Live Well Wednesday

The Importance of Sensory Play

Liz For Facebook-01

At Compass Community Health Care Center we are dedicated to providing the best health care possible. We are listening to our patients, families, and community with their health concerns and questions. Watch for #LiveWellWednesday posts each Wednesday afternoon, which focus on giving you the information and tips you need to understand current health care concerns and topics.

Today’s topic is the Importance of Sensory Play, written by Amanda Morinand contributed  by Liz Legg, Compass Community Health Care Center Occupational Therapist.

In honor of April being Occupational Therapy and Autism Awareness Month, we will be highlighting the importance of occupational therapy as well as autism topics all this month during our #LiveWellWednesday posts. Be sure to check back each Wednesday in April for more information from Compass Community Health Care Center Occupational Therapist, Liz Legg.

Sensory play has an important role in development. When you talk about the senses, most kids over a certain age can rattle them off without problem: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Any and all of these can be incorporated into sensory play.

The Role of Sensory Play

It’s not just children who have difficulty with sensory integration who can benefit from sensory play, it’s all children. There are certain groups of children, such as those who have autism or those who have sensory integration dysfunction disorder who have specific difficulty making sense of and organizing all the stimuli that comes at them via their senses.

The truth is, all children need help learning how to use their senses.

From the very first day they are born, children are designed to explore the world via their senses. That’s why babies and toddlers touch everything and put it in their mouths. It’s why kids make funny noises with their mouths and experiment with how the world sounds with their fingers stuck in their ears. It’s why your child spins in circles until she’s so dizzy, she falls down and then gets up and does it again.

Sensory Play Isn’t All About Touch

Some people, when they think of sensory play, immediately picture sand and water tables or kids playing with clay and playdough. But sensory play isn’t all about touch, it’s also about the other senses, too.

For instance, the sharp scent of vinegar involved in a science experiment or the colors of water during a color mixing experiment or the texture and smells of scratch and sniff painting are all part of appealing to your child’s senses.

Sensory exploration is a child’s way of examining, discovering, categorizing and making sense of the world. And it’s beneficial to provide them with opportunities for sensory play.

Sensory Play and Language Skills

Giving your child the chance to play with different types of textures, tastes and objects helps them to build new ways of talking about the world.

Suddenly the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp-pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves) or slippery with bubbles or cold and translucent when frozen or clear and still.

Tastes, too, can build your child’s language base. No longer does she want hot dogs for dinner, but she wants something tangy or salty or sweet, but certainly not bland or bitter.

Sensory Helps Fine Motor Skills

There are two main types of motor skills your child develops–fine motor and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills deal with the coordination of large muscle groups and are responsible for activities like running, walking, etc.

Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups. Fine motor skills are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills by exploring things using pinching, pouring and lacing movements.

Sensory Play is Calming

You may have noticed that your child is calmer after bath time or that after a particularly rough session of jumping around the room, banging into furniture, crashing onto his bed or into pillows, your child seems more grounded.

He probably is. This type of sensory play is calming for kids. It helps them regulate their internal discomfort, whether that discomfort was boredom, restlessness or some other type of agitation.

Now that spring has sprung, it is important to incorporate outdoor play into your child’s activities.  Playing outside introduces new ways to experience the sights, sounds, smells and feel of nature.  Here are some great sensory play activities for spring…

10 Mud-Inspired Sensory Activities– A wonderfully dirty, fun way to play

Melting Insect Sensory Painting– Color their world with nature’s insects

Easter Sensory Play Bin– Eggs, Chicks, Bunnies and FUN!

For more of these fun activities for spring check out The Jenny Evolution  and 20 Springtime Sensory Play Activities.  You’re sure to find a fun activity for you and your children to enjoy!

For additional information on this topic or to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, please contact our office 740-355-7102.  #LiveWellWednesday #CompassCares

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