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Why involve all the senses
in children’s games

Young children need to have all five together. From birth, they naturally discover the world around them with all five basic senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. The more senses they engage, the better for their brain and overall development.

At birth, the brain and its sensory processing centres are not yet fully developed. They mature gradually as the child explores the world around them. Particularly tumultuous brain development occurs in the preschool years. With each new stimulus, new connections between nerve cells form and brain capacity increases.

You can provide children with the large load of stimuli needed to stimulate the brain properly through sensory play. By this you can think of any activity that engages the senses in action. In addition to the basic ones like sight or touch, this includes things like balance and perceiving the position of the body in space.

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The benefits of sensory play

Take a good old-fashioned sandpit in the nursery garden. This is the perfect space for sharpening the senses. When you think about it, raking sand and slapping bugs is very beneficial for children’s healthy development. How?

  • Physical development:
    With all the digging, raking, loading, scooping and building, children practice gross and fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination in the sandbox.
  • Cognitive development:
    The sandbox is a blank canvas and it’s up to the child’s imagination and creativity what they create out of the sand. Children are opened up to experimentation, scientific reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving. And when children describe to others what they are creating out of sand, they are constantly expanding their vocabulary and improving their language skills.
  • Socio-emotional development:
    While building sandcastles, children learn to work together, share space and tools, communicate and resolve disagreements.

For more activities to develop empathy and emotional intelligence in children, see
How to support the emotional development of young children.

It’s amazing how much benefit can come from a simple game in the sandbox. And you can be sure that other sensory games work in a similar way.

Examples of sensory games

Sensory play can include a wide range of activities, from something as simple as rolling barrels to an elaborate dinosaur-themed sensory box. For inspiration, we’ve put together some examples of sensory play you can try with your children at nursery.
  • Sensor boxes
    When it’s gloomy outside, instead of a sandbox you can use a sensory box in the classroom. Take a large (plastic) box and fill it with dirt, sand, pebbles, cereal, rice, water or even shaving cream. Add themed small toys and also tools like spoons, funnels, tweezers or paintbrushes.
  • Sensory trail
    Build a sensory trail using a variety of materials you have on hand. Place sand, pebbles, PET bottle tops, feathers, fabric scraps or bubble wrap in shoeboxes placed side by side on the floor. Invite the children to walk barefoot on the pavement and feel the different textures under their feet.
  • Modelina
    Give children modeling clay and a variety of tools to knead, model, roll, cut and create structures.

    Tip: You can incorporate a few drops of essential oil into the modelling clay. This will involve children’s sense of smell as well as their sight and touch.

  • Baking together
    Even better than munching on modelling clay is baking together. That’s because you can taste the result.
  • Tasting quiz
    Prepare foods of different tastes and consistencies, cut into bite-sized portions. Blindfold the children with a blindfold and give them a taste one by one. Let them guess what they are eating. Just watch out for possible food allergies!
  • Music-making
    Offer children musical instruments such as a drum, tambourine, sounding sticks or a rhythm egg, or make their own instruments with the children. Practice rhythm and accompany singing with musical instruments.
  • Scented sachets
    Let children fill cloth sachets with dried herbs or spices of their choice. As they make them, talk about which scents are pleasant and which are unpleasant. The children can then place the sachet in their locker in the cloakroom.
  • 5-4-3-2-1
    Ask the children to stop for a moment and name 5 things they see right now, 4 things they touch, 3 sounds they hear, 2 smells they pick up with their nose, and 1 taste they feel in their mouth.You can practice this technique with your children just walking around. In moments of turbulent childhood emotions, you can use it as an anchor to calm down. Based on the concept of mindfulness, the technique is based on being present and mindful of your immediate surroundings.
Sensory play has an irreplaceable role in the preschool period.
It contributes to children’s holistic development physically, socio-emotionally and cognitively. Therefore, offer children plenty of activities to sharpen their senses. This will help them in the process of brain maturation and ease their transition to school.

 

29. 4. 2023 | Martina Zatloukalová

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