AISD Connections Newsletter

February 2016

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Sensory activities are a very important part of our early childhood classrooms! We must remember that young children learn with all of their senses and we need to keep this in mind when we are planning classroom experiences. The following are questions to consider when evaluating our classroom activities.

  • Do we provide enough purposeful opportunities for children to actively use their senses?
  • Do we set up the environment with sufficient materials that allow children to explore their world?
  • Do we provide sensory experiences for all ages, even our older preschoolers?
  • Is the classroom environment set up in a way that provides room for children to explore in a safe manner?

Purposeful sensory activities can be multi-dimensional and support a variety of learning opportunities. Children love sensory play and it is a fun teaching tool for every classroom.

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What Do Children Learn Through Sensory Play?

Social Skills - Children learn how to work closely together with other children. They can try ideas from other children as well as share their own ideas. Children also begin building relationships/friendships with their peers.

Physical Skills - Children develop and strengthen their motor skills through scooping, dumping and splashing.

Emotional Development - Sensory experiences can be very calming and soothing for children. Many sensory activities will help them work through emotions such as anxiety or frustration. Materials that require pressure and manipulation, such as play dough, can help children release physical energy or tension.

Communication Skills - Through sensory play children can communicate both verbally and non verbally. Very young children express excitement through squeals and chatter. It's the teacher's response to the children that builds on communication skills.

Vocabulary Development - Sensory play offers opportunities for children to build descriptive language. These experiences give children the foundation they need for building new vocabulary.

Math - In a sensory table children can count scoops, compare sizes, experiment with volume, explore 3-dimensional shapes, and more. All of these are basic mathematical concepts.

Creative Arts - Sensory bins provide materials and opportunities for children to pretend, create, and use their imagination. Putting a variety of props and real life materials in your sensory tub will give your children ideas to develop their pretend play.

Science - Sensory exploration is scientific exploration. Children explore the way materials feel, smell, look and behave and react. Teachers can encourage the children to make observations and then talk to the children about their thoughts.

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Procedures and Expectations

It is important to provide children with clear expectations for sensory material use. Teaching procedures and expectations will enable everyone to enjoy the use of exploration materials.

The following are ideas to help you prepare your students for a positive experience with sensory play!

  • Prepare visual cues. These can be picture icons or photographs of your students using the materials as they are intended.
  • Teach explicit lessons for sensory play.
  • Use role play to help the children understand what is expected of them.
  • Post your visual reminders near the sensory play areas.
  • Frequently and kindly remind children of expectations.
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Sensory Activities for Every Center and Every Season

Developing sensory bins is easy and fun! The sensory bin doesn't always have to be related to your unit theme, although this will give children authentic opportunities to use new language that is being learned in your current unit of study. The following are tips to consider when putting together a sensory bin/tub.

  • There is no size limit. Depending on the activity, you might want to use smaller tubs that allow only one child to work independently or two children to work together.
  • Sensory tubs can be placed on the floor or on a table top.
  • Sensory tables allow more children to work together and will encourage discussion and collaboration.
  • Think ahead and begin gathering materials early. Many materials can be reused.
  • Consider your child's age and make sure that materials are age appropriate. Safety first!
  • Change materials when you see interest is waning.
  • Listen to the children and follow their interests when developing and changing sensory bins.
  • Materials should be thrown away or cleaned frequently to stop the spread of germs.
  • Children should wash their hands before and after sensory play.

Sensory Bin Examples

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Have a wonderful February and please feel free to call or email me!