Recently there has been a huge emphasis on a young child’s brain development and how it undergoes a significant amount of change in those first few years. A lot of professionals talk about the importance of the first 1000 days where it is essential to provide a stimulating and nurturing environment that promotes this development. Although the brain cells are formed prior to birth, it is the first three years that connections are made.
If we were to consider everything a baby does, we would find it is experienced through their senses. Even in the womb a baby is using their senses… hearing your voice, recognising your smell. Then after the baby is born, just think of everything they see for the first time, all the new sounds they hear, touch through lots of cuddles, bathing and changing, the smell they experience in the hospital, at home, in the car or outdoors and then the taste of their milk. All of this is so new to them, and we just automatically take it for granted as part of their daily care, but instead, we are helping to build their brain.
By definition sensory development is achieved by stimulation of the senses, these being sight, touch, hearing, smell or taste; where a signal is sent to the brain, this is then processed and in turn boosts brain development, as they get older, their abilities improve and mature, so we must act accordingly.
How can we help our young children develop through their senses? I often thought that to successfully encourage sensory development you needed large plastic all singing all dancing toys with flashing lights, not only can these be quite irritating after a while, they often take up a lot of space and I found my kids got bored with these quite easily.
So firstly what are the benefits of Sensory play activities?
- Builds Connections in the brain
- Promotes concentration
- Encourages development of motor skills
- Enhances Language Development
- Encourages problem-solving
- Helps child feel calm and relaxed
Now that we know how valuable this is, we are going to share our top 10 sensory ideas that are so simple and cost very little. Your little one (and maybe not so little) will love these.
No 10 – Nature walk – talk about what you can see around you, feel the texture of leaves, twigs, check out all the bugs and insects: smell flowers and plants
No 9 – Sensory Bottles – Fill bottles with water & vegetable or olive oil/ coloured fairy lights/ feathers/ rice/ bells.
No 8 – Coloured spaghetti/rice – cook spaghetti or rice, add food colouring and allow to cool, then get stuck in, either with hands or if you have a large Tuff Spot tray, allow your little one to sit in it to explore.
No 7 – Moon Sand – 4 cups of flour & half cup of baby oil, mix and add food colouring or scents if wanted.
No 6 – Tray/basin with water – add bubbles/ladles/syringe/dolls/dishes/animals – anything from your home, the ideas are endless.
No 5 – Silky stretchy playdough – 5 cups of cornflour & 2 cups of hair conditioner, scent /colouring can be added also.
No 4 – Sensory Bag – fill a large sandwich bag with hair gel and pop in some foam shapes or pom poms, tape the bag closed, then tape to a table or high chair tray, they will love moving the items around and the squishy feeling of the bag
No 3 – Sensory Basins – best to carry this outside – fill basins with various items e.g. shaving foam/gel/lentils/cooked pasta/paint/water/mud. Just remove socks and shoes and go for a walk.
No 2 – Jelly/yoghurt – just put either of these on a tray and let your little one explore the texture, the smell, the taste, and no worries about putting this in their mouth.
No 1 – Homemade Sand – 2 cups of baby rice & half a cup of coconut/vegetable oil. Fantastic activity for younger children as it has texture of sand that is safe if they try to eat it.
Most of these things we have in our home, so why not give it a try and Enjoy!