Hie mummies, our blog is back after a 2 week hiatus! Hope everyone had a good break during the Raya Haji holidays last week. This week, we’ll be talking about the importance of sensory play during early childhood and provided some suggestions for sensory play activities for babies and toddlers.
Play is vital for a child’s growth and development. And we know that children learn through play. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (1989) has recognized play as the right of every child. Hence every child should be allowed free time to play. It helps them explore and make sense of the world around them and to interact with others. Play changes as a child grows. The kind of play, how the child plays and what the child plays matter. In this post, we’ll only be focusing on sensory play.
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is any play activities that stimulate our senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. Many of us only think of touch when we talk about sensory play, eg messy play. But sensory play is so much more than that.
Why is it important?
Sensory play in early childhood has been shown to promote development in terms of language, fine and gross motor skills, cognition and social interaction. Babies and toddlers can then build upon these skills to help them with more complex tasks later on.
When to start?
As early as possible! You can start right from infancy. Studies have shown that the first 5 years of life are the most crucial for brain development as a child’s brain develops more rapidly than ever during these early years. Hence, laying the foundation for future learning.
10 SENSORY PLAY ACTIVITIES FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS ON THE PLAY MAT
Play mats are great to contain these activities within an area on the mat minimizing mess to other areas, provides a safe play space and protect your little ones from falls.
1.Portable hanging mobile – putting a hanging mobile over your baby in a crib or on a playmat provides visual stimulation and promotes fine motor development, ie reaching out for objects. This is especially useful for newborns who are unable to roll on their tummy yet.
2.Incorporate tummy time and floor play on the playmat – with toys of different shapes, sizes, colours and textures, placed just within the reach of your baby. Apart from visual stimulation, it also encourages your bub to reach out for the objects.
3.Mirror play – we’ve mentioned this before in our previous post on tummy time. Placing a mirror in front of your baby encourages head lifting (gross motor milestone) and also social awareness (seeing his/her own face with various expressions).
4.Texture board or books – these are great for babies to feel and learn different textures, either on their tummy or sitting up. Besides touch, they’re also visually stimulating. You can even DIY your own texture board, it doesn’t have to be complicated/fancy. Just use a simple hard cardboard / corrugated board as the base, then stick on any material you can find at home, eg: cotton, textured paper, strings, bubble wrap etc. (Beware of choking hazards-choose safe materials and make sure to supervise your little one at all times!). Alternatively, there are plenty of baby board/cloth books out there with such textures 🙂
5.Storytelling – read aloud to your little one or act the story out, be creative! Use different intonations, facial expressions and sounds, eg: mimic animal sounds, to make story time more interactive. This helps infants with their listening skills, mimicking facial expression for language development and fosters bonding between you and baby. Definitely one of our fav activities!
6.Sensory bin – for babies who are able to sit up on their own and toddlers. Great for exploring touch, texture, promotes fine motor skills and hand eye coordination (eg: scooping and transferring beans). Setting up a sensory bin need not be complicated, again, just use what you have at home. Think putting uncooked red beans, sand, slime, cotton balls etc in a tray, according to the theme that you selected, ie sand for construction site play or sand building, blue paint in water with rocks for ocean play etc. Again, make sure to supervise playtime to avoid choking hazards.
7.Indoor gym / slide for toddlers – place a playmat below to cushion any falls and you’re good to go! Good for balancing skills, spatial awareness, and gross motor development.
8.Musical instruments – use toys with music/songs, or use kitchen equipments such as metal pots and wooden spoons (toddlers love banging these!) for sound stimulation. This encourages free play and imaginative play as well. Use a play mat to cushion the noise!
9.Pretend play – for toddlers aged 2-3 years old.
For example, using play dough to make “food”during a pretend tea party. This exposes toddlers to various texture of play dough, encourages creativity and imagination and promotes social interactions. Fortunately our GingerBubs playmat is made of easy clean material and can be used as the play base 🙂
10.Obstacle course – bring it outside or indoors! Put hula hoops or pillows as rocks, maybe a blanket as river, on the playmat and make it into an obstacle course for your toddler with seemingly endless energy (if only we have half their energy levels 😏). Ignite their sense of touch with texture on their feet; promote gross motor skills and strengthen muscles by hopping, balancing etc.
And there you go! Simple, fun sensory activities at home that can be done on a play mat! Get our GingerBubs play mat for a safe play time in style! Try them out with your little ones this weekend!
Till next week! xx