When children use their senses to explore, they are learning and retaining information. Sensory activities are very beneficial for young children because they help develop skills they will use forever. Children develop cognitive, linguistic, social/emotional, fine motor and creative skills through sensory play. The messier, the better! Incorporating sensory activities at day care like Triple R Child Care should be a priority for teachers and providers.
Very young infants should be exposed to sensory experiences. Using high contrast mobiles and toys engages babies until they are able to distinguish brighter colors around three or four months of age. Around four months, bright colors are appealing to the babies.
As babies get older, they are able to freely explore different types of textures, though you should always monitor them carefully. Place a baby in a high chair and take off their shirt. Place a fun, messy food, like applesauce, on the tray and let them go to town. You can also put pieces of ice or snow on the tray for them to play with. If you are really adventurous, tape a piece of paper down and give them non-toxic finger paint.
Less messy sensory activities might involve cotton balls, feathers, or wrapping paper.
Small, plastic tubs are good to use for toddler sensory play. In the winter, fill a tub with water, place some plastic toys in it, and leave it outside to freeze. Children will enjoy feeling the ice and trying to get the toys out. Making Gloop is simple to make, fun to play with, and easy to clean up. It is simply cornflour, water, and food coloring mixed together. Water tables are very popular with toddlers. Throw in cups, strainers, toy boats, funnels and water wheels, and the children will stay busy! Food coloring is safe to use and makes the water even more fun. Soap and bubbles also add excitement to a water table.
As children get older, the same types of sensory activities used with toddlers can still be enjoyable. A four year old will likely enjoy a water table as much as a two year old, but the toys they use in it and the way they play with it may be more complex. The older the child, the smaller the materials can be, and the less focused and involved adults need to be in the play.
Rice, sand, and dry noodles are popular sensory table materials, and are also fairly inexpensive. Potting soil is fun to manipulate. Shaving cream is messy, but children love to play in it.
Adding themed toys to your sensory table or buckets will keep things interesting and make it easy to switch up the theme often.
The sensory section in a day care room is very popular among children, but adults are sometimes reluctant to allow play in them due to the attention, messiness, and upkeep necessary in order for it to be successful. The benefits children gain from sensory play outweighs any inconvenience on the adults. Having plenty of sensory activities will lead to happy kids who are developing necessary skills to be successful in life.