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Getting messy and more! Multisensory play and how it helps children learn.

As parents, we all recognise the sight of a group of babies staring wide eyed at fibre optic lights or toddlers diving head first into cloud dough. Babies and children love to explore, they look, listen, touch, taste and smell the world around them every day. The 5 senses are the first and most basic way for babies to start to explore the world and it is extremely powerful, for example, in the first 18 months of life children learn to talk by engaging in meaningful experiences through these senses.

But multisensory play is not just about pretty lights and mess, it includes all the senses; sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste and it happens all the time. Children are always putting something unrecognisable they have found on the floor into their mouths or launching their dinner across the room rather than eating it, quickening parents reaction times. However, this does serve a purpose and this strong urge to explore even has its own term – exploratory play (yep, it does what is says on the tin). Babies and toddlers are little scientists, they are collecting data about a whole range of things and the more information they have the more likely they are to understand and remember it. Think of a flower, as adults we can probably imagine a specific type of flower, such as a rose, we know the shape of the bloom, the range of colours it comes in, the sound of the wind blowing through a bush, the prick of a thorn, its sweet scent and maybe even the taste in the cream on a posh cupcake. Engaging our babies in play that engages all their senses means they will be more engaged and learn more, it builds strong connections between the nerves in the brain.

So multisensory play can help:

  • Build language skills, children are able to map the words you say onto the experiences they are engaged in.

  • Build understanding of abstract concepts, for example how different materials (e.g. water, sand, paint) behave separately and when they are mixed together.

  • Build fine motor skills, the ability to manipulate things with their hands.

  • Build creativity as the materials are open-ended and encourage use in an imaginative way.

  • Calm children, ever notice how your little ones are often tired after sensory play.

Not only does multisensory play build all these skills but it is it also develops a child’s ability to skilfully use their senses. Guided by you, they tune in to the details of their experiences and build an ever-richer mental world.

At Find Your Voice, our sensory story groups use sensory experiences to help engage children in stories, enrich their experiences and develop early communication skills. Let us know how you use multisensory play with your little ones.

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