Think back to a favorite childhood memory and the sense that most often triggers it. Does the feel of dough between your fingers remind you of being in the kitchen with Grandma? Does the color combination of red and purple stir familiar feelings inside you? Perhaps the spring sun on your skin gathers memories of backyard games with neighborhood friends?
Most of our powerful memories associate an experience with a sense. These sense-based reactions then become triggers for recall. Sensory experiences and sensory play are valuable in the development of our children. Engaging the senses promotes learning and retention. Touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste allow humans to explore the world. With each interaction, we take in more valuable information, even unconsciously. Experience can be our best teacher!
Solving problems and participating in make-believe comes with exploring the world through play. These activities express creativity and build confidence. Furthermore, sensory play develops and refines the senses. This valuable childhood activity proves therapeutic, improves motor skills, increases awareness of the world and promotes language acquisition.
Using Fort Magic kits fosters the use of the senses naturally. Children of all ages love forts and spend hours on end playing and imaging, all the while learning and developing healthily. Cognitive, social, emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skills develop through this type of play. So grab your Fort Magic kit and let’s brainstorm a few ideas to inspire engaging the senses with forts!
“Do not touch!” is a common parenting refrain. But in fort building the freedom to explore and investigate through touch boosts development. The mere act of building a fort presents an all-hands-on-board activity. Creative fort coverings expand the experience. A scavenger hunt around your house or yard may turn up new ideas. Be sure to involve the kids in the hunt! Different texture blankets, gauzy sheers, fun fur fabric, foil, bubble wrap, plastic sheeting, art paper, streamer, even tree bark create a touch experience.
The interior of the hideaway with pillows, stuffed animals and blankets can also be considered. Balloons and beach ball filled forts offer another tactile experience. Adding a kiddie pool of sand, dry rice, beans or water offer more fun and learning. And do not forget the powerful touch of simply cuddling up to read a book or watch a movie together.
The sight of a fort lights up the eyes of children without hesitation, but twinkle lights sparkle the imagination in all of us. Add them as stars to the top of the fort or all over for charm. Flashlights explore dark fort caverns and work great as headlights on that race car or submarine design. Lanterns and headlamps offer after dark play or camping adventure.
Colorful fort coverings catch the eye of imaginations. Engage the kids in tie dying sheets for future use. Colored cellophane panels on a fort’s exterior produce a brilliant stained glass house. Put the house outside or near a window for the interplay of color and sunbeams. And, be sure to hand out sunglasses for more visual diversity. Sight and hand-eye games boast sensory experience and energy release. Hide and seek and balloon catch both engages learners.
Musical instruments engage the mind and boost development through the sense of hearing. A Fort Magic fort becomes a practice room for the band or solo artist before the big concert. Gather the family, even the neighbors, at the end of the day for an outdoor summer concert on the lawn or an indoor rock jam in cooler weather.
Listening games require little time and planning. Lay on your backs in an outdoor fort. (Shhh, lay very still.) Identify the sounds you hear. A car going by the house. A giggle .Is that a chipmunk scampering up a tree? If the weather does not permit outside listening, checkout a CD from the library or download an app to produce nature sounds inside. The sounds of a storm or life in the rain forest come alive when inside a fort. Be sure to experiment with loud and soft as well.
Outdoor forts offer many opportunities for stimulating the nose! Again, lay on your backs. (No need to be as quiet this time.) What can you smell? If you need to take a walk beyond the walls of your haven, go ahead. Do you smell cut grass, fertilizer, lilacs, the earthiness of dirt or mulch?
For indoor fun with scents, look to the kitchen. Find containers of strong scented items such as cinnamon, ginger or vinegar. Camouflage the containers in lunch bags or blindfold the guesser. Next, sniff and guess! Who can identify the most correctly? Scratch and sniff books also provide an indoor alternative and lend themselves to snuggling.
A lemonade stand fort or petite sandwiches and pastries served at Fort Cafe tantalize the taste buds. A camp out (complete with adult supervision) offers fireside cooking. While this may seem the easiest sense to stimulate, keep in mind variety.
Actions such as sipping, sucking, crunching and chewing all lend to the experience of taste. Exploring opposite fares such as sweet and salty, sour and bitter, crunchy and soft, or frozen and hot to round out the experience and the memories.
Kids’ senses come alive when they build forts and engage in fun sensory play!
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You Clever Monkey Blog: An Australian blog full of great ideas in how to raise thoughtful, resilient, curious children. An inspiring ideas that will give children a childhood they will remember fondly.