If there is one area in my own professional development that I have come to appreciate more than ever, it is the value of sensory play.
I have always included sensory play in my lesson plans but it hasn’t been until this past year that I have really taken the time to sit down with the children and observe how much they really love it and the value it brings to their development.
Today, the children spent time scooping, pouring, spooning, and counting candy corn. We set out a big basket of candy corn and added some spoons, cups, and a few egg cartons for sorting and counting.
To help each child have their own work space, we gave them a tray to work/play on.
The boys and girls were equally engaged in their play. Sensory play is definitely not gender specific. Here are some of my observations about today’s sensory play experience in our prekindergarten class…
- The children stayed focused on their play for far more time then they do with just about anything else we offered.
- The children talked with each other about their play and talked with each other while they played.
- The children shared their supply of candy corn with each other.
- There was not any arguing or fighting going on – just happy sounds.
- Some children preferred to just fill up cups – others liked counting the corn into the egg cartons.
- Every child could choose from the variety of containers and decide how to use them.
- None of the children tried to eat the candy corn. One or two children did ask if they would get to try a piece and were told that they can eat a “clean piece of candy corn” later in the day but that this candy corn was here just for them to have fun and play!
- The children were quite competent at using the spoon to transfer the candy corn into the cups or just pouring from cup to cup.
- The children liked having their own tray (space) to work on.
If you have been avoiding sensory play for any reason – let me encourage you to reconsider. The time spent in this type of play far outweighs any reservations you may have.
If you or your students are new to sensory play, keep in mind the following tips…
- The more often your students participate in sensory play, the better they will get at using their fine motor skills to scoop, pour, count, sort, and so forth.
- At first, it may seem overwhelming to you as the teacher but repeated opportunities for sensory play leads to more constructive play. So don’t give up after the first try – repeat the opportunity so the children can learn to positively engage in sensory play.
- If you don’t want the children to eat the candy, then set a jar of candy (or other food items) in their sight and let them know that they will get a piece later in the day but that the candy on the table is just for play. They can learn the difference if you will take the time to teach them the difference.
- Make sure you have a healthy supply of materials for the number of children who will be playing at one time.
- Provide trays so children will have a space to contain the sensory and a space to call their own.
- Make sure you have plenty of types of containers, spoons, or other tools for the children to explore.
- Switch out the type of sensory items used or tools used so the children stay interested. Just like anything else, when something becomes too familiar – the children lose interest or the play becomes destructive rather than constructive.
- TEACH the children any expectations you feel are necessary but don’t over do it – leave the opportunity open ended for the children to explore freely so it will be more fun. That is why it is called sensory “PLAY!”