We unschool / deschool / year-round-learn (I am not sure what to call it or rather, I don’t know which name feels right, but I know that we do not homeschool in the traditional sense), and part of our day is devoted to some sort of sensory play.
Sensory play is very important for young children because stimulating their senses helps to promote brain development. Sensory play encourages scientific processes (an explanation of this is: a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data is gathered, an idea / explanation is formulated from this data, and is then tested to observe the result). Problems are solved using the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. By stimulating a child’s senses you are helping their brain develop because when a sense is engaged neural pathways are being created to assist with further learning in later years. Very important! This is all achieved with activities that encourage hearing, touch, sight, smell, balance, taste and movement. These activities help with exploration and encourage children to use scientific processes naturally while they investigate, explore, play and create (just having loads of fun!).
Here is a short excerpt from The Spruce (https://www.thespruce.com/why-sensory-play-is-important-2086510) on why sensory play is so important:
The Role of Sensory Play
It’s not just children who have difficulty with sensory integration who can benefit from sensory play; it’s all children. There are certain groups of children, such as those who have autism or those who have sensory integration dysfunction disorder who have specific difficulty making sense of and organizing all the stimuli that come at them via their senses.
The truth is, all children need help learning how to use their senses. From the very first day they are born, children are designed to explore the world via their senses. That’s why babies and toddlers touch everything and put it in their mouths. It’s why kids make funny noises with their mouths and experiment with how the world sounds with their fingers stuck in their ears. It’s why your child spins in circles until she’s so dizzy, she falls and then gets up and does it again.
Sensory Play Isn’t All About Touch
Some people, when they think of sensory play, immediately picture sand and water tables or kids playing with clay and playdough. But sensory play isn’t all about touch, it’s also about the other senses, too. For instance, the sharp scent of vinegar involved in a science experiment or the colors of water during a color mixing experiment or the texture and smells of scratch and sniff painting are all part of appealing to your child’s senses.
Sensory exploration is a child’s way of examining, discovering, categorizing and making sense of the world. And it’s beneficial to provide them with opportunities for sensory play.
One of the items that we love to use for sensory play is Kinetic Sand made by WABA Fun. This is what this company says about themselves on their About page (http://www.relevantplay.com/About-Us.html)
WABA Fun was founded in 2003 to provide children with awesome toys to encourage imaginative, open-ended play and to invite their minds to explore, create and learn. We believe creativity, innovation, and inspiration are natural for children, when they are provided the right tools for play. We are also passionate about making play and learning exceedingly fun.
They say it’s “their first product that breathes motion“. Well it really does seem like it is alive at times! It is like an awesome mix between play dough, clay, sand and oobleck (see my Tip on how to make Oobleck). This sand is an incredible substance that is easy to shape, molds into almost any design and feels like wonderful silk. It is a magical and mesmerizing experience for both young and old (wink, wink) and is oh so relaxing!
Apparently kinetic sand is based on 98% pure sand plus a patented technology within the binder (this is what it says on the container), and it conforms to the safety directives for the US and EU markets.
A precaution though: it is very sensitive to water, and needs to be kept clean and dust free.
Wikipedia explains it like this:
Have you / your children experienced Kinetic Sand?
Let’s chat in the comment box and share ideas on how to further use this glorious invention…