Sensory Experience & the Characteristics of Effective Learning

24th May 2018

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Sensory Experience

Babies and young children are always exploring and investing, they are finding out about the world through sensory exploration, discovering through touch (tactile), sight (visual), sound (auditory), taste  (gustatory), smell (olfactory) and movement (vestibular & proprioceptive).  Sensory experience is food for the brain; each sensory interaction promotes new brain connections supporting the developing brain.

How Children Learn

A child’s learning and devolvement takes place when they are engaged and motivated.  Let’s review what this means in the EYFS; children’s learning and development takes place when the characteristics of effective learning are supported. The Statutory Framework for the EYFS point 1.9 states ‘In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners must reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in their practice’

Characteristic of Effective Learning

Therefore when we observe children’s . . .

  • Engagement; we see exploring, investigