I recently wrote an article on kid sensory spaces so thought I would share. I spent a semester in grad school studying the Reggio Emilia and Montessori Method approaches to childhood learning; both are based on the idea that children learn from their senses, and that their physical environment plays a critical role. From the moment a baby is born they have an innate ability to explore and interpret reality through their senses – not only is this the way they learn about the world, but it is also how their brains develop in the early years. Sensory learning is a constant process of sending information from the physical body to the brain, and our home environments can help support this learning.
As adults we have each developed our own preferences to the various sensory stimulants including sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Responses to these stimulants can be emotional, psychological, cultural, and learned – but they are definitively individual. What colors, lighting, textures, or smells do you have an immediate connection or reaction to? You already know I love the smell of play-doh! Did you know I have a total aversion to the texture of styrofoam? Like, it completely creeps me out.
For our youngest children, they have not yet made these associations so their responses are pure. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to watch how our children respond to new things, and can help us identify what their individual interests might be. I’m going to share some tips on how you can create a multisensory space in your home. The most important thing we can do is provide sensory opportunities so that kids can naturally learn through their own means of discovery and exploration.
Allow the ability to construct real and imaginary places through a space that offers physical flexibility; keep them stimulated by facilitating constant change. Incorporate modular furniture that is easy to move or stack.
Evoke a sense of wonder by including items that might sparkle, reflect, create sounds, spin, or be in motion.
Hide items in different nooks for them to discover new each day. Limit the amount of toys that are displayed and swap them out regularly so you can avoid overstimulation but also provide that sense of change.
Hang a temporary set of string lights or paper lanterns, or introduce a mirror to provide a fresh transformation.
Kids of all ages also love a variation of levels which can be incorporated through loft spaces, risers, ramps, and seating. When they are at a higher or equal level with adults it gives them a sense of empowerment which helps them build confidence and self esteem.
Create a spatial wonderland to match the greatest of swing sets. Who says swings are only for the outdoors? Spice it up!
With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, our homes should provide kids with a sense of belonging and security. You can create a cozy environment that allows sensory connections by incorporating elements that are soft and personable. Warm colors, soft furnishings, interesting textures, and elements of nature help a child feel emotionally and physically comfortable.
An overall neutral color palette will provide a calming backdrop and allow your child to personalize it with colors through toys, artwork, photos, and accessories that can change over time. A child’s identity begins at home, so give them a sense of self and your family and allow them to participate.
The easiest and quickest thing you can do is find everyday items that can be manipulated or experienced through touch or smell. Warm woods, cool glass, rough stone, textured fabric, clays, sand, rice, cotton balls, shredded papers, foam peanuts, feathers, shells, flowers, leaves, marshmallows, buttons, and dried pastas are all great. Pair these materials with items such as measuring cups or spoons, mini shovels, lids, cookie cutters, sponges, straws, toilet paper tubes… done!
Finally, consider incorporating natural light, fresh air, and views to the outside into these spaces. Nature provides our children with connections that help them to understand things like seasons, as well as the light and dark cycles of a day. These cycles regulate a lot of our human behaviors; exposure to daylight is especially important for the production of serotonin to give us those feelings of general well being.
So there you have it. Did you create a sensory wonderland for your kids? Send us pics so we can share your great ideas.