Discovering Sensory Play & Fort Building With Fort Magic
Posted October 19, 2017 by Fort Magic
As parents, we’re always searching for ways to help our kids learn and grow. We understand that play is never just playing, and that the way children interact with others and with the world around them will influence their intellectual and emotional development. Though children will often guide their play when left alone, usually it’s up to parents to give them the tools they need to play healthily and constructively.
That’s why sensory play is so crucial, particularly for young children and toddlers who are just starting to learn what their world looks like and how they can influence it. Sensory play goes beyond only entertaining children and involves their senses to develop them — a concept that seems simple at first. After all, how can children not use their senses when playing — especially when it comes to basics like touch and sight?
But sensory play is surprisingly misunderstood and underemphasized in some parenting philosophies. The idea is not only that kids will have to use all five senses when playing — not just the most obvious ones — but that they’ll use them in a way that challenges them. This type of play exposes children to new sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. And playing opens up these senses up in ways they have never been tested before. And what better way than building a fort and introducing plenty of sensory experiences?!
Why sensory play is important
What are some of the benefits of sensory play? To start, it helps build language skills — once kids experience more sensations and perceptions, they can utilize these new descriptive adjectives in everyday speech. Something isn’t just an orange. It’s a crisp, tangy orange with a smooth exterior and a sharp smell. This kind of expanded vocabulary helps develop your child’s entire brain and creative thinking capabilities, which will benefit them later on in different types of learning.
Sensory play can also help your child develop the motor skills necessary to tie their shoes, write their name or zip up their jacket. Called fine motor skills, these involve the coordination of small muscles, mainly in the hands — and sensory play can help fine-tune them by including your kids in a variety of touch exercises, where they can pinch, grab and twist whatever they’re playing with to develop fine motor skills.
Finally, sensory play helps calm children down by involving the entirety of their brains in a task — from all five senses to the actual muscles required to play with things. Sensory play helps with regulating internal discomfort, so whether your kids are bored, restless or just plain cranky, sensory can play a significant role in getting rid of that discomfort.
How to engage in sensory play using forts
So where do forts come in? It’s simple: they’re some of the best places for your kids to engage in sensory play, for a few reasons. First, they create a designated area for play that you can direct your kids to, which can keep them out of other rooms in the house and in one centralized area where you can watch them while you engage in other tasks.
In addition, playing in forts helps stimulate your kids’ creativity by creating a special space for them to let their imaginations run wild; forts are already such special places that kids can feel inspired just by being in one. And finally, it’s a lot easier to clean up when you have one area your kids are playing in — and you can set yourself up for success by laying a tarp on the floor to catch messes and make cleanup even simpler.
To start, pick out a fort design that works for your kids, and that helps them feel excited to play — it can be anything from a castle to a ship to an airplane to a cottage. You’ll want to choose one that has relatively high ceilings, however, so that you can move around inside and your kids have enough room to spread out.
Before you start setting up the fort, make sure to put some covering down on the floor — like a plastic tablecloth or tarp — to make cleanup significantly easier afterward. Then, work with your kids to set up the frame of the fort, and cover it with fabric like bedsheets, curtains or specialized fabric covers that can create the “walls” of the fort. Finally, store the supplies that your kids will be playing with inside for easy access.
There are numerous sensory play activities for your kids to engage in, from creating bags of paint that mix colors together to making your own “goop” for kids to get their hands dirty and create whatever they want. The ultimate goal is to give them a chance to touch, see, smell and even taste as many different things as possible.
How do you use fort building to encourage your kids to appreciate the wonders of sensory play? Share your ideas with us below!
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