SENSORY: related to sensation or the physical senses; transmitted or perceived by the senses; something that has to do with the 5 senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing. Our senses are how we experience the world around us, and the term "sensory" means that one or more of the 5 senses are engaged in an experience: through seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling. We would wager a bet that your children learn, and PLAY, best when some or all of their senses are involved.
In a nutshell, here are the 5 senses and how children may respond to them:
- Sight: Newborns respond to the visual stimulations of contrasting images (think black & white), diverse textures, and patterns. Vibrant colors and contrasts can engage a child's attention physically and cognitively.
- Smell: The sense of smell is one of the strongest senses—and it will continue to get stronger during a child's first 8 years of life. Certain smells help little ones feel comforted and promote the development of other senses. Some baby or toddler toys (like teething rings) have a pleasant smell such as vanilla or lavender.
- Taste: Flavor is a language that takes years to develop (the littles might only know "yucky" or "yummy"). While there may not be many toys that stimulate the gustation sense, there's certainly plenty of room for active play in the kitchen that can widen a child's perception of taste.
- Touch: A tactile toy is one that assists children in learning about the world through touch. While all materials are essentially tactile, the form and finish of children's toys can vary considerably—soft and fluffy, hard and bumpy, etc. Most toys have some sort of tactile (or touch) benefit to them.
- Hearing: Sensory toys and objects that make a noise can help to support auditory engagement: bells, whistles, crinkling, percussion, etc. Place a musical instrument in your child's hands, and see what kind of magic will be born!