Last Updated on February 7, 2022 by Editorial Team
Preschoolers are an inquisitive lot. They have questions for all things happening around. Only reading out the books cannot satisfy them. In fact, books may not complement the learning pace of all children. The more engaging the teaching instructions or projects are, the brighter are the chances of better activity levels in kids.
It is for this quality of better engagement quotient, the innovative ways of teaching include sensory activities. As the name suggests, the sensory activities for preschoolers are playful interventions where learners get to employ visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, kinesthetic, and vestibular senses. To have a better idea of these activities, let’s explore in this post:
- Role of sensory activities in teaching preschoolers
- Examples of sensory activities for preschoolers
- How to employ sensory activities for learning purposes
- Outcomes of using sensory activities
Here we begin!
Role of sensory activities in teaching preschoolers
Teaching preschoolers requires a lot of tactful handling. Preschoolers don’t have their speaking, reading, or other basic skills well-pronounced. Hence, it is not wise to expect them to learn from books. They need something additional which promotes an exploratory and collaborative pedagogical approach. That supplementary solution is available in sensory activities. The main roles of sensory activities are:
- Use of multisensory approach to teach basic skills: Preschoolers’ skills development can be augmented with sensory activities that employ additional and alternative enablers. For example, the sensory activities and their site of action shift and widely spread the task of learning on all receptor interfaces by improving brain plasticity.
- Befriending kids with functional aspect of conceptual learning: Write ‘cold’ and ask to repeat ten times; the chances of learning this word stand two to eight on ten for learners with different paces. But, if you ask them to touch ice, they will surely retain in mind what cold means and what it feels like. Deeper ingraining of ideas is one important role that sensory activities may play.
- Teaching team work and social skills: Several sensory activities are more like group projects. By giving them certain roles to play in these activities, kids grasp the social skills of accountability, responsibility, co-operation and teamwork. Also, kids develop emotional intelligence; some activities help address anxiety issues due to their calming abilities.
- Imparting critical and logical reasoning abilities: At preschooler stage, the mind needs a little more working out to understand the different between contrasting ideas like big and small, fat and thin, etc. Also, the set-ups are sometimes simulated to match real-life settings, which helps useful in building cognition and logic.
All these roles are quite crucial for the 360-degree development of preschoolers. In addition, the learning difficulties hamper the growth curve; sensory activities offer the way to attain age-appropriate academic, social-emotional, and logical-mathematical intelligence by working the way around those challenges.
Explained here are a few tried and tested sensory activities that can help preschoolers attain learning objectives with appropriate proficiency.
Sensory activities to engage preschoolers in learning basic skills
The environment in preschool is made of sensory materials to ignite curiosity and encourage involvement. Little, easily available, associable things are employed for carrying out sensory activities. Thus, play method in action is what we achieve and is extensively utilized in the following activities that involve multisensory learning:
- Writing on sand: Take a wide open, shallow box and fill it with sand. Guide kids to draw alphabets, numbers, or figures of their choice. Children utilize tactile sense to develop writing skills through this playful activity.
- Paint with frozen cubes: Fill different colors in ice tray or popsicle maker. You can take out the frozen colors and ask children to draw lines or figures using these cubes. It helps learn to write despite limited grip capacity.
- Play dough activities: Dough activities inlude kneading, pressing, etc. Preschoolers can enhance their grip by doing these actions while making figurines out of dough. Letter recognition comes as a bonus if children make tubes out of dough and create letters!
- Sort items in magnetic tray: Make a mix of big and small items of various shapes and ask kids to arrange them on a magnetic tray. This sensory activity builds fine motor skills and teaches logical reasoning by employing tactile and visual sense.
- Learning alphabets with tactile letter cards: You can make a letter-shaped pattern using stencil and texture it with gum and glitter. Kids can touch these letter cards to understand letters’ shape.
- Jumping on a trampoline: Shout out alphabet with each jump, and see the kid practicing alphabets without a fuss! Smiles and laughs add more to fun.
