The idea that children should play with sand, play dough, and other sensory materials is a common idea. But, do you know why? I didn't fully understand all the benefits until I became a preschool director and spent many hours of professional development learning about benefits of hands-on play. Here is what I learned broken down into 5 main reasons children benefit from hands-on play:
1. ENCOURAGES SPEECH DEVELOPMENT
By engaging in hands-on play, children learn how to describe what they’re doing and how it feels, which leads them to using more descriptive words to communicate.
2. DEVELOPS FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Think of hands-on play as exercise for children's hands. This type of play focuses on building, pouring and mixing, which allows children to use small muscle groups and coordinate movements. All of this leads to developing strong hands which allows children to begin handwriting, learn to tie their shoes, zip a zipper, open an apple pouch, and more.
3. STIMULATES COGNITIVE GROWTH
With hands-on play, children are working on problem solving skills. It encourages them to explore how to play and engage with different experiences as well as how to maneuver challenges they encounter. For example, things like how to pour sand from one container to another or how to form play dough into a shape. All of this is problem solving and thinking about how things work, which results in cognitive growth.
4. HAS A CALMING EFFECT
Hands-on play is a great resource for teaching children how to regulate their emotions. Playing with different textures with hands builds nerve connections to the brain resulting in children feeling calm and soothed.
5. INSPIRES SOCIAL INTERACTION
By engaging in hands-on play with siblings or peers, children begin to develop social skills. They’ll learn how to communicate, how to troubleshoot problems and learn to adapt to how others play. Hands-on play is something every child can engage in and play together.
I think this is fascinating!! Happy playing and learning, Catherine