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Sensory Art

“If it hasn't been in the hand and body, it can't be in the brain.” 

Bev Bos

  • Sensory art EY 1
  • Sensory art EY 2
  • Sensory art EY 3
  • Sensory art EY 4
  • Sensory art EY 5

Over the past few weeks I have had the absolute pleasure to observe Mrs Scott offer the EY1 children opportunities to investigate art with particular focus on meeting the children’s sensory desires. The children have explored yoghurt, squishy fruits and spices, covering themselves and the paper. It was unhurried and children are able to spend as long as they need in their investigations. The smiles on the children’s faces have shown how much pleasure they received from these experiences. During their work, the children were animated and receptive to the experience, excitedly talking about what they encountered. They left the experience with a sense of calmness and serenity.

From the very first day they are born, children are designed to explore the world via their senses.Children are natural scientists—investigating, exploring, and experimenting with the materials found in their environment. Sensory play includes any play activities that encourage a child to explore materials which stimulate their senses. This sensory exploration is a child's way of examining, discovering, categorising and making sense of the world. It is beneficial to provide them with opportunities for sensory play. Sensory play enhances the way in which a child reacts to their environment through visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory perceptions. Young children have a physical and emotional desire to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste things that are within reach and new to them. As a child grows, the need for exploring materials within their world continues. Sensory exploration enhances cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development. 

Open ended art experiences can also foster sensory exploration. Finger painting, for example, is an appropriate activity that stimulates multiple senses with the unique smell and feel of the starchy paint. It is just as fun to smear paint all over your hands as it is to spread it on the paper! To an adult, however, the activity looks messy and the immediate reaction might be to ask the child to wash their hands. As soon as an adult intervenes in such a way, the sensory learning connection abruptly ends. It would be far more valuable for the adult to instead discuss how the paint looks on paper and how it feels between the fingers. 

All exploration takes time. If a child is to become attuned to and engaged with their environment, they will need time to explore, discover, and connect with all their senses. When this is encouraged, challenging behaviors naturally lessen. Children learn to self- regulate, communicate their ideas, and are ready to absorb new information. Most importantly, children will find a joy and enthusiasm for learning which will carry them through their whole lives. 

I wonder how you find ways to connect the hand, body and mind?