How to Use Sensory Play to Improve Learning and Expand the Imagination
Imagination is so much important. If you were to imagine dragons, dinosaurs, and without imagination, learning would be colorless and finite.
For many parents, the main goal is to lead a child towards independent living and academics skills; after all, learning is the first step into the world. Being a special needs parent is demanding, as the strategies in teaching differ from child to child, making it imperative to understand the different sensory processing inputs and guide your child accordingly towards a tailor-made sensory learning environment.
Sensory processing and sensory play can help the child in regulating and will advance more focus on the activities. To illustrate this, I have made a very simple cycle that you can follow.
Try to explore the multi-sensory fragments such as tactile, visual, vestibular, proprioceptive, and auditory; as it is proven it can accelerate learning and advance performance of all kinds of skills. Let’s talk about one skill, handwriting, which can be tricky for a child if he/she has poor fine motor skills and low muscle tone.
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Rather then just tracing on a piece of paper, the child could play and practice his/her fine motor skills, vestibular or proprioceptive, through sensory play, like finger coloring, theraputty, writing with chalk on the board, ice painting the alphabets lines or just shapes, any activity that would be a preferred to your child and would gradually make an impact on handwriting itself.
It is also important for the child to have transitions through the different stages, like if we are ice painting on the wall, then do it more toward the floor and gradually transition on the table. We can also play with different textures of the paper, pencil or chalk; your imagination could be limitless, keeping in mind the child’s transition towards a correct grip.
The use of the diagram above can be put in to place in exploring different skill sets, so if your child is having issues with identifying objects, such as an apple and banana, you can create a sensory play that would expose the smell of apple and banana and the shape of apple and banana.
You could create flashcards that work toward identification, or play with the apple jam or apple slime, find the 3D apple from the ball pool, and then transition that to flash cards and reinforce the accurate response. There are infinite ways of teaching a child for there are infinite ways they will learn. All your child needs is to borrow a little imagination from you, and for you to imagine with him/her in a special way.
Fizza Shaikh is a postgraduate with eight years of experience working with special needs in London, UK; Sensory Integration trained and SEN certified and LSA (learning support assistant) for two years, currently working as a Licensed Behavior Analyst for special needs kids and Adults in Dubai UAE.
This article was featured in Issue 85 – Top Strategies for Supporting your Family