On Monday we made some fantastic coloured rice. Using Basics white rice, food colouring and vinegar we put the ingredients in to a bag, tied a knot and got massaging the colour into the rice. This was a great sensory activity as we squished & squelched the bags until all of the colour was combined evenly. We discussed which colours to use, the smell of the vinegar and the feel of the rice in the bag.
We then left it on a tray to dry and when ready we came back to make marks in the rice using our fingers and paint brushes. Messy play materials like this rice are wonderful for mark making (quite literally the earliest form of writing, where a child makes marks and symbols) and early writing which was the aim behind this activity. You can use all manner of things to write and make marks with – fingers, lolly pop sticks, cotton bud sticks, chopsticks, paint brushes and the feet of toy dinosaurs. We swirled and zig zagged in the rice and had great fun!
My mindee will not sit and write on a plain piece of paper. It does not interest him yet, so I need to find new ways to make writing fun for him and this is just perfect for igniting his interest unaware that he is in fact learning!
The Benefits of Sensory Play (source: HIGHSCOPE | Extensions, VOLUME 25, NO. 5)
- We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning.
- As children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles. Children can work with materials that have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery.
A lot of learning can occur while children are doing what they do best: playing and exploring! Consider the following benefits of sensory play to children:
Cognitive development. Even before children can speak, they are developing an understanding of things in their environment by actively exploring them with all their senses. As they become more verbal, they are able to describe similarities and differences in what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. For example, each time a child explores sand, he is confirming his previous explorations and discoveries that sand is dry, gritty, and so forth, and he will eventually notice other materials that share those same characteristics.
Social skills. Working closely together at the sand and water table gives infants and toddlers opportunities to observe how peers handle materials, try out the ideas of others, share their own ideas and discoveries, and build relationships.
Sense of self. As they directly experience things themselves, children explore and communicate preferences, making sense of the world around them. For instance, they discover that they enjoy the feel of dry sand or that they have an aversion to slimy things. When caregivers acknowledge and accept their preferences, children learn that their feelings and decisions are valid.
Physical skills. Children develop and strengthen new motor skills through shaping, molding, scooping, dumping and splashing— these actions all support the development of small and large muscles. For instance, holding a scoop to fill and dump sensory materials works many muscles used in other parts of the children’s day, as when they hold a cup or spoon at mealtimes.
Emotional development. Sensory experiences can be very calming for many children and can help them work through troubling emotions, such as anxiety or frustration. For example, working with materials that require pressure and manipulation, such as play dough, can help children release physical energy or tension. Likewise, sensory materials lend to children’s expression of positive feelings, such as joy and excitement.
Communication skills. Through their choice of materials and actions during sensory play, children have opportunities to communicate both verbally and nonverbally. While splashing in the water table, a young toddler may display a look of surprise as her hand makes contact with the water or squeal in delight as she is able to make the water splash repeatedly. A caregiver’s responses to the efforts to communicate help children know the message they are trying to convey has been received.