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Building pathways for sensory play

Early learning

Providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore the world through sensory play is essential for brain development.

When children engage in sensory play – any activity that stimulates a young child’s senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, as well as anything which engages movement and balance – they are building nerve connections to the brain’s pathways.

Sensory play is limited only by imagination but it is a good idea to suit the the materials and types of play to your child’s age and ability.
What is sensory play?
  • Sensory play for babies may include watching bubbles float through the air or water, or ripping up coloured paper to hear the noise, feel the contours and see the shapes change
  • Sensory play for toddlers could include shining torch light on objects to observe the light and shadow created, or watching paint colours mix
  • Sensory play for pre-school aged children could be creating shapes and playing with kinetic sand, or playing with musical instruments and listening to the tone and pitch as they strike or blow through instruments softly or forcefully
Recent research shows up to one in six children may have sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. 

That’s why ensuring each child enjoys an entire sensory experience is at the heart of what Goodstart Early Learning does - from encouraging them to get dirty in mud kitchens, or designing playgrounds with many different sensory elements.

In fact, Goodstart’s centre design brief aims to maximise childrens’ sensory experiences at Goodstart through lighting, acoustics, the indoor and outdoor environments, and the creation of spaces for exploration, open-ended interactions and small group experiences between children and educators.

The design brief standards are a result of input from various teams throughout the organisation, and provide guidelines to consolidate the knowledge they have gained from many years of providing early learning and care to Australian families.

All Goodstart centres are designed with sensory elements an essential part of the design, to promote play-based learning.

At new South Australia centre Goodstart Cheltenham, the playground was designed with sensory elements aimed at connecting children with nature and giving them the opportunity to explore different textures.

Sandstone, timber, natural lighting, plants and natural turf were all included in the design.

Centre director Romana De Angelis said the mud kitchen allowed children to get messy and experiment with water and soil while the bike pathways feature different sensory elements.

“There’s a great natural environment for the children to explore and all ages will be able to play in the garden together,” Ms De Angelis said.

"Inside, there are spacious rooms with natural lighting and a mixture of furniture reflecting a home environment. The neutral colours create welcoming spaces and carefully positioned play area create an environment that inspires learning,” Ms De Angelis said.

More benefits of sensory play:
  • It builds nerve connections within a child's brain which trigger a child's ability to complete more complex tasks
  • It is great for calming children who are showing big behaviours
  • Sensory play helps children learn about attribtues such as hot, cold, slippery, dry etc
  • It supports problem solving skills, social interactiion, motor skills, cognitive growth and language development
  • It can help in developing and enhancing memory function. 

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