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5 things sensory play is helpful for with your little one

Beating the information overload!

The amount of info out there is overwhelming isn't it? All the things everyone is telling you you have to be doing everyday to make your baby brainy or strong or kind or creative. Piling on the guilt and the self loathing that you didn't manage that themed discovery basket set up again or similar.
 
Well, I'm here to say you don't need to let any of it get to you, you are already doing an amazing job. Your little one is no doubt thriving with your daily routine or non-routine and your everyday activities. You, your hugs, your voice and your smiles are more than enough to help your baby grow and develop.
 

So what's all the fuss about then?

You've heard a lot about sensory play though and you are curious as to why people talk about it so much and why it is an important part of early development.
 
Well, it's really not that complicated to be honest. Sensory play is basically stimulating all of a child's senses, usually not all at the same time but honing in on one or two in a specific activity.
 
Whilst there are lots of toys and equipment optimised for sensory play (er hello black and white books!) you definitely don't need a plethora of products to successfully introduce sensory play to your every day activities. Heck you're probably already covering it naturally to be honest with normal human behaviour!
 

"Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates a young child's senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, as well as anything which engages movement and balance."
Definition from https://www.goodstart.org.au

 

toddler crawling through a play tunnel Toddler chasing bubbles Toddler reading

 

5 ways sensory play can help your little one

If you know how sensory play can help and which senses you want to concentrate on, it can help to think about what you have at home that you can dial up to further support your baby or toddler's development.

As I said previously you probably are already doing a lot of things in the sensory play area without even knowing it! And not everything needs a label, it can simply be fun and engaging.

But here's 5 things that are likely going on when your child engages in sensory play;

1. Supports brain development
Sensory play helps build nerve connections in the brain. 

2. Encourages creativity
Sensory play is often open ended, meaning children create their own games and ‘rules’.

3. Builds fine motor skills
Sensory play is often small scale play where children have to concentrate.

4. Fuels imagination
Sensory play builds curiosity to explore the senses and create awareness of the child’s surroundings.

5. Regulate emotions
Sensory play can be grounding, helping children tap in to how they are feeling.

 

Lots of resources on hand

If you're feeling like you would like some more ideas to add sensory play to your day, there are tons of great play based Instagram accounts to follow. They give bitesized advice and ideas on what you can do with what you have at hand as well as some carefully researched recommendations for investments should you want to buy any sensory based toys.

If you do want to add to your collection then do a little research, check the items have been safety tested for the age of your child (you'd be surprised how many are not, especially if you are buying hand made or from Etsy! Please be safe) and I'd also encourage you to invest in toys and resources that will grow with your child as they move through different development stages.

They may be the ones that are slightly more expensive but the cost per use will mean you are getting great value for money, cutting through the clutter and reducing waste at the same time. There are some amazing second hand sites you can grab a bargain in or check your local charity shops and facebook sales groups. Chances are someone will be having a clear out of just the item you would like to try.

 

Low tech, low cost, huge value

I may be biased...as an independent publisher and author...but you can't go wrong with books for sensory play. There is a huge array of interactive books as well as your typical picture books and storybooks to choose from and you can pick up some amazing titles for a pound or two second hand. Building a library that will grow with your baby is a great investment from day one. 

 Dad reading to his baby girl  baby looking at a book Dad reading to two children

Books not only offer a period of quieter play, they can cover numerous senses depending on how your baby or toddler interacts with them.

It can give them time and space to sit and read, or look at pictures. Especially if joined by an adult. In a colourful, noisy world, simple high contrast images or picture books can provide much needed respite for the eyes and brain, removing sensory overload

Turning pages and picking up books, lifting flaps or moving parts all support fine motor skills. 

And they all get little ones thinking about the world around them, to talk about what they see, engage with whats in front of them and fuel imaginations. 

 

The last word

Sensory play is a hugely beneficial part of early childhood development but as I've said before and will keep saying you do not need to put pressure on yourself to make it fancy and complicated. 

Your voice, your touch, your expressions, your emotions and your daily life all offer huge opportunities for sensory stimulation with your little ones. 

There are key things sensory play helps to fuel and there are tools and resources out there should you want some ideas on how to dial it up at home. But if you find the noise too overwhelming or is making you feel like you're not doing enough then tune out and do things your own way. 

You are enough for your baby, especially in those early weeks and months.

And if in doubt, snuggle up with a book, the best low tech sensory toy there is!

two children sharing a book

 

  

 

 

 

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