#PlayForReal: Encouraging sensory play for better learning
MANILA, Philippines – Children have big imaginations. Sometimes they get even more creative than adults especially when it comes to playtime. Now parents and teachers have taken on the role of fostering their creativity to better prepare them for challenges they may face as they start in a new school and meet new people.
All parents have different ways of teaching their children new things. Some prefer to expose their children to real play and allow them to learn and discover using their five senses while others opt to use gadgets to stimulate learning.
Mariel used to work in I.T. until she found her passion in education. “Early childhood education is my vocational passion and I use my interest in it to provide my kids a good learning environment at home. Our house looks like a preschool, actually! I also use this passion to help parents become more informed in their children's development,” she says. Mariel Uyquiengco is a mother of two with another one on the way. She describes herself as a hands-on mom who takes care of her children’s developmental and educational needs.
Mariel writes and speaks about early childhood development, positive discipline, raising readers and homeschooling for The Learning Basket. Aside from these, she is also a U.S. licensed Kindermusik educator. Her schedule is full everyday as she takes care of her kids, teaches them, and works from home too. “We started homeschooling about 5 years ago,” she adds.
In a time when technology is continuously developing, it is inevitable that children will be affected by its progress. Smartphones and tablets with games and videos are now able to teach and entertain our children, sometimes even keep them busy the entire day. It’s surprising that you can download an app that allows children to recognize sounds and learn how to count on their own.
But let’s not forget how important it is to use the five senses and for kids to interact with their peers as they learn, explore and discover new things. Learning is a process. Mariel says that children learn through experience and sensory play allows them to experience different concepts first hand.
“From birth up to five years old, the brain grows up to 90% of its adult size. During that time, nerve connections are actively built. Sensory play has a big part in this development, helping children learn about the world and acquire skills that they need as they grow older.”
This type of play helps in developing language, thinking, gross and fine motor skills and problem solving. It encourages children to use their imagination and acquire knowledge in a fun and natural way.
Making a sensory play friendly home
The best place that you can integrate sensory play is right at home. Parents are able to monitor their children and even join in the activities to bond with their child.
”Parents and teachers have to be intentional about integrating sensory activities into everyday play. It can be as simple as talking about what is happening to them throughout the day,” Mariel says. She also suggests setting up activities like finger painting, blowing bubbles and sound games for toddlers and preschoolers.
Here are some activities you can take note of to encourage sensory play in your own home:
1. Make a mini sand box
Grab a basin, some sand from a nearby gardening shop, and some scoops and containers. Containers and scoops need not be expensive; you can use some old ones from the kitchen that you hardly use anymore. Just make sure there are no sharp or ragged edges that might be a potential hazard. Now, you have a mini sandbox right in your backyard.
2. Encourage water play
Outdoor sensory play also involves water play. Make your own play pool by using a large basin or an inflatable pool and fill it with water. Throw in some plastic toys that can float or anything they can use to pour the water while they play to engage their sense of sight, hearing and touch. To make it more exciting, add some bubble bath for kids, such as Johnson’s Active Fresh Bath, to engage their sense of smell.
3. Mix up some 'silly slime'
You can also make your own 'silly slime' by mixing cornstarch, water, food coloring and a drop of baby-safe cologne. Your children can run their fingers through the mixture and gradually see how it becomes solid after some time.
4. Playing with different elements
For small homes, small bins with covers can be made available. Each bin can contain a different material (or you can just put in what you want when you want to) such as sand, pebbles, shaving cream, ice and even shredded paper. Toy implements such as trucks, mini-shovels and cups can make the possibilities endless for kids.
Remember that not only is safety a top priority but also keeping children clean and fresh longer so they can play and learn more.
Note to mothers
“As a mom, I want what’s best for my kids. Having a background in early childhood development helps me identify the good kinds of play, and it’s something that I choose for my kids,” says Mariel.
Unlike other types of play, utilizing the five senses allows children to think outside the box and even let them focus on what they are doing. Children who experience things first hand will have a better understanding of their surroundings and grasp the concept behind learning activities.
“I encourage all moms to practice this with their kids and I do this through the parenting workshops that I conduct. Play is everything for young kids, but not all play are created equal so we have to be selective and intentional.” – Rappler.com