages an early in­ter­est in sci­ence.

• Sen­sory boards to dis­cover tex­tures. By walk­ing on dif­fer­ent types of ma­te­ri­als, the tod­dlers im­prove their move­ment co­or­di­na­tion and balanc­ing.

• Ex­plo­ration of dif­fer­ent scents, such as spices, fruits and herbs, which en­hance the devel­op­ment of the of­ten-ne­glected sense of smell.

• Sen­sory bins filled with an as­sort­ment of theme-re­lated toys. Fill a tub with wa­ter and get splash­ing with float­ing items or even fruits.

When learn­ing is ex­pe­ri­en­tial, it be­comes clearer and more mean­ing­ful to the young chil­dren. At the same time, they pick up new vo­cab­u­lary from the teach­ers, who en­cour­age them to be ob­ser­vant about the things they see and feel. Most im­por­tantly, they have fun while learn­ing.

How can I cre­ate a sen­sory-rich learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment at home?

Here are three easy ideas to make sen­sory bins, which en­cour­ages chil­dren to play, in­ves­ti­gate and ex­plore nat­u­rally.




• Pasta of dif­fer­ent shapes and tex­ture, such as spaghetti, mac­a­roni, far­falle, penne, fusilli and shells

• Food colour­ing HOW TO MAKE IT

1. Boil pasta till al dente in a pot of wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to packet in­struc­tions.

2. Place each type of pasta on sep­a­rate trays. Add dif­fer­ent food colour­ing.

3. Al­low your child to feel, pinch and play with the first tray of pasta.

4. In­tro­duce words to de­scribe the pasta’s colour, shape, size and tex­ture.

5. Bring out another tray of pasta only when your child has ex­plored enough of the first batch. 2 ED­I­BLE CLOUD DOUGH SEN­SORY BIN Where are my toys? WHAT YOU NEED

• 1 cup rice ce­real

• 3 tbsp co­conut oil

• Toys (Choose what would in­ter­est your child, such as farm an­i­mals, cars and ve­hi­cles, Christ­mas or­na­ments and let­ters of the al­pha­bet)


1. Pour rice ce­real into a con­tainer.

2. Add co­conut oil to the rice ce­real.

3. Mix well and let dough cool. 4. Hide toys in the dough and al­low your child to ex­plore.


RICE SEN­SORY BIN What’s in my gar­den? WHAT YOU NEED

• 3 to 4 cups of rice (the amount may vary de­pend­ing on the size of your con­tainer)

• 1 tsp vine­gar

• Food colour­ing

• Var­i­ous small gar­den­themed items such as leaves, flower petals, sticks/twigs, peb­bles


1. Cre­ate coloured rice. Mea­sure rice in a Zi­ploc bag. Add vine­gar. Add as much food colour­ing as de­sired (the more food colour­ing you use, the more vi­brant the coloured rice be­comes). Zip it up and shake vig­or­ously for a minute or two. Check to see if it is coated well. Spread it onto a pa­per towel to dry.

2. When dry, place the coloured rice into an empty con­tainer.

3. Place the ma­te­ri­als into the coloured rice and mix well. Al­low your child to ex­plore.

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