Why is sensory play important in the early years?

So what is sensory exposure? 

Sensory exposure is allowing your child to learn through their senses, which is through vision, sound, touch and taste. It also helps your child improve their posture, core strength, and movement.  

Sensory exposure builds connections in the brain’s neural pathways, which leads to improving your child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks. By developing these skills, your child can improve language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills and social interaction. 

How can you increase your child’s sensory exposure? 

You can start from when they are a baby, as they will need these types of senses to continue their development. For example,when your baby arrives, they are observing what is around them through vision, sounds and touch, and if you think about it, for newborns their first form of sensory exposure is through the consumption of breastmilk or formula. 

As newborns continue to develop, they need these senses to engage in tummy time, rolling, crawling and gaining head control. To encourage this, you would use different musical toys for sound, materials with different textures for touch, and toys which have lights for vision. When they are ready to start walking you can also use these types of resources to encourage them to walk. 

But what else can you use to implement sensory exposure? 

You can use water, sand, slime, playdough, cotton wool, pom pom balls, pipe cleaners and so on. By using all those materials, and food items, you can turn this sensory exposure into learning experiences. For example you can add food colouring to water for your child to see how different colours are formed, and add cups and spoons to encourage your child to scoop and pour, which develops their motor skills and hand eye co-ordination. 

One activity which I love doing with children is creating sensory bottles, as they are involved in the process of making it, but you can also add different things inside the bottle such as sequins for colour and a reflection effect. You also create a lava lamp sensory bottle by adding oil, food colouring and water. One favourite sensory bottle for most children is rice and pasta as it can be used as a musical instrument. 

So why is this so important?

It’s important to implement sensory exposure within your child’s early years as increased exposure reduces their risk of developing sensory processing disorder, which can go on to impact their learning and behaviour. 

We also find that when children are exposed to sensory play they are learning so many things just from one activity and it allows them to use their own curiosity to guide the activity and direct their own learning. Sensory exposure also help’s children who may be blind or visually impaired, as it allows them to feel and hear what is around them but also encourage them to move their body. 

By Sarah Lewis, Lead Educator

To find out how we can support your child with sensory play in the home click here to read more about our early childhood services. For support under the NDIS click here.

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