If you think back to your childhood I am sure you can recall a memory of digging in the dirt, squishing play dough/cookie dough between your hands, sliding your hands in finger paint, splashing in water, or wiggling your toes in the sand. These are often some of our ealiest memories and for good reason. Children learn through engaging their senses!
In December I had the pleasure of hosting a Sensory Bin workshop at my Studio with Val from Born2Create. Val lead myself and the other parents in attendance through an evening of creating 4 different sensory bins that we could then take home for our children to explore. Val also spent the evening teaching us about the many benefits of sensory play for children.
Val provided so much wonderful information at the workshop I invited her to do an interview to share her knowledge with our readers.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a mom to two lovely and energetic kids who keep us very busy. I have been a special education teacher for 16 years and still teach part- time. I love creating in all sorts of ways and getting messy with kids is one of my all-time favourite things!
What got you interested in sensory play?
When my son was born and I was nursing for what seemed like hours, I wanted my daughter who was 2 at the time to be engaged in something creative and not just watch TV. So, I made her a coloured rice bin and she played with it for 45 minutes and I felt like I hit the jackpot. That just ballooned into the creation of many more bins and all kinds of exploration with sensory play.
Watching my own children explore sensory play was really a coming together of my background and training as a special ed. teacher and my experience as a mom.
Why is sensory play important?
Sensory play is important because it is what kids naturally are drawn to. When kids engage in messy sensory play, their senses are stimulated. When their senses are stimulated, they are learning. Kids learn best by doing. Sensory play is completely child directed and it has no final product. Sensory play encourages creativity and imagination.
What are the benefits of sensory play in early childhood development?
When children spend time engaged in sensory play, mixing and pouring, scooping and digging, they are indeed "playing" and having fun but these activities help them develop cognitively, physically, linquistically, socially, emotionally, creatively and physically. By picking up a grain of rice or a bean from a bin, they are working on their fine motor, but they are also learning about shape and space of objects. When they mix in a bin of goop (my favourite) or water they learn about density of liquids. When objects in a sensory bin are different colours, shapes and sizes, their brains learn to distinguish between these things and as they sort out like objects they learn about sorting and classifying. Things such as these are a part of the mathematical side of their brains and skills which we as parents and educators want kids to be learning from such an early age.
Sensory play allows children the freedom to explore using their creativity for endless possibilities.
Do you have any tips for parents who want to try sensory play at home?
- Start small - create one bin at a time. Rice or beans are an easy place to start.
- Tell yourself that this kind of mess is okay. Lay out a blanket on your kitchen floor and let them discover.
- Use this creative sensory play as an opportunity to teach boundaries ie " I would like you to keep the rice in the bin. If a little spills out, that is okay. If a lot spills out or you dump it out, I will have to put it away".
- Introduce sensory play on a day you know you will clean the floor. If the weather is summer like, take it outside. There is not such a worry about things all over your floor.
- Encourage your child to discover, play, imagine and create. Try to find out which texture they most like; dry (such as beans, rice, popcorn kernels, coffee beans), gooping/messy (goop, clean mud, pudding), or wet (water, water beads, snow).
- Get together with other friends and try a sensory playdate!
Over the next few months I will be sharing on the blog my girls' experiences playing with the sensory bins I created at Val's workshop. If you are local to Edmonton I recommend checking out Val's Sensory Bin workshops and Mommy and Me Messy Mondays classes.