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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015
14 Sensory Play and the Magic Behind the Mess Emma Ingham Senior Educator Gowrie WA Sensory play is such a vital part of infant's, toddler's and young children's learning, but it can easily be overlooked and, at times, completely undervalued. Exploring through the senses is embedded in development from birth as babies use motor reflexes and their senses to build their knowledge of the world (Morrison, 2000). As adults we sometimes need to be reminded to look for new avenues and experiences to reintroduce ourselves to the world that is our senses. Most adults take these senses for granted but educators need to remember that children are still coming to know and recognise most of their senses. As children mature into adulthood a new sensation, such as a noise, smell, taste, feeling or sight may represent something exciting, or possibly concerning, but past experiences assist us to make sense of what the new sensation could be, or is, and the information is processed into context. Imagine a child, without any past experience or information, trying to make sense of something for the first time - a baby's first taste of food, hearing a voice or noise, or touching grass. Experiences that stimulate the senses strengthen a child's brain and create neurological pathways important for learning (Gainsley, 2011). Children come to know the world around them by exploring using all their senses and this is essential to cognitive development (Moyles, 2012). As educators we need to make fun and magical sensory play an everyday experience. Cognitive development for the very young child relates to a child's study of "knowing" (Moyles, 2012); it emerges through children's first hand exploration of their environment and lays the foundations for further learning. But when it comes to messy sensory play, we may hear exclamations such as, "We don't have time!" or "It's too messy!" But the clean up and tidying process is a wonderful learning experience on it's own and can be an extension of the sensory play activity. It also provides opportunities for children to work together and take responsibility for their learning environment and themselves by cleaning up after the activity. Messy play can be time consuming, but children's play does not run on a schedule and we need to be flexible in our approach and, when necessary, rearrange routines or schedules to accommodate and extend children's play based learning. This may mean that we leave the perceived mess and revisit it later, if resources support that. If children are engaged and interested in the messy activity, and learning experiences are evident, it is important to support children's learning. Let the children's interests evolve and expand, and celebrate that their senses will be expanding and evolving too.
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
Reflections Issue 61, 2015