It is very important that we give our children every opportunity to explore their environment since each new experience encourages further “wiring” of the brain. From birth to around 7 years, the brain is mainly a processing machine. This means that the brain takes each and every experience and sensation and uses it to organize and give meaning to experiences. In turn, the child learns to focus on some things and ignore others.
Allowing our children to experience their environment through their senses and especially through touch, we provide the brain with the precise information regarding the size, shape and texture of an object, thus the child is learning and developing new experiences all the time. When a baby encounters something new through the senses, the brain has to interpret it, or unscramble the information received from the particular sense organ and make it more meaningful so that the body can act on the information. The more practice they have at this, the better. A typical example would be if a child had to touch a hot stove. First the sensation arrives in the brain; the brain sends a message to the hand to tell it to pull away. The information received was one of pain so the brain has arranged the sensation together with the words “Be careful it is hot” and the next time that the child approaches the stove and hears your words, she will be less inclined to touch as her brain will remind her that to touch it means pain.
A very similar process is used later in life when a child is looking at the blackboard and sees a word that is in fact organized letters. The eye gets the signal but it needs the brain to give the word meaning. In the case that a child gets no experience in using all the senses, the brain will be unable to unscramble the letters to make a word. This will result in learning problems.
You can make your child’s everyday experiences more valuable by telling her what she is experiencing and help her to interpret her experiences. Create a multi-sensory environment for your child to play in, taking into consideration all the five senses – touch, sound, taste, smell and sight. The possibilities to create a sensory play environment are endless.
Toptots Early Learning SA