The senses are an important part of any child’s development. What they see, smell, taste, hear, and touch are just as vital as what they learn, explore, and create. These five senses play pivotal roles in all aspects of learning, not just development, as they are joined hand-in-hand with how we retain, process, and recall information. As your child continues to grow, learn, and study their surroundings, here are five tips that can boost their sensory development along the way.
Remember “Where’s Waldo?”! The “Where’s Waldo?” series is a prime example of how hidden object games can sharpen focus, vision, and recognition. There are also lots of apps and printed games that promote hidden object challenges. A simple game of catch, a book of mazes, word searches, and connect the dot games, and target games can also improve visual acuity.
You can go as big or small as you want here because smell is one of our most sensitive senses, the tied the closest to our memory. Scratch and sniff stickers, scented markers and paints, and a bit of lavender in the bubble bath. These fragrant things can help children hone in on pleasing smells and create pleasant memories. A really quick and easy trick? Have your child cook with you if they enjoy being in the kitchen. Show them new smells as they cook or quiz them on what they smell as you cook or bake together.
Clapping along with music can inspire rhythm, music or stories without video can invigorate their imagination, and auditory memory games like “I’m Going on a Picnic” can sharpen recall. Look for items like rainsticks, that not only encourage rhythm but help your child connect to the natural world around them. There are sounds all around your child that you can help them discover, like what it feels and sounds like when they jump into a pile of leaves or crunch them up in their hands.
This can hold hands with smell easily. As you are baking or cooking some of your child’s favorite foods, have them taste each component. A bit of sugar on the fingertip before making the cookie batter or a chocolate chip they can roll around in their mouth. A spoonful of that spaghetti sauce before it goes over pasta or some carrot from the soup you are making. Combine with tactile sensory development by picking all their favorite fruits, and having them guess what they are eating while keeping their eyes closed.
Touch is a cinch to incorporate! Finger painting, rolling up playdough, and playing in the sandbox are all great starts. While you are playing in the sand, bury small objects for them to find. Or place familiar, safe objects in a small bag and assign them specific objects to fish out without looking. Ask if something is soft, cold, warm, sharp, fuzzy, or smooth. Encourage them to describe what they are feeling and why they either do or don’t like the way it feels. Since touch is such a personal experience, having them describe what they are feeling helps with communication and recall.
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