Sometimes playrooms serve as nothing more than a giant toy box. But with a little thoughtful planning, you can create a special space for your little one that’s designed to boost her cognitive development through multisensory play.
All of baby’s early learning happens through her senses. Multisensory experiences are crucial to her cognitive, physical, emotional and language development. According to Dr. Teresa M. Signorelli, child development specialist and Director of the Smadbeck Communication & Learning Center and the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Marymount Manhattan College in New York, the simple act of sorting shapes is actually a pre-literacy skill that must be learned before a child can learn to read. Even baby making eye contact is an important developmental milestone that has to take place before speech can begin to develop.
Because so many of your little one’s lifelong skills are developed through touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing, having a dedicated space where sensory stimulation can take place helps create powerful learning experiences for your baby or toddler.
“When designing a playroom, the main areas that you want to focus on are baby’s physical and intellectual development,” says Dr. Signorelli. “Maintaining a balance of tactile, visual and auditory information is key, because you don’t want to overload them with too much of one thing.”
Here are some simple activities to engage your child’s senses in the playroom:
- Stock a newborn’s playroom with toys that have light and dark contrasting colors. Black and white contrasts send strong signals that encourage baby’s brain growth.
- Blow bubbles! Even though she can’t create them, you can still do this activity in the playroom. If baby is six months or older, ask her to try and reach out and touch the bubbles to help her eye-hand coordination.
- Stimulate your baby's sense of sight by playing hide and seek with her favorite stuffed animals or toys.
- Play with mushroom brushes and discover how they feel on arms, toes and hands.
- Encourage early manipulative skills between 12-18 months by giving her rolled-up socks or soft balls to toss into an empty laundry basket.
- Give older babies a chance to touch with their toes. Round up fabrics or materials with different textures and support baby by holding her under her arms while she touches and experiences the fabrics with her feet.
Taste & Smell
- Eat in the playroom! It’s the perfect place to let baby explore foods with different tastes, smells and textures. Choose food that is developmentally appropriate for the age of your baby or toddler and contrast the flavors and textures for interest. This kind of experimenting could prevent picky eating later on.
- Create a musical instrument station using old pots and plastic bowls; use wooden spoons to hit the objects and make music.
- Collect toys and/or objects that make different noises. Shake, tap or jingle them and let baby hold and explore them with her hands.
- Experiment with recorded music in the playroom to discover what kind of tunes baby likes best.