One of the first ways that children begin to learn is through play or sensory activities and experiences. Unfortunately, play time is slowly being whittled away in classroom situations in favor of more desk-time curriculum. This is driven by lots of factors – even including parental demand. Some experts tie this playtime decline to the increase in sensory issues in later in childhood. Note this Washington Post article.
Have you thought about why play is important and why it encourages more engaged learning and development? Think about it in the way that Amanda Morgan (educator and mother) describes the importance of play and sensory experiences in her article on the topic. She notes that children learn from seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and tasting from birth. They can’t comprehend language until later and surely can’t learn solely from it until much later in their childhood. But that is the expectation we have of them if we’re providing less and less opportunity for sensory learning in preschool. Because sensory learning impacts cognitive, language, social and emotional, physical and creative development, it is critical to a strong learning foundation and to avoiding the sensory issues that the Washington Post article refers to later in childhood.
Sensory activities use sensory tables or several tubs rotated regularly with “sensory materials” to inspire hours of learning, exploring and fun for children. The sensory experience can be messy but its value to childhood development far outweighs this factor. Understanding the impact sensory experiences have on the cognitive, language, social and emotional, physical and creative development of preschoolers provides insight. Many are quite adept at accommodating the messiness of sensory activities and share their helpful hints.
Children learn best by having “hands on” experiences through mediums and materials. These sensory experiences are vital to young children’s learning, so it follows that investing the time, money and supplies in providing sensory experiences in the preschool is very worthwhile.