Our role as parents and educators is more critical than ever before. Science has taught us that our children, in their first five years, absorb information primarily through the senses. This information shapes how they perceive the world. They learn through their experiences, both good and bad.
We have also learned that our pre-school brains are highly sensitive and receptive. Our brain activity in pre-school years, and potential for growth, is the highest in our entire lives. As a result, the exposure to multi-sensory activities and experiences determines how fast the brain develops.
Brain Development in Early Years
New scientific research has made one thing crystal clear: pre-school children are capable of learning far more than we ever thought before. The neural connections inside a child’s brain, made in the first five years, will last a lifetime – shaping our memories and behaviour for years to come.
Children at the age of two years old are already laying the foundations for their brain power later in life. This is due to their brain’s “plasticity”, and the number of “synapses in their brains.
“By the age of two, a child’s brain contains twice as many synapses and consumes twice as much energy as the brain of a normal adult” (1997).
Synapses are the special link in the brain, which connect the all-important neurons, allowing the brain to grow. The plasticity of a young human brain means they can learn new concepts very quickly, and very easily. This window of rapid growth starts to close after the age of five years old.
The early years are a huge window of opportunity for US, the parents, to give a child’s brain the information it craves so much. How do we do this? BY EXPOSING OUR CHILDREN TO MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCES.
Sensory Activities at British Early Years Centre
(where our daughter goes)
WHY SENSORY LEARNING?
Once more – CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH THEIR SENSES in their early years – simple as that. They absorb and retain information via their body and hands-on experience. The brain and the senses work together to create a meaningful world.
The seven senses are a child’s channel of discovery, and must be engaged in order for their brains to receive the information.
Our seven senses are: TOUCH, HEARING, SIGHT, TASTE, SMELL (which everyone knows) and also, which we weren’t taught in school! BALANCE, BODY AWARENESS
“For a small child, discussion and verbal learning have little educative power without actual experience. Learning rather happens through all the sensory channels. Children must live through, explore, and try things out to attach meaning to them” [Hendrick 1990:6].
As research has proven, the more senses engaged, the more connections made in the brain. Multi-sensory learning is the key to unlocking a child’s brain power.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The brain receives information from the senses, processes it, and tells the body how to respond. The brain learns from sensory experience, and stores information. Then the senses, in particular SMELL, can act as a trigger for the brain, forming memories. Yes, through giving your child beautiful sensory experiences, they will form happy memories.
A smell, in particular, can bring positive memories flooding back for years to come. Maybe it’s the smell of perfume reminding you of someone you love, or a rose, which takes you back to your garden when you were young.
Multi-sensory experiences are, therefore, critical for how a child will behave later in their lives. Sensory play helps shape a child’s perception of the world, what they believe to be positive and safe in their brain.
What can we do with pre-school children to ensure their brains are engaged via the senses?
Sensory Playground at The Little Treehouse Nursery
The best way to develop and improve your child’s sensory development is through play. Through play, children learn what no one can teach them. For young children, play is the lifeblood of learning. [Hendrick 1990:6]
Children are meant to play, it’s in their nature. Play, in particular, role play, is their way of acting out the world around them. The world which their brains are soaking up like a sponge, in the form of TRILLIONS of neural connections being made. Here are some simple, sensory activities we recommend:
- Play dough – this is a MUST for your kids. The possibilities are never-ending with play dough, and for the full MULTI SENSORY EXPERIENCE, get the naturally-scented playdough from Little Legend.
- Scented Crayon – Little Legend have launched a product called the Sensory Crayon, so children can smell natural, therapeutic aromas while they draw, giving them a MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE.