Sensory Stimulation Is Essential For Learning

29 March 2017
  • 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.

    Angie Dorrell, former commissioner of the National Association for the Education of Young Children puts sensory play into perspective when she says:
    “Imagine trying to teach a group of four-year-olds about melting without allowing them to hold an ice cube as it melts in their hands. As a grown-up, imagine learning how to use a computer without actually sitting in front of a computer! Ultimately and without a doubt, we need to experience certain properties with our own senses in order to comprehend and communicate important properties.”​

    Five reasons why sensory play is so beneficial
    1. Sensory play contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Think of it
as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. For example, exploration of noisy sensorial materials stimulates the hearing sense important for discriminating sounds in the environment and of speech; and lays the foundation for later learning about the sounds of the alphabet letters necessary for reading.
    2. Sensory experience is a soothing and relaxing experience. It can calm an anxious or frustrated child.
    3. Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses.
    4. Many of our favorite memories are associated with one or more of our senses. For example, the feel of the warm sun can evoke fond memories of family days at the beach; the aroma of a freshly baked cake can arouse flashbacks to the times when you used to visit your grandma.
    5. Creativity and self-expression are sparked as the free play with the sensory material is more important than an end product.  Play with different materials and mediums helps children learn sensory attributes such as soft, sticky, spicy, sparkly, slimy, smooth, cold and so on.
    An example of sensory play

    Bird seed and a few different sized containers made out of varying materials is always a popular sensory experience in our Discovery Playroom.

    You may ask why.

    The combination of the feel, smell, size and colour of the grains make them an interesting medium to play with.

    Watching the grains quickly cascade out or gradually sprinkle out depending on the tilt of the jar is interesting to observe.

    Hearing the sound of the grains as they bounce off the side of the tin pail is so different to when they are poured through the thin neck of a glass jar with a plastic funnel.

    The more senses that are engaged as a consequence of the materials selected, the greater the interest and benefit of the sensory experience for a child.

    How do we at Lively Learning integrate sensory stimulation with learning experiences?

    Thought is always given to how we can best incorporate engagement of as many senses as possible in each activity planned at Lively Learning. Our aim is to both refine the sensory capabilities of a child as well as to enrich a child’s concept through the senses.

    For example, ‘I am learning how to make a teddy bear biscuit treat’ (Logic/Maths Intelligence) is a learning intention for an activity in our theme‘Teddy’s Surprise’ in which children make a biscuit treat at Teddy’s pretend birthday party.

    In making the biscuit treat, a child needs to follow a logical sequence by firstly taking a teddy bear shape biscuit which smells freshly baked; drizzle sticky, yellow honey on top of the biscuit; and sprinkle the hard, colourful balls of hundreds and thousands on top. A bite into the completed treat will reveal the flavour of the biscuit, the sweetness of the honey and the crunch sound of the hundreds and thousands.

    The experience provides multiple look, feel, hear, smell and taste opportunities that stimulate the senses, as well as enable a child to use all the sensory input to gain an enhanced understanding of what is a teddy bear biscuit treat.

    Sensory Play at Lively Learning

    In the light of what we believe about sensory stimulation, it is no surprise that recent world-acclaimed educational analysis on what impacts learning confirmed that tactile stimulation and visual perception programs are important for a young child’s development (Hattie 2016).

    At Lively Learning we tantalise your child’s senses through the use of interesting mediums and varied materials.

    Mediums used include dried pasta, seeds, finger paint, foam pieces, straw, play dough, confetti, slime, shaving cream, water, sand and dirt to name a few.

    Materials provided vary from tin pails, glass jars, plastic funnels, metal whisks, wooden boxes, cane baskets, plumbers’ pipes and joints, shaped sponges, ice cubes, pump and squeeze bottles to coloured cellophane and cardboard tubes.

    Our Visual Perception Program

    Children attending a Super Stars class (2-4 years) of our Multiple Intelligence Program start ‘name card’ activities.

    ‘Name card’ activities develop and refine a child’s visual perception and discrimination skills. Tasks increase in difficulty from pictures, shapes, letters of a child’s name, letters that are visually similar like ‘a c e’ and finally to words.

    A young child’s eventual ability to visually discriminate between words like ‘glass, grass, grapes, grape and glasses’ never ceases to amaze me; and is testament to the success of our program.

    As Hattie stated, ‘Visual perception refers to the process of organising and interpreting letters on a page and is often considered an important aspect of early reading.’ (Visible Learning, 2009).

    With this in mind, the visual perception skills learnt in our Multiple Intelligence Program (16 month to 4 years) provides children with an advanced skill set to begin our ‘Read, Write and Number’ Program (3-5 years).

    ​Sensory stimulation is everywhere

    Life is so busy that we often forget to ‘smell the roses’.

    We must remind ourselves to slow down a little giving young children the time to ‘see, hear, feel, smell and taste’ the world around them. After all this is how they learn best, and as a consequence, form solid foundations for all future learning.

    Together savour the smell of dinner roasting in the oven; delight in the cool feel and sweet taste of an icy-pole on a hot day; listen to the wind rustling leaves on a wintery day; or watch water rise up and down as it is splashed with laughter in the bathtub.

    Everyday experiences given focus provide wonderfully beneficial and free sensorial learning for your child.

    Lively Learning Programs allow YOUR CLEVER CHILD TO SHINE

    Let our qualified teachers maximise early learning critical to your young child’s development:
    MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE PROGRAM 16 months – 4 years (with carer)

    Expert teachers will develop an individual learning plan to advance your child in early reading, handwriting and number:
    READ WRITE AND NUMBER PROGRAM 3 – 5 years

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