Sensory play is essential in child development. By incorporating sensory toys during playtime, you can boost a child’s cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being. This article is for parents, caregivers, and educators seeking to understand the role of the senses and the toys that can stimulate them.
Understanding The Five Senses
Children constantly encounter new sensations and experiences. They learn and grow by interacting with their surroundings using their five senses. Playing with toys and action figures, for example, encourages children to use one or all of these senses together.
Sight enables children to distinguish colours and shapes, aiding their ability to recognise objects. Hearing tunes them into the rhythms of language and the nuances of sound, laying a foundation for language development.
Through taste and smell, youngsters explore their environment intimately, leading to familiar and favourite flavours as they grow. Touch is ever-present, whether they’re feeling the tickle of grass underfoot or the warmth of a hug, helping them understand their world.
Kids are visual learners. They begin their journey of learning about the world through sight, which is why babies often seem so enthralled by their surroundings. Everything is new to them. Some toys you can provide your child to stimulate their sight include the following:
- Mobiles: They’re more than just decorative; they challenge the focus of a baby’s developing eyes.
- High-contrast toys: These toys can be incredibly captivating for babies, drawing them in with bold patterns in contrasting colours like black and white.
- Mirrors: While not necessarily a toy, mirrors allow children to explore their own reflections and develop an early sense of self.
- Rattles with colourful beads: These classic toys combine sight and hearing stimulation.
- Light-up toys: Toys that light up can be mesmerising, pulling children into a world of colour and light.
Ensure that toys which light up or move aren’t overly bright or fast-moving, as they could overstimulate or possibly hurt your child.
Every beep, rattle, and tune can be a learning experience for little ears. Sounds can be soothing and educational as long as they don’t irritate you or your child. Examples of sensory toys for hearing include:
- Rattles: The simple rattle, with its soft sound, can be calming and teach about cause and effect.
- Musical toys: Whether they’re simple drums or more intricate instruments, they foster an appreciation for sounds and can kick-start rhythm skills.
- Crinkly books: These books double as hearing and touch stimulation by producing a unique sound with every turned page.
- Bells: With their clear, high-pitched ring, bells can be used in games and music.
- Xylophones: Instruments like xylophones are excellent for older kids, letting them experiment with different notes and tunes.
Children often repeat sounds or words that captivate them. So, if your child hears an exciting sound from their toy, they’ll likely play it repeatedly. Instead of seeing it as an annoyance, think of it as a way your child soothes themselves or learns the basics of communication.
From the softness of a teddy bear to the cool splash of water, touch is a constant exploration. Stimulating touch aids in a child’s gross and fine motor skills development. Consider giving your child the following touch sensory toys:
- Teething rings: Besides soothing aching gums, they give babies their first experiences with different textures.
- Textured toys: Various textured toys, whether with little bumps or ridges, invite children to touch, squeeze, and explore.
- Soft toys: Plushies and soft blocks can be comforting, providing a sense of security for many children.
- Water toys: A water toy introduces a new dimension to play, from the sensation of wetness to the different ways water moves.
- Sand or clay: Playing with colourful sand or clay allows children to mould, shape, and have fun.
Ensure the touch sensory toys you give your child don’t have parts that are too small. Many Montessori toys are great for sensory play because they allow children to manipulate the item as they see fit and let their imaginations run wild.
Babies often taste everything they come across. While this can be nerve-wracking for parents, it’s a natural way for these babies to learn about their environment. Safe taste sensory toys you can give your child include:
- Teethers: These toys provide relief from teething pains while introducing different textures.
- Feeder toys: Let your children safely sample new foods without the mess using a feeder toy.
- Breastfeeding or bottle feeding: While not exactly a toy, this intimate moment provides essential nutrients and fosters a strong bond.
It’s essential to choose toys that are made of safe materials and are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental stage.
From the familiar scent of home to the aroma of foods, smells play a significant role in our earliest memories. Let your child safely smell new fragrances with the following toys:
- Scented toys: A scented toy introduces various fragrances, from the calming scent of lavender to the refreshing smell of citrus.
- Herbal baths: Make bathtime educational and fun by introducing natural scents in their bath.
- Essential oils: When put in smelling bottles, they can provide many sensory experiences.
Always be aware of any fragrance allergies your child might have, and ensure the scented toys are safe for them. You want your child to have fun while smelling new scents, not get a nasal allergy after playing.
Incorporating sensory toys in a child’s activities does wonders for their overall development. From boosting cognitive skills to refining motor abilities, the benefits are numerous. So, go ahead and explore the various benefits of sensory play. You’ll soon see its positive impact on your child’s development.