When you hear the word sensory play, most times you think of messy play, or children being let loose to explore the world around them outside. And while sensory play does include these things, it is SO much more than that. Sensory play is so important for development – they hand in hand.
As stated above, sensory play is often associated with messes and parents having to clean up messy kids, toddlers, or houses. However it is much more than that. All of us use our senses each and every day to process the world around us and respond to it. There are 7 senses that we each use on a daily basis. Yes I said 7, not 5.
So what are those 7 senses?
On my sensory activities ideas for kids page here on GRB, I defined Vestibular and Proprioception this way:
- In short, the vestibular system is located in the inner ear and has to do with balance (also knowing when your body is moving, swinging, spinning, hanging upside down etc). The key with vestibular movements is getting the head into as many different positions or planes as possible since that is what activates the various receptors in the inner ear.
- An easy description is proprioception is being able to know where your body is in space and where your limbs are in relation to your body. Muscle planning, grading muscle movement, being able to move your arms and legs without necessarily looking at them all falls under proprioception.
When a child is young and still developing, it is important to engage or activate each of the sensory systems so that they can integrate and grow into one cohesive sensory system.
Think about it, all 7 of the senses I mentioned above are needed for when a child enters the classroom or begins school at home. When I was working in the public school system with special needs children, very often one of these sensory systems above was not working properly and was related to many of the problems they were having in the classroom.
But don't panic! Sensory play and encouraging development really aren't that hard to do as a parent. Here are a few quick tips to ensure your child is exposed to as many sensory play and sensory development activities as possible.
- Make sure they are getting enough sleep (tired brains and bodies will only hinder your child's development).
- Limit screen time (TV, video games, phones, computers, iPads/Tablets etc).
- Encourage outdoor play and exploration as much as possible, especially in warm weather months
- Encourage your child to help you cook and prepare meals (even toddlers can do simple meal prep activities).
- Visit the park or take an outdoor nature walk.
- Encourage climbing, swinging, jumping, spinning, riding bikes and any other type of gross motor activity that encourages bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body together) and activates the vestibular and proprioceptive systems.
- Most of all, just have FUN and let your child explore and be a kid!
Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for, I think. Follow your child's lead in sensory play. If you notice them gravitating towards a certain sense, give them as many opportunities to use that sense as they can. They know what their bodies need and crave, all you have to do is be on the look-out for it.
I am really excited about an up-coming series I am going to be hosting here on GRB. We are going to be looking at the A-Z's of Sensory Play for Kids – 26 complete activity ideas from other moms, kid bloggers, therapists, teachers and more. It is going to be an amazing series and you will definitely want to follow along if you aren't sure where to start with sensory play.
Simply sign up to get e-mail updates from my blog below so you don't miss a single post. The series will begin in February and run through April with 2 posts a week right here on GRB. I hope you will be back to follow.