Why Sensory Play is Important for Preschoolers
This article is by Amanda Morgan. She has her masters degree in early childhood development and trains parents and teachers. But she also is a mom with four sons who teach her something new every day. Please stop by her site: www.notjustcute.com. You can also sign up for her monthly newsletter.
Think of your average preschooler. How long has this child been proficient with language? Depending on the age, the child may not really be too proficient yet! Others seem to have been talking non-stop since 2 1/2, but that means they’ve been talking now for all of…..about a year! Now think of how long these children have been seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting. Their whole lives! Children are wired to receive and utilize sensory input from day one. This is why children will dive in hands first, exploring a new substance. The senses are their most familiar, most basic way to explore, process, and come to understand new information.
This is why we must allow young children to learn through experience, not just lecture. These children need to use their senses and be engaged in meaningful experiences. As we talk with them about what they are observing and sensing, we give them new language tools to connect with these more familiar sensory tools, building language as well as supporting cognitive concepts specific to the experience.
Now, the flip side to this equation is important to remember as well. Just as children learn through their senses, they also are developing the ability to use those senses and are building the neurological pathways associated with each one. With added sensory experiences, combined with the scaffolding of adults and peers, children become more perceptive. Their sensory intake and processing becomes more acute. As they are better able to use their senses, they are then better able to learn through their senses.
Sensory play is really part of the scientific process. Whether out loud or within the internal dialogue of the mind, children have developed a question, leading them to investigate-by grabbing, smelling, listening, rubbing, staring, licking , what have you! They are using their senses to collect data and from that, attempt to answer their own questions. Whether or not young children are always able to verbally communicate this process, it is still a valid exercise in scientific inquiry.