- Play hopscotch of number or letters: Write letters or numbers on hopscotch pattern’s cells, and place some items on those cells. Ask kids to locate items, go hopscotch way to pick those and read aloud the letter or number written when they reach the cell.
- Play treasure hunt to find alphabets hidden in room: Write alphabets on placards, balls, etc. and hide them throughout the room. Kids locate the items while searching them in group and arrange them in an order on a table top.
- Rice bin activity for learning quantities: Make a bin of rice and give measuring cups of different capacities to kids. You can first show what different quantities look like and then ask kids to scoop out those amounts of rice.
- Alphabet Soup Bin Activity: Fill a shallow bin with colored water or with water mixed with gel to make it look like soup. Put some alphabet shaped floating balloons in it and ask kids to pick those from the soup bin. It helps attain fluency in letter rcognition through tactile and visual senses.
- Baby Bathing: Give a baby-like toy and ask kids to bathe it in a small sink. Kids can touch and learn organs and also improve their grip.
- Make food bin: Include lots of food items like pasta, donuts, confectionaries, etc. in a bin. Guide kids to pick the food items from the bin as per the instructions provided.
- Playing with sound tubes: Pick a few pipes and fill them with different stuffs like wooden filings, water, ribbons, etc. These fillers will make sound tubes weigh differently. Show kids the different sounds these produce when tapped and teach them the idea of heavy and light.
- Imaginary gardening: Give a big tray with soil to kids and the gardening toys like ploughs, scoops, dummy plants, etc. Kids can plant those in the tray and develop the idea of sequencing of actions, become shape intelligent and do teamwork.
- Making music with different objects: Light and heavy objects make different sounds. Tap the items like glass, tub, tumblers, saucers, etc. and ask them to speak out their names according to the sounds produces. It will require a little practice but outcomes will be awesome.
How to employ sensory activities for learning purposes?
Sensory activities can be done in both classroom and home environments. These activities can be minutes to hours long. Depending upon the space and time available, the children can be driven to these activities in the following ways:
- Group activity in a classroom: Make play hour learning-oriented by including multisensory approach in kids’ leisure activities.
- Project for homework: You can involve parents and ask them to guide kids to do these activities at home
- Picnic activities: Use outdoor environments of various kinds to give an idea of practical application of a few sensory activities
- Engage kids in car during travel: Some activities require minimal space and few things only. Keep the child engaged in these activities when travel time is long.
Outcomes of using sensory activities
Playful approach of teaching skills to preschoolers has got everybody’s nod. Academic learning need not be burdensome for little kids; activity-oriented teaching ensures that. A 2011 study outlined the following outcomes generally achieved from sensory learning-based activities:
- Easy development of basic language and math skills: Suitable skills of counting, letter recognition, letter-sound recognition, etc. are developed
- Fine and gross motor skills development: Better motor skills of both fine and gross nature have become evident in kids engaged in sensory activities
- Social skills development: Children learn to wait, cooperate, and develop a sense of camaraderie due to participatory nature of these activities
- Emotional intelligence enhancement: Children identify emotions of anger, happiness, satisfaction, achievement, confidence and others
- Cognition development: Kids understand the idea of space, time, speed and build knowledge of how things around them look or work.
Since these activities do an important task, i.e. to develop interest and incite curiosity to learn among kids, this helps achieve the above outcomes in a quick yet sustainable manner.
Managing kids and activities offers a dual challenge to teachers and parents in terms of maintaining order and discipline in the class. Also, a few hurdles in learning may occur if kids get carried away by the playful appeal of the sensory materials. Constant supervision is another requirement as kids are quite unpredictable, and don’t forget to learn fast ways of cleaning up the mess the activities may cause!
Importance of sensory play has been realized in the inclusive model of education. Activities that involve this play method are expected to decrease school drop-outs. These empower teachers and parents with better intervention approach too. However, it takes teamwork and sensible involvement of all agencies to make activities learning-oriented.