Over the past year and a half many of us have experienced something we never thought would happen – having to home school our children! Trying to engage our little ones with learning while they had to sit in front of a screen all day, isolated from their friends and teacher, was tough. However, it confirmed something that we, and many other educational professionals, believe. Children learn best through play - especially through sensory play.
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is an activity that involves one or more of the senses. The activity might focus on one of the five main senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. Or it might focus on one of the lesser-known senses such as vestibular (which helps us with movement and balance) or proprioception (which helps with the awareness of our body parts and how we move them). Incorporating sensory play into learning activities helps to engage children and develop a love of learning.
Sensory play has so many benefits. It is amazing because it:
Gives children the opportunity to discover, create and learn
Helps to build nerve connections in the brain and enables children to embed new information
Exposes children to new vocabulary
Helps children develop problem solving skills
Improves fine and gross motor skills
How can you use sensory play in your home or setting?
Despite the many and well-known benefits of sensory play, these types of activities are not always used in homes and educational settings. Sensory play can appear daunting and is often avoided due to concerns about mess. However, sensory play does not have to be complicated, expensive, or even overly messy!
At Play Makes Sense, we are passionate about encouraging all parents, carers and educators to embrace the wonders of sensory play and get playing and learning with their children. We created our phonics activity cards to make learning through sensory play accessible for all. The activities on our cards are quick and simple to set up and meaningful and engaging for children. On each card is a Grab List of items needed for the activity. Most of these items are things you will already have at home and any that you don’t have can be easily substituted for something you do. There is also a main Go Activity and an extension Grow Activity on each card. The activities are broken down into simple steps and are easy to follow, even with no educational experience!
Our first range of sensory play activity cards is all about phonics. But what is phonics and how does it work with sensory play?
What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read and write by introducing them to the 44 sounds in the English language and the letters used to represent those sounds. Some sounds are represented by a single letter, while others are represented by two, three or even four letters. Phonics is great because it helps children learn to read and write quickly and with confidence.
Phonics is split into six phases. Phase 1 is usually taught in the preschool year, when children are three years old and Phase 6 is usually completed in Year 2, when children are seven years old. Each phase teaches different skills which help children become successful readers and writers. Throughout their phonics journey children become more confident at recognising the sounds that different letters make and become experts at blending (putting sounds together to read a word) and segmenting (splitting up sounds to write a word).
Phonics and sensory play
Learning to read and write is a fundamental skill that will greatly influence a child’s experience of education and impact their future life chances, but not all children find learning to read and write easy. Combining phonics and sensory play makes the learning experience fun, enjoyable and helps to develop a love of language and literacy in children.
There certainly is a need for explicit teaching of phonics skills, but this method should be complimented by the use of sensory play activities. Sensory play allows children to cement and embed learning they have experienced during explicit teaching sessions in an engaging way and in a low pressured environment.
Letters and sounds can be explored through the use of a whole range of multisensory resources such as playdough, rice and water. During sensory play children become an active participant in their learning and are developing a whole range of skills, not only their phonics knowledge.
So, if you are excited by the idea of sensory play and the prospect of teaching your child to read and write in a way that is simple, meaningful and engaging head to our website to find out more. Our Instagram community is also a great place to find lots of tips and tricks for teaching phonics through sensory play. You can find us @playmakessenseuk. We love a chat, so if you need any more information send us an email or a DM.
Alice & Abbie x
Author Bio - Play Makes Sense was set up by Alice and Abbie to showcase the incredible benefits of learning through sensory play. They are qualified teachers with 10 years' experience between them, leading both the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. Alice and Abbie left teaching to have their own children, but they never lost their passion for play and learning. They have witnessed the amazing results of sensory play, both at school and at home, and they want to share it with you. They have created phonics activity cards to help you teach your children to read and write through sensory play activities. Get yours from www.playmakessense.co.uk
If you're interested in finding out more about phonics click here to read my phonics games blog post. If you have a school starter and want to know how to help them to settle in and develop a love for learning click here for my School Ready play pack.