Reasons you may like your baby to experience sensory play

July 04, 2016

Reasons you may like your baby to experience sensory play

What is sensory play?

Baby sensory classes are specifically designed for very young babies, usually from newborn up until about 13 months old.  Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing , so this can be done at home as well as in a class. The interactive sessions within a class work to engage your baby’s senses through a range of activities that stimulate all of the senses and support the various stages of development. They are great socially for both mum and baby and can also inspire you with new ways of playing with your baby at home. You will probably go home with a repertoire of new ideas after each session which can be invaluable and prevent you from repeating the same nursery rhyme over and over, week after week.

Classes can differ from one organisation to another, but usually last about an hour and feature both group and individual activities. There are a range of different class options around the country such as Gymboree, Hartbeeps and Baby Sensory.  Many offer trial classes, so explore what is available where you live and see what suits you and your baby. Don’t feel pressured to sign up to everything that you try. It’s important to have some downtime and it can be exhausting managing the busy ‘social life’ of the brand new little person in your life.

You will probably find that the class will have a different theme each week to avoid repeating all of the same activities, though there may be elements of repetition such as a regular welcome song which is designed to provide a level of reassurance of continuity. Props and equipment, such as bubbles, lights and colourful toys/material, are often used throughout the session and your baby’s sense of sound will be developed through music, singing and the use of instruments.  Other elements such as massage and baby gymnastics are sometimes included for a truly multi-sensory experience.

Some classes will follow a structured class plan which focuses on specific developmental milestones for your baby to experience and achieve and as you progress, your baby will be exposed to a wide variety of sensory experiences. Most classes usually allow some time towards the end of the class for individual playtime where your baby will be allowed to do some sensory exploring of their own using the equipment provided within the group.

What are the benefits of sensory play?

There are a multitude of benefits of sensory play for babies and also for toddlers and children as they grow. From birth, babies learn about their world using their 5 senses: seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling & tasting. As they grow, their senses are their most familiar and most basic way to explore and process new information.

While you can incorporate sensory play into your home life, one of the key benefits of attending a class is the social aspect. There is also the benefit that it is hosted by an expert that you can learn from. While classes seem like an hour of fun full of colour, lights and sounds, they are usually grounded in lots of developmental knowledge and it’s a great chance for you to pick up on some of the ideas to use at home.

Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play create, investigate and explore. Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively. Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses. The most miraculous advances in your baby’s brain structure occur in the first 3 months of life. During this period an astonishing 2 million new connections are created every second. By the end of the first year, your baby’s brain will have doubled in volume as a direct result of learning from birth. Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways which lead to the child’s ability to compete more complex learning tasks and may also aid in developing and enhancing memory.

Sensory experiences can also be therapeutic, improve motor skills, raise awareness of how the world works, and contribute to language acquisition. While babies may not have the words to describe their experiences, sensory play can help babies build vocabulary and understand language.

Taking your baby to a sensory class can of course be a really fun experience too and it’s such a wonderful opportunity to see your baby exploring the different sensory elements. Exposing your baby to a variety of sensory experiences can also help to strengthen your parent  / baby bond too.

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