Sensory Play

Sensory processing is getting a lot of attention in the world of child development. Much of the public knowledge centers on children who are overly sensitive to sensations like noise, touch, and movement which may cause a child to respond in an aggressive or withdrawn manner. Sensory-sensitive activities are springing up in lots of locations, including Lancaster. Excentia has consulted with the Lancaster Science Factory and the Barnstormers for their sensory-friendly events. These events are much more comfortable for children who are easily stimulated.


But did you know that other types of sensory processing difficulties? In the first example, the children are too aware of sensation. However, there are also children who do not register sensation like their peers; they crave more input. They may respond to this need by being overly active and seeking sensation, or they may appear disinterested and unmotivated.


We all have tendencies based on our individual processing styles (fun fact – nothing gets into the brain except by way of our various sensory systems, and there are more than the 5 senses we commonly hear about). Personally, the tactile/touch system dictates some of my life. For example, I have a hard time getting work done if I am wearing long sleeves. Unusual, I know!


The first three years of life are referred to as the Sensory-Motor Period. Children experience lots of new adventures and their brain is organizing sensation in a functional way. They learn one of the most important skills for the future: self-regulation. Self-regulation is seen in our ability to calm down at the end of the day, pay attention to tasks, and other vital activities. Lack of self-regulation can lead to issues with sleep and behavior.


Childhood play is a major regulator of sensory stimulation. Children seem to have a natural sense of what their bodies need, just as they know when they are thirsty or hungry. The subsequent years of child development build on that foundation. Children need access to play that has them moving, processing, and problem-solving.


TimberNook creates child-led play with lots of opportunity to engage all of our senses. The sensory benefits of TimberNook have been demonstrated in a University of New Hampshire Occupational Therapy Research Study (2016). The results of the study “suggest that the quality of social interaction among the children did collectively differ between TimberNook and the children’s typical play environment. The environments were specifically different in their supportiveness regarding the objects available, the amount of space and configuration of that space, and sensory opportunities. We concluded that environments offering greater opportunities of objects, space, and sensory exploration, such as TimberNook, appear to support better quality of social interaction.​”


Are you interested in learning more? A portion of our TimberNook Information Session on January 22nd will be aimed at teaching attendees more about the developmental foundations of sensory processing. Sign up here.

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