Because sensory activities are beneficial to all areas of children’s development, members of leadership have the important role of ensuring that sensory opportunities are made available to children throughout the day. Take a moment to reflect on your current program practices.
- Are children given the opportunity to explore with all of their senses throughout the day?
- What materials are available for sensory exploration?
- How often are these materials made available to children?
- What are the signs that the staff values sensory exploration?
- Are the signs that teachers are limiting sensory exploration?
There are a few reasons why programs may see a lack of sensory play experiences:
It’s messy – This can be a concern for teachers as well as parents. Of course, we don’t want to send children home in ruined clothing. We will need to communicate with parents the benefits of sensory play, encourage them to dress children in play clothes, and work to use smocks and other protective gear during sensory activities.
Sometimes teachers avoid sensory play because it can be a lot to clean up. Work with teachers to figure out ways to involve children in the clean-up process. Remind teachers of the benefits of sensory play and determine a few easy-to-incorporate sensory ideas that they can commit to implementing. Then, each month, or thematic unit, add another type of sensory experience.
It’s not viewed as academic – We have given a number of sensory play ideas that are academic in nature (sorting and classifying or writing activities). It may be necessary to remind teachers of the early learning standards in your state and how sensory activities can be used to introduce and reinforce many of these skills.
Incorporate a sensory activity into your next staff meeting. Give employees 10 minutes to explore sensory materials. Once they have finished, pass out a list of skills from across the domains of learning. Ask teachers to check off each skill that they practiced in their play. Ask them if there were skills that they could have practiced with more time, encouragement, or the right tools. Brainstorm a list of prompts or needed materials they can use to extend sensory play with the children in their classrooms.
Sometimes, teachers report feeling pressure from families to forgo play-based sensory activities in favor of more academic school-readiness options. To address this concern, we need to do a better job sharing with families the many ways that sensory experiences can be used to introduce, practice, and refine school-readiness skills.
It’s expensive – Whenever possible, look for opportunities to use recycled materials as sensory items. You do not need to purchase expensive, name-brand doughs – make your own – which is an excellent math and literacy activity to do with children. Review the classroom supply orders placed by your staff. Make sure that a.) they are ordering materials for sensory experiences, and b.) that they are being as efficient and economical as possible. This will help stretch the supply budget, while still offering children these valuable experiences.
Find more ideas on our Pinterest page here!
For the Main Article on Sensory Experiences, CLICK HERE
For Infant & Toddler Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE
For Preschool Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE
For School-Age Sensory Ideas, CLICK HERE