When children leave preschool with paint in their hair, sand in their shoes or smelling like shaving cream, parents can be assured that it was a successful day full of building knowledge. Messy, loud, smelly, delicious, eye-catching experiences shouldn’t just take place in preschool. It is important to include sensory experiences when children play at home, too. When children aren’t allowed to make a mess, they are deprived of sensory input that helps them to understand their world.
From the time babies are born, they understand their world through their senses. They look toward new voices and noises. They react when their milk for formula tastes different. As soon as they can grasp items, they put them right into their mouths. Babies need to see, feel, hear, smell and taste literally everything. It is only adult intervention that begins to change this instinctive behavior. Babies would learn on their own when they shouldn’t touch something because it is too hot. They would learn that some items taste good and other things should not be put in their mouths. There is no need, however, to wait for the baby to get burnt or ingest something dangerous. We can and should protect them and, in doing so, we automatically limit the sensory experiences available to them. It is imperative that we recognize that children in the preschool years still need experiences that engage their senses and it is our duty to provide safe ways for them to explore. When planning time to play with your preschooler this summer, consider including the following items:
- Shaving Cream: Drawing and writing in shaving cream is a multisensory experience that attracts young children. Shaving cream has a distinctive smell and texture. Children can learn new vocabulary just from touching and smelling it. Shaving cream is, for example, smooth, foamy, light (in weight and color) and white. It smells fresh, sweet and clean. Children can use their fingers to draw pictures and, if they are developmentally ready, write letters & numbers.
- Pudding: Worried that your young child will eat the shaving cream? Then use pudding instead. Pudding can be used for the same activities as shaving cream with the added bonus of being edible.
- Dough: Pinching dough helps children to develop the fine motor muscles necessary for writing. Rolling it, shaping it and molding it will help to build all of the muscles in their hands.
- Finger Paint: This staple of preschool classrooms should also be a staple at home. Finger paint engages the child through multiple senses. Work with your child to mix colors to learn about cause & effect.
- Paper for Ripping: Ripping is an important preschool skill that is too often overlooked. Ripping requires children to use oppositional motions and small motor muscles. Set a bin aside for paper that your preschooler is allowed to rip and crinkle.
- Recordings of Familiar Sounds: Young children love to listen to sounds and try to identify them. Spend time listening together. Look for recordings of nature sounds, animal sounds and different instruments. Hone those matching and hearing skills with fun listening games.
- Mystery Box: Cut a hole into a box so that your child can reach into it but can’t see the contents. Change the contents often so you can play “guess what you feel.” This game is a great vocabulary builder.
Remember, the messier, louder and smellier the better! Do you have other ideas for appropriate sensory experiences with your preschoolers? Feel free to comment and add them to the list of ideas!
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For information about The Early Learning Center of Temple Shalom or Temple Shalom Religious School, contact Cindy Terebush at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732-566-2961.