Sensory processing develops in our children as they grow and are exposed to appropriate experiences. We are honoured to have Nicole Grant- a well respected Occupational Therapist from Gateway Therapies, provide us with her top toy tips for aiding sensory processing maturation.
Sensory processing is one of the most important areas of development
One of the most important areas of growth in young children is the development of their sensory system. This is their ability to process information received through their senses. Kids need exposure to different sensory stimulus to help their sensory system to mature. This does not mean being exposed to lots of over-stimulating sights and sounds and other stimulus all at once. What it means is that we should offer our kids a variety of toys and activities to ensure their ability to process sensory information develops properly. Good sensory processing is essential for things like attending to tasks, concentrating on schoolwork and physical skills like coordination and balance.
Kids get desensitised with use of technology
With frequent and prolonged access to devices and technology, it’s easy for kids these days to become easily over-stimulated. Bright images and loud music or television played constantly can result in kids being desensitised. This means that they tend to turn the volume up louder and louder, or sit closer and closer in order to be satisfied by the experience. It’s easy for them to get addicted to this ‘quick fix’, which can lead to problems with other areas of development.
Plastic toys are not the best for learning
The problem with plastic toys is that they are artificial and tend not to be sensory-rich. This means that they generally smell, feel and look the same. Kids need lots of different textures – the more natural the better! Kids are often kinaesthetic learners, which means that they learn by doing. Wooden toys with ridges, bumps and natural irregularities provide tactile feedback that further enhances learning experiences.
Wooden toys are making a comeback!
Therapists and educators are rediscovering wooden toys. As we learn more about how children process information through their sensory system, it has become apparent that wooden toys and toys made from natural materials are superior. Good quality is imperative and safety is always a priority. When purchasing wooden toys, make sure they are from a reputable supplier who values quality and has your child’s safety in mind.
5 tips for using toys made from natural materials
1. Look for toys that can be played with in lots of different ways. Foster your child’s creativity.
2. Check that toys are well constructed and safe i.e. free of small, breakable parts, or sharp edges.
3. Consider putting together a ‘kit’ of different materials found around the home and yard, or purchase ready made kits that aim to promote imaginative play and sensory processing.
4. Display toys on shelves at your child’s height. They won’t play with what they can’t see or reach.
5. Make sure that you are purchasing from a credible supplier. Good quality is a must.
If you are concerned about your child’s sensory processing or other aspects of their development, contact an Occupational Therapist.
To view Sweet Elephants’ wooden toys that are ideal for developing sensory processing click here.