sensory play 101
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.
COLOUR SENSORY BIN Pasta, Mama!
WHAT YOU NEED
• 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)
HOW TO MAKE IT:
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
HOW TO MAKE IT
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.