You may have heard of the term sensory play before; a big emphasis is placed upon it in preschools and day nurseries like our own, as well as by childcare professionals who look to keep children engaged, entertained, and engaging in constructive, fun activity. But what exactly is sensory play, and how does it differ from traditional play such as playground games and the like? And why is it so widely touted by nursery schools, like Little Apples in Croydon?
That’s the subject of this page! So if you’re interested in learning a little more about this buzz phrase and what it can mean for your child, read on. If you’ve stumbled across this page searching for day nurseries or preschools in the Croydon area, head over to our Home page and learn more about the work we do with children trusted in our care, as an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rated nursery school!
Any form of play that encourages sensory engagement: touching, smelling, listening, watching and tasting. It’s a means of developing these faculties, and subsequently things like balance, spatial awareness and movement. Preschools and day nurseries, including Little Apples in Croydon, find that engaging in sensory play also encourages creative imagination and a sense of wonder – offering something altogether different than other (still important) forms of play like sporting activity and playground games.
1. Tactile – Many school playgrounds around Croydon feature tactile play installations that have blocks to spin, plungers to press and sliders to move. Tactile play is all about learning how objects work in the world, and how pressure, velocity and similar forces interact. Day nurseries will often offer activities that incorporate tactile play activities, using different fabrics, pebbles and wood chips, dried beans, puzzle cubes – anything that’s a jot to hold in the hands and explore!
2. Auditory – Obvious examples are musical instruments, or organising groups to sing or tell stories. But many nursery schools will get more adventurous, breaking out the pots and pans so that children can make an almighty racket; while not ideal at home, it can be a great way of letting out a build-up of energy, and show how it can be fun and a way to express yourself – the Janus face of silence, an equally important thing to learn to enjoy.
3. Olfactory & Taste – Using and developing a sense of smell and taste is also a vital part of growing up, and sensory play is a great way to encourage it. When pleasant weather graces Croydon, getting out to pick and smell flowers, or cooking simple recipes in a fun way – perhaps as a challenge to see who can decorate the most delicious cupcakes!
4. Vestibular & Propriception – This refers to multi-sensory play that features running, swinging, jumping, pushing, pulling and generally expending energy. It helps with balance, free and fluid movement, risk management, and general co-ordination. It’s why forest sessions – offered by Little Apples, but not all preschools and day nurseries in the Croydon area – and a healthy program of physical activity are seen as such essential aspects of our approach to childcare and education.
While hitting the books and engaging with teachers in traditionally structured lessons are an almost inevitable part of every child’s education, when young and attending nursery schools and preschools, it’s important to a holistic approach that prepares children for subsequent stages of their educational careers.
Supporting and encouraging minds and bodies, through appeal to the senses and the wonderful experiences they offer us, are a great way to improve social interaction, imagination and creativity, intuition, capacity for learning, and many other vital aspects of cognitive development.
We’d urge Croydon parents to ask the day nurseries and preschools of their choice, or childcare / education professionals they currently employ, about whether they incorporate sensory play. For other rewards can include everything from enhanced memory retention, to improved language skills; at least so say development psychology experts the world over. And we believe them, for we see the real-world positive effects every day!