The scientific method generally consists of asking a question, developing a hypothesis, conducting an experiment, analyzing results and making a conclusion.
Maybe you’re thinking, “What does that have to do with early childhood sensory play?” Well, everything really!
The steps of the scientific method are the basic principles our brains use to figure things out and learn something new. In the early years children are constantly conducting experiments on the world around them. These experiments form the basis for their cognitive development. And an opportunity for this type of learning occurs naturally through sensory play.
What is cognitive development?
Cognitive development begins even before birth and in the early childhood years progresses rapidly. Many skills fall under the cognitive development umbrella.
- Scientific concepts
- States of matter
- Cause and effect
How sensory play builds cognition.
Whenever children are presented with new materials the scientific process automatically begins in their brains.
What is this? What does it do? How does it move? How does it feel? And the experiment begins!
Sensory play is the perfect opportunity for hands-on experimentation. As they touch, hear, smell, see and sometimes taste children’s minds are making connections about the objects in the world around them and the way to interact with them.
Encourage cognitive development through set up.
- Place some objects in a water bin that sink and some that float.
- Include objects of different weights.
- Vary the size of objects.
- Provide objects that stack and/or nest.
The best part about building cognitive skills through sensory play is it requires little to no adult intervention. Of course you can talk while your children play about how things look, feel and interact. But really the beauty of learning in the early childhood stage is that every time children conduct experiments with the material in front of them their brains are figuring it out.
Through squishing, pouring, digging and sifting children are well on their way to establishing all the brain connections they need to be successful little learners. And it’s all cleverly disguised as fun and play!
Amy is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and writer. She loves sharing what she knows about family, play and early learning. When she’s not at her computer you can find her spending family time, organizing or decorating her home, reading a good self-help book or pretending she knows how to cook but she usually leaves that to her awesome husband!