Toddlers particulary enjoy sensory play! In these photos you can see them engaging hands-on with Playfoam, a squishy, moldable substance that children can use to create and recreate sculptures, much like play dough. Sensory activities are perfect for children of this age because young children learn best (and retain the most information) when they engage their senses.
Sensory play stimulates many different areas of learning. Children’s cognitive skills are sharpened as are problem solving and decision making. As children manipulate a substance, their brains catalog its properties and try to figure out how to achieve different effects.There are also science skills involved; such as cause and effect – what happens when I push it, pull it, bounce it, roll it between my hands?
And although it may not seem immediately related, sensory play also provides many linguistic learning opportunities. Children can’t define parts of language until they’ve experienced the true meaning of the word. The attempt to convey something without the proper words to do so can be frustrating for children—and adults! Sensory play encourages children to use descriptive and expressive language, and to find meaning behind essentially meaningless words or gibberish. Take for instance, the word “squishy.”
There are many benefits to sensory play, but perhaps the most important is that everything children learn is retained because they have directly engaged their senses!