Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sensory Experiences

Hey everyone! I’m Aly from Giggles and Grumps. Amanda was awesome enough to allow me the pleasure of writing a guest post, so I hope you all enjoy!

If you have young children or are around them on a regular basis, this post is for you. A lot of people are unaware of just how important sensory experiences are to children. Simply put, a child is born willing and ready to learn. Their brain is wired to do so. Connections are made between neurons within the brain not only through maturation but also more so through experiences. The more hands on, sensory filled experiences young children can have, the better. Did you know, a toddler’s brain is twice as active as a college student’s brain. Why? Because of all the neural connections being made through experiences (enrichment). These connections will serve their development for the rest of their life.

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Think about it – a young child, in particular an infant or toddler, has no idea what “sticky” means. You can describe sticky all you want, but really, until they experience it, they aren’t going to fully understand. But if you give them a bowl of sticky colored pasta and let them see it, touch it, smell it, and possibly even taste it, they are MUCH more likely to remember that experience, fully understand what sticky means, learn about other things (perhaps color, short vs long, sticky vs slimy (add oil to some), how to squish it, etc) and in turn build more connections in their brain because of all the senses used. As they play (hopefully as you play with them) and as you talk to them about what they’re experiencing, imagine their brain cells firing off and building a connection with other cells.

The easiest and most available sensory experience you can give your child? Play dough. You can get it in a 4 pack at The Dollar Store. Want to make it an even better experience? Make it with your child. Most recipes require you to cook it on the stove and I just never had success with that (read: I always burned it). Luckily, I found an awesome recipe where you can use the microwave. This cools down quicker, it’s pretty hard to burn it, and safer while cooking it around children. Here’s a list of ways to make your play dough experience even better:

- Make two or three batches and make each a different color to allow for color mixing
- Scent it! (use store bought flavorings bought like the ones available at Walmart, or use cinnamon, lemon juice, etc)
- Add glitter!
- Offer your child different tools – rolling pin, fork, plastic knife, whisk, popsicle sticks, straws, etc
- Add texture with rice or sand (after it’s made)
- Play with it with them
- Talk to them and make observations about what they’re doing

Overall, make any sensory experience you do with your child fun. Allow them to get messy. I promise, it's even more fun if you get into it too! Hope this sparked something in you to get more involved with your children and provide them with new and interesting experiences!
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