The ways that children learn in the early stages of their lives are varied and diverse. Early childhood educators are often entrusted with assessing the children in their care to identify how they learn. This allows them to use each child’s learning type to their advantage while teaching, weaving different techniques through a lesson that lets each student follow along for the maximum learning experience. However, research shows that one of the most effective tools that educators can use for every child is sensory play, which is play that facilitates learning through the use of the five senses.
What Is Sensory Play and Why Does It Matter?
Sensory play can be a preschooler exploring a set of blocks and discovering their different properties– which is bigger? Which is heavier? What colors are they?– or an older child finger painting to learn the shapes of their letters. It can be a child singing a song to learn to spell new words or another learning what sinks and what floats in a bin full of water. There is no limit to sensory play and how children can learn using it if an educator can get creative.
Sensory play allows children to develop foundational skills that they can later draw upon when learning things such as reading, writing, math, and science . Sensory play can allow children to build the cognitive skills necessary to begin working towards these subjects and beyond. This is why it is so important that children are exposed to these experiences.
How Can Sensory Play Be Used in the Classroom?
The question then becomes this: how can early childhood educators use sensory play in the classroom? There are so many topics teachers must cover in the average school day, and adding one more thing to the list might seem daunting. However, sensory play can fit seamlessly with a little bit of creativity.
Art projects and science experiments that involve hands-on components and incorporate multiple senses are an easy way to begin using sensory elements within the classroom. Math manipulatives, such as counters, dice, and blocks, can help visual and kinesthetic learners to understand more nebulous mathematical ideas. Even reading skills can be enhanced with multisensory tools, using strategies like tracing on sandpaper with fingers or singing rhyming songs .
There are many possibilities that can include multisensory activities in educational settings if educators stretch to introduce the opportunities.
Understanding the Child
There will always be new strategies to try in every classroom and new trends in early childhood education. However, in the end, it comes back to the importance of understanding and connecting with the children in each class. Sensory play is only another tool to use to accomplish that goal.