Have you ever witnessed a child’s mood change with a splash in the water? Or maybe you’ve seen intense concentration in a child’s face when sifting through sand? These experiences are therapeutic, improving motor skills, raising awareness, and contributing to language development.
A child develops his nervous system through his senses
Children are always in a state of development, especially in the brain. The more the senses are used, the greater the number of connections that are made in the brain, forming motor patterns, problem solving and creating a database of experiences to compare their environment to.
Children with autism, spectrum disorder and neurological disorders have difficulty with sensory processing. Their ability to process these signals can be under-developed or even excessively developed making it hard to turn off the sensations, causing the brain pathways to short circuit.
Improving language and speech
Sensory play helps children build vocabulary and understand language. By using words and questions that relate to the child’s experience, a parent or caregiver can link sensory experiences with cognitive growth. Here are a few examples of how you could articulate a sensory experience for your child:
Touch: “I’m pouring warm water on your head. Do you feel the wet water?”
Sight: “Do you see the bird in the tree?” “Where do you see a squirrel? Oh, I see the squirrel on the fence.”
Smell: “Would you like to smell this flower? Mmmm, it smells sweet.”
Taste: “I think you like the lemon. Ooh, is it sour?”
Sound: “Do you hear the airplane? What sound does it make? Woooooosh.”
Using descriptive and action words such as cold, hot, bumpy, shiny, smooth, pour, dump, scoop, sift, and splash in the context of experiences will help solidify the meanings of these words in a young child’s mind.
Sensory Activities for Babies and Toddlers
Playing with water is a favorite activity for children. Fill a large, shallow bowl with water and provide your upright child with simple scooping tools for open-ended exploration.
Bean Bowl Exploration:
Fill a large bowl or shallow tub with dry beans, paper, rice, sand, or dry berries. Children will enjoy sifting these materials through fingers, picking them up, and pouring them out. Use your best judgment and pay close attention when introducing young children to small objects.
Sensory Activities for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners
Preschoolers and Kindergarteners act a lot like scientists when they learn through their senses. Encourage them to loosely follow the steps of the scientific method. For example a preschooler in a sandbox full of wet sand may ask questions that describe a phenomena (“Why is the sand so wet?”), construct a hypothesis (“Maybe the water came from that water pump or a nearby hose”), make a prediction (“I’ll pull on the water pump to see if it works”), test the hypothesis (pull on the nearby water pump), and draw conclusions (“Yes, that’s how the sand got to be so wet”).
Helping your child develop their sensory experiences
For children with autism, spectrum disorder or neurological disorders, sensory integration therapy is vital to help them develop, improving language, touch, and coping with their environment. However, special care needs to be done to evaluate exactly what sensory integration therapy will work best for the child. This is where our experts come in, highly trained in helping thousands of children and their families to maximize their potential. Learn more about sensory integration therapy by talking to one of our specialists today. Call us and find out how we can help you.
Many thanks to PBS references: http://www.pbs.org/parents/child-development/sensory-play/developing-and-cultivating-skills-through-sensory-play/sensory-play-early-exploration-through-the-senses/