Sensory

child touching polished stones and pebbles

The importance of sensory play

If there’s one thing in common about young children, it’s their ability to make a mess! Children learn best through direct experiences – exploring the world around them with their whole being. They stare, grab, smell, listen, rub, or lick unfamiliar objects, using all their senses to collect data that will be wired permanently into their memory.

 

If a child’s environment is too sterile or limited, they are deprived of this rich learning. What can parents and teachers do to offer diverse sensory experiences without becoming completely overwhelmed by the inevitable mess? Read this.

three boys playing in a stream

Using nature to help children academically

How can spending time outdoors help our children develop into enthusiastic academic learners? Ginny Yurich from Michigan, USA has some interesting insights and tips after spending thousands of hours outside with her five children. Read them here.

boy engaging in loose parts play with natural materials

The learning in loose parts

“The Lego was fought for, stringing beads spilled in anger, plastic animals broken by grabbing...as a teacher I was at my wits end with this particular group of children. They simply could not play harmoniously together,” relates Martha, an experienced preschool teacher.

 

“On a sudden inspiration I emptied all the tote pans and put the contents in storage. Then we went outside and collected natural objects to fill the pans: small rocks, twigs, acorns, pinecones, and bark. Once inside, we began constructing ‘dream houses’ using Plasticine to hold the sticks together. Soon tables, beds, and little pathways appeared. We kept the houses displayed and worked on them again and again. The old grabbing habits were gone – after all who ‘owns’ the things of nature?”

 

As Martha discovered, the best toys don’t come from a shop. Nature offers a wide assortment of loose parts that are captivatingly simple and empowering. Plus, they’re easy on the budget!

 

Although teachers have always known the great play value in natural materials, current research now validates the tremendous learning potential they offer as well. Read the article.

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two children making mud pies on a table structure built of outlast blocks and planks

Celebrating mud

Children seem to be magnetically drawn to water and dirt. From their perspective, the activities that result in the messiest clothes are the activities which are the most fun!

“It’s okay for children to get dirty,” writes Michelle Rupiper. “In fact, when you look at the benefits children gain from mud play, it’s not just okay, it’s important.” Science now shows that certain bacteria present in soil are very beneficial to children and can aid in mental health and the prevention of allergies. In addition, the open-ended, malleable properties of mud make it an excellent learning material – encouraging the development of both cognitive and social skills. Read more

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P.S. International Mud Day is 29 June!

children playing in the mud

Put the pencil down
and go outside

All children need nature. Pedagogical pioneers have proven it time and again. Observe a young baby in his pram under a tree; he loves to watch the leaves waving in the wind. Watch any toddler collect pebbles, sticks or pinecones. Children with special needs are no exception.
 
In her article, Kathryn Solly explains how much children benefit from being outdoors. "The emotional nurturing ‘aah’ and ‘ugh’ experiences may not all be pleasant but link better to indoor learning being based upon concrete experience, which later become the children’s own narrative stories."
 
Read the article and consider signing up for Kathryn Solly's two-day training course for EY leaders/managers in November.

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