As I sit with my laptop writing my first ever blog post, I’m remembering Christmases past. Memories brought on by the delicious sweet taste of the mandarin orange that I just finished devouring. Today and every single time I enjoy the sweet tasty treat of a mandarin orange, I am brought back to the age of 10, on Christmas Eve sitting on my Grammas’ knee in our living room. The smell of her hand lotion is strong in my memory, as is the scent of the mandarin orange that she is peeling for me. My mind sees the soft glow of the green-glassed jar candle on my mom’s coffee table that’s resting on an awful brown shag carpet. I can hear loud chatter and laughter of the rest of my family in the kitchen enjoying a huge spread of “Christmassy” snacks. A feeling of pure joy, contentment, peace and love overcomes me, remembering this time spent sitting on my Gramma’s knee.
You may wonder why I am sharing this memory with you. “It is through our senses that adults and children learn. Children learn best and retain most information when they engage their senses. Many of our favourite memories are associated with one or more of our senses.” (Developing and Cultivating Skills through Sensory Play, Danielle Steinberg). In sharing one of my personal memories with you, it is easy to see the truth in the statement above and maybe even bring one of your favourite memories to mind. Just the scent of mandarin oranges brings on my favourite Christmas memory, that of sitting on my Gramma’s knee. Sensory exploration is a child’s way of examining, discovering, categorizing and making sense of the world.
Since young children explore and learn with all five senses it is extremely important as early childhood educators and parents that we give ample opportunity for our children to engage in messy sensory play, such as finger painting, play dough, water and sand play. This messy sensory play “promotes sensory integration which is the ability of the body to integrate and process all of the information it receives from all five senses; touch, taste, hearing, vision and smell. Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. Sensory play can be extremely calming for children. It’s not just about making a mess and getting dirty, it’s an essential component to learning that encourages exploration and discovery through play” (Creative Connections for Kids) Sensory play often uses our fine motor movements and helps to build and develop these motor skills as children poor, scoop, measure and mold. It promotes pre-math concepts by comparing sizes big and small, teaches science skills as children learn what happens when they add water to the sand. Sensory play also promotes language development by building upon a child’s vocabulary.
But most important of all, it is a chance to have fun interacting while getting messy with your children. Watch their faces light up with joy as they learn a new skill or discover that they can make big waves with boats in the water table, build dinosaur mountains in the sand table or make tire tracks in play dough as they drive toy cars in it. The creative ways to engage your child, while helping them learn & explore are limitless.
I will end by leaving a recipe following this post for snow play dough that I cannot wait to make and put out for our children at BELA to explore and enlighten their senses with. It uses peppermint extract to ignite the sense of smell, silver glitter to promote visual stimulation and of course the doughy texture to mold with their hands promoting their fine motor skills and sense of touch. Stay tuned to the blog for more ideas about how you can create sensory play opportunities at home!
Have fun getting messy and discovering with your child!
Glittery Snow Play Dough
*1 cup of flour
*1/2 cup salt
*1 cup water
*1 tsp. Oil
*1 tsp. Cream of tarter
*1-2 tsp peppermint extract
*2-3 tbsp. Of ultra fine glitter
In a large saucepan, mix together the flour, salt and cream of tartar. Add the water and oil and stir until mixed well. Place on stove over medium heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes it will cook down to play dough consistency. Allow to cool (cover with a damp cloth while cooling to avoid drying out), and then knead in the peppermint extract one teaspoon at a time. Once the peppermint extract is kneaded throughout the dough knead in the glitter one tablespoon at a time.