Sensory play provides children opportunities to learn and develop by seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and tasting (Gascoyne, 2011). According to Steinberg (n.d) if the senses are stimulated by sensory activities, the signals send to the brain and strengthen neural pathways which improve the abilities for problem solving and decision makings. According to Snyder (n.d) the active exploration with all senses help babies to understand of things around them. When they become verbal they start to describe about the things they explore and eventually become conscious of other materials with same characteristics and recognize the similarities and differences of the things around them. For example, when a child explores a sand table he applies his previous experiences with what he is exploring and discover more characteristics though sand play such as building sand castles by adding water in to it (Au, Robertson & Varma, n.d). According to Mayesky (2015) sensory play allows children to improve their creativity as children get opportunities to improve imagination and to do pretend play while engage in sensory activities.
According to Wellhousen and Crowther (2004) sensory activities benefit children for social and emotional development. When children engage in sensory activities with adults or peers they get opportunities to observe others, learn to take turns, imitate them, share ideas with others and build relationship with them. Moreover, achieving success in the activities help them to feel satisfaction and develop their self-esteem (Lieberman, 1993). When a child in a stress sensory activities such as Play Dough can be used to reduce their stress as they receive appreciation from adults for what they made (Schwarz & Luckenbill, 2012).
The sensory play improves fine motor skills of children which help for handling writing and drawing materials successfully. These activities include manipulating objects such as mixing and scooping with spoons and spades, pouring water using cups and containers, cutting, rolling, pushing, pulling, making shapes and picking up small things using pincer grasps (Cross, 2010). When children do play activities with their peers they understand about spatial boundaries and share the space as they learn that others also require space to manipulate objects (Au, Robertson & Varma, n.d).
Children get opportunities to experience the real meaning of the words as they communicate with peers and adults about what they do and learn new words and descriptive language from adults (Gainsley n.d).
How adults can effectively support children’s play.
It is adult’s duty to create safe and stimulating environment where there are enough spaces and objects that facilitating the play needs of the children. Adults should create sensory activities with enough spaces where children can play individually and play with others. Both outdoor and indoor sensory play areas should be provided by considering the type of activities children do (Sport for life, 2016). For instance, outdoor play areas can be used for sand play where children can get messy and shredded paper play can be offered in a room with more spaces for children to roll in to it and explore.
It is adults’ duty to observe children and offer them variety of activities with tools and materials to stimulate the senses and learn about the world around them (Wellhousen & Crowther, 2004). For example, during autumn season children can be provided autumn leaves on sensory trays, yellow and brown color paints to explore the autumn colors and take them out to experience the autumn.
Adult needs to stay in children’s eye level and present in the scene to show children that she is available when they need her. Intervention and role modelling should be done without breaking children’s concentration (The British stammering association, n.d). If the adult is invited for play, taking a passive role and following the children’s lead and suggestions is important as it is their play. Adults can share their own playfulness with children without controlling play activity (Morgan, 2010).
Adults can assist children to solve problems by asking open ended questions about their activity. Moreover, children should be helped social interaction by encouraging them to interact with others if they have a difficulty to make social connections and should redirect them if they get distracted during play (Trawick, 1994).
Au,L. Robertson,I. & Varma, V. ( n.d). Sensory intelligence is brilliant fun. Retrieved from https://www.hawaii.edu/childrenscenter/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Sensory-Intelligence.compressed.pdf
Cross, A. (2010). Come and play: Sensory-integration strategies for children with play challenges. St. paul, MN:Redleaf press
Gainsley, S. (n.d). Observing and supporting the kids at the sand and water table. Retrieved from http://www.highscope.org/file/newsandinformation/extensions/extvol25no5_low.pdf
Gascoyne, S. (2011). Sensory play: Play in the EYFS. London, United Kingdom: MA education.
Lieberman, A. (1993). Emotional life of the toddler. NY: the free press.
Mayesky,M. (2015). Creative activities and curriculum for young children. (11th ed.). Duke University, NC:Cengage learning.
Morgan, A. (2010). A part of their world: Adult roles in child’s play. Retrieved from http://notjustcute.com/2010/07/07/a-part-of-their-world-adult-roles-in-childs-play/
Schwarz,T. & Luckenbill, T. (2012). Let’s get messy: Exploring sensory and art activities with infants and toddlers. Retrieved from ebscohost.com
Snyder, C. (n.d). Providing sensory experiences that meet the needs of all infants and toddlers. Retrieved from http://www.highscope.org/file/newsandinformation/extensions/extvol25no5_low.pdf
Sport for life. (2016). Helping children play – The adult role Retrieved from http://canadiansportforlife.ca/active-start/helping-children-play-%E2%80%93-adult-role-2
The British stammering association. (n.d). Child-initiated learning and the child who stammers. Retrieved from http://www.stammering.org/earlyyears/eyfs-and-child-who-stammers/child-initiated-learning-and-child-who-stammers
Trawick, J. (1994). Interactions in the Classroom: Facilitating Play in the Early Years. Charlottesville, VA: Merrill
Wellhousen, K. & Crowther, I. (2004). Creating effective learning environments,Clifton Park, NY: Delmar learning.Sensory Play, https://rhubarbandwren.co.uk/tag/sensory-play/ accessed 20/04/2020