As parents are now getting more and more aware of the benefits of sensory play, they are keen for their kids to experience the whole range of dry to messy sensory play... which is great!
However, there are some instances where parents find their child staring blankly at a play setup and refusing to engage with it. Sounds familiar? This can be a sign of sensory overload, especially when it comes to novel textures. These are usually textures that are a combination of wet, slimy or grainy. Even as adults, to that we might sometimes say, "yuck!"
It is no wonder then that the kid might even display a strong aversion to exploring such textures, which parents then, understandably, take as a cue to refrain their child from engaging in such sensory textures.
At My Messy Box, we encourage your child to explore with as many sensory textures as possible even though some may be unfamiliar to them. Why? This is because novel textures allow your child to learn adaptive skills when faced with an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation and build a healthy tolerance for it!
Here are five tips for guiding your child through an exploration of novel sensory textures.
1. Small portions
Children become overwhelmed when they see so much of something that they are at first uncomfortable with. Setting a wet/messy sensory play experience with a small portion of the sensory base makes it more manageable for the child to process!
2. No pressure
Parents usually make the mistake of ‘encouraging’ their child to touch the sensory base, even when the child is squirming away from it. Placing pressure on the child to immediately interact with the new texture makes the whole play experience upsetting for the child. Especially with first encounters of a novel sensory texture, parents can play alongside with their child and model healthy behaviours when managing the new texture. Parents need not point out their modelling behaviour to their child. Rather, the child will, in their own initiative notice, how Mommy and Daddy engages with the sensory texture and will more likely imitate such behaviour when they are ready.
3. PraiseWhen child makes an effort to touch or smell the new textures, even if it is a tiny teeeeeny bit of effort, parents need to recognise this as a big progress for their child. This can be done through acknowledging and praising the child for the brave effort taken. For example, parents can say “Wow, well done Timmy! You’re touching the sand with your fingers. You’re so brave!” Again, remember to not pressure the child into doing more when they are not ready.
Your child will take time to be ready to fully explore particular textures. Take cues from their behavioural displays and be sensitive to what they are trying to communicate through their body gestures. Most importantly, parents must follow the child’s lead and allow them to set the pace of exploration.
5. Create opportunities
At the first encounter with a novel sensory texture, you may find that your child is not keen on exploring it. Don’t give up! Set up a similar play experience at other times by using different tools and toys to make the experience interesting and attractive to the child.
Now that you've read this far, you're on your way to being a sensory play-savvy parent! We're concocting more opportunities for you to independently bring sensory play benefits to your child. Stick around for more!