A pillar of child development, the sensory system allows for us to explore our possibilities and limitations when it comes to movement. We have all heard of the 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and hear as well as those 2 sneaky senses that tend to fall under the raider: vestibular and proprioception. It is important to consider all of these senses to develop sensory function (1).
A wonderful way to encourage this sensory development is by engaging in unstructured play or ‘risky play’(2). ‘Risky play’ refers to the act of children being allowed to experiment with their surroundings and to learn from doing themselves. This allows children to build decision making skills, autonomy, improve confidence and stamina as well as to improve physical development(2). Research explains that children deprived of sensory stimulation during the early stages of development have an increased risk of struggling with socio-emotional, cognitive and motor development(2).
Being exposed to natural environments is a wonderful way to encourage risky play and further stimulate the sensory system. The natural loose elements of outdoors such as rocks and branches, allows children to exercise their decision making and processing skills, stimulate the senses collectively as well as encouraging constructive play and inspiring confidence and body awareness in different environments(1).
One of our favourite quotes at Kids Heart Pilates is:
Sensory input = Motor output
We consider this quote in all of our programs so that we are continuously developing our sensory and physical development. For example, we use bubbles to encourage children to practice balancing on their tip toes and reaching high, challenging their balance and vestibular control with one single movement. It is important to remember that each child develops uniquely and learns and experiences at different rates so the important thing is to respect a child’s development, be aware of where they are at and encourage children through activities that will bolster development.
So what are some other ways in which we can engage the sensory system through movement?
Jumping on a trampoline
Pretending to be acrobats and walking the ‘tightrope’ on a fallen tree branch
Jumping on stepping stones
Stomping on different surfaces (water, pillows, grass)
So why not have a play and try some of these activities with your children at home.
(1) NDIS. (2021). Sensory –based Intereventions. Accessed at: https://www.ndis.gov.au/community/research-and-evaluation/early-childhood-interventions-our-research/autism-crc-early-intervention-report/sensory-based-interventions
(2) Mygind, L., Kurtzhals, M., Nowell, C., Melby, P., Stevenson, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Lum, J., Fiensborg-Madsen, T., Bentsen, P., & Enticott., P. (2020). Landscapes of becoming social: a systematic review of evidence for associations and pathways between interactions with nature and socioemotional development in children. Accessed at: https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0160412020321930?token=8E4F2EFA86A05DA41CA9503CACE20BF35BD9B97E653A8A95428B822AE39A19A9E45897D144E2448724B3F22FFDA5FC54&originRegion=us-east-1&originCreation=20220219060844