The benefits of playtime for babies goes far beyond keeping your kids entertained. In fact, play forms an essential part your baby’s physical and cognitive development. You should ensure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play with a variety of toys, including sensory toys.
Babies naturally use their senses to explore their environment and learn all about the world around them. A baby of a few months old is absorbing lots of new information through taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. Sensory toys help to stimulate your child’s senses through play, which helps to aid their early development and education.
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is toys or activities that help to stimulate your child’s senses. The idea of sensory play is to help babies discover their senses, which are key in their educational development.
The great thing about sensory play is that it doesn’t have to be fancy – you can make baby sensory toys using many things you have lying around the house. Sensory toys such as dry, uncooked rice in a pan can give your child as much mental stimulation as a fancy toy can.
What are the benefits of sensory play?
Children learn best and retain the most information when they can engage their senses. Think about it, how many of our memories do we associate with our senses?
For example, the smell of toasting marshmallows on a campfire or a rhyme you memorised the dance to with a childhood friend. Now, when your nostrils and eardrums are stimulated with familiar smells and sounds, your brain triggers a memory back to those nostalgic times.
There are many benefits to children engaging in sensory play, including helping build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways. Below we look at the top 5 benefits of sensory play, and why you should be engaging your child in it as early as possible.
- Brain development
Studies have shown that engaging a child in sensory play helps to strengthen their brain development for learning from an early age – even the youngest babies can reap the benefits of sensory play as it allows their brain to be challenged at a relatively easy and enjoyable level.
- Language skills
Sensory play brings a whole new world of language and expression to children. Are things hard or soft? Are they sweet or sour? These are all new words that give babies the opportunity to express themselves early on. Studies have shown that sensory play helps to build your child’s vocabulary and improve motor skills as your child heads into pre-school.
- Cognitive Skills
Cognitive skills are the skills our brain uses to solve problems, think, create ideas, read, learn, remember, and many more. Babies begin to build their cognitive skills as soon as they’re born, and they often do this through observation. When children are young, they use their vision to understand the world around them. Research suggests that when babies take part in sensory play, they begin to understand how things differ, which is essential for the development of problem-solving skills.
- Creative development
One of the great things about sensory play is that it allows your child to be as creative as they want with minimal objects, this helps them to become creative thinkers and see solutions to problems in a new way. If your baby wants to create a beach scene out of colourful toys, pasta and play-doh, they can. Sensory play is a great way to encourage your child’s colourful imagination – there’s no right or wrong way to do it so it allows your baby to be as imaginative as possible!
- Social skills
Baby sensory play is a great shared activity for children of all ages and is crucial for helping children build social skills as they start interacting with one another. Children might try to communicate with each other about certain objects, or they may play together to create an imaginative scene. This helps children learn how to work together and develop their communication skills too.
Ways to sensory play
Now that you know all the amazing benefits associated with sensory play, let’s take a peek at the ways you can introduce it to your baby’s playtime routine.
Messy play is the most fun type of sensory play for your little one to get involved in! Use things like shaving foam, whipped cream, or even edible finger paints that allow your child to stimulate all five of their senses.
Be sure to ask your child questions during messy play to help stimulate their language development, examples are “is that cold or hot” “does that smell fruity or sour?” this will get them really thinking about what they’re experiencing and building and developing those neurological pathways.
Sensory boxes are by far the easiest to create at home. All you need is a box and items that your child can dive into and feel, play, and smell. Most people start by filling the box with rice, pasta, or dry lentils as it feels easy on the hands and allows your child to rummage through and find more items.
Once you’ve decided on your filler, you can add extra elements to the box such as colourful figurines, cups, and even water as you can show your child how by adding water to something changes its texture.
Sensory bags are perfect for sensory play without the mess. They’re super easy to make and your child will enjoy playing with them. They’re incredibly useful if you’re teaching your child letters, numbers, and shapes as you can draw on them easily and it allows your child to continually practice without worrying about mistakes.
Sensory play is a fun and easy way to develop your child’s brain. The great thing about it is that it can be done anywhere, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy sensory toys to start! So, what are you waiting for? Try some sensory play with your baby today!