Sensory play relates to the activities that stimulate the senses, including touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Making sensory activities a part of your classroom allows children to explore basic scientific processes as they play, create and investigate different materials. In addition, through these activities, children are building their cognitive, linguistic and social and emotional skills.
Since children learn most effectively through engaging their senses, sensory activities are especially important to children's cognitive development. In particular, children strengthen their problem-solving and decision-making skills through sensory play. For example, if you present a simple problem to the student and also provide materials to find a solution, the child has to build new cognitive connections in order to fix the issue.
There are a variety of sensory activities that give children the chance to build math skills. Good activities are those that give children the opportunity to compare size, count and engage in one-to-one correspondence (matching numbers to objects), judge timing (i.e. does water or oil move faster?) and sort and classify objects, such as buttons, beans or rice by their defining features.
Sensory play also involves the cultivation of science skills. Through adding water to sand, for example, children learn cause and effect. They become more familiar with the principle of gravity through observing water sliding down a funnel, rather than up. Children also understand more about states of matter by observing melting ice. Whether or not they realize it, children are developing and strengthening their science and analytical skills through sensory play. They are developing experience making predictions and observations, and then watching what actually happens as the processes themselves unfold.
It becomes easier for children to use and understand different parts of language after they have seen the meaning of the word first-hand. Sensory play gives children many opportunities to use descriptive and expressive language. Moreover, they actually get to experience the meaning behind the word, thus strengthening their linguistic skills. As children participate in sensory activities, pouring, moving and investigating different materials, they expand their vocabulary and comprehension of different words and concepts.
Social and Emotional
Sensory play options, such as sensory tables, allow children to direct their actions and experiences to a certain activity. In turn, this boosts their confidence in their decision-making ability and further encourages them to to learn and experiment. Sensory play also gives students the chance to learn more about cooperation and collaboration. Working side-by-side with their classmates at a sensory table, they gain more insight into someone else's viewpoint. Sensory tables also offer children the chance to express themselves and share their ideas with teachers and each other.
For more information about this subject, you can refer to ProSolutions Training's course, "Brain Power! Cognitive Development in Preschoolers." ProSolutions Training also offers a CDA course and a CDA Renewal course, both developed to meet the needs of early care and education professionals seeking the CDA Credential. The credential is administered and awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition. In 2013, ProSolutions Training became the first online training company to earn the honor of being a formal partner of the Council.