Playtime, whatever the type or toy, is important for children. Play not only encourages healthy brain development, it also develops a child’s senses and their perception of the world around them. Even the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes PLAY as the right of every child!
As more children are using digital devices at a younger age for entertainment and games, a change in the way children and parents see play is imminent. How children choose to play and how parents allow their children to play also changes. Still, it is important to imbibe young ones with tried and tested methods of beneficial play, one of which is Sensory Play (also known as Messy Play).
Sensory play is defined as an activity that involves and stimulates a child’s five senses:
Sensory play can also involve a child’s sense of:
HOW CAN SENSORY PLAY HELP A CHILD?
“Don’t make a mess when you play!” is something that you wouldn’t say when your child is doing sensory play. The idea is for them to enjoy their play that uses all their senses, and mess is just one of the happy results of this playtime!
1. SENSORY PLAY INCREASES NERVE CONNECTIONS IN THE BRAIN AND HELPS WITH COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
For very young children and babies, sensory play is one of the few ways for them to learn about the world around them, whether it’s soft toys with bells embedded within it, or glowing toys. As they have yet to be able to sit up or move around, these toys are small and mostly handheld (which they may also put in their mouths, as their way of learning with their senses). It is believed that play experiences that engage the five senses help to build a child’s cognitive skills.
2. IT HELPS WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Fine motor skills involve using smaller muscles in the hands, fingers and wrist. At a young age, children would have learnt basic motor skills like clapping hands, and gross motor skills like walking. With sensory play, they are able to pick up and sharpen their fine motor skills, with activities that involve smaller muscles and hand-eye coordination like pinching, pouring or lacing.
3. IT HELPS THEM EXPLORE AND LEARN ABOUT THE WORLD
Sensory play that involves different mediums (sand, water beads, bubbles and such) exposes children to the different elements in the world and how each medium reacts to different types of touch. Sensory or messy play also provides an informal and easy platform of learning where they wouldn’t be reprimanded for making a mess while learning!
WHAT ARE TYPES OF SENSORY PLAY?
Common types of messy play can include:
Although they all sound like they will make a mess (hence the common term, messy play), there are things that you can do to make clean-up minimal and make the play hassle-free!
Play outdoors. Cleaning up is much easier if the play is done on a lawn or porch that can be swept easily.
Lay out a mat. If the sensory play is indoors, limit the area of the mess with a large mat, which the children can play on. A good choice would be old table mats (made of plastic) that can be wiped clean easily.
Have messy play before bath time. This is especially helpful if your child doesn’t enjoy shower time, as having a messy playtime calls for clean-up afterwards. Get your child involved with the clean-up too and you’ll fill two needs with one deed!
The sky is the limit with the types of sensory play you can engage your child with. Look for toys that engage all your child’s senses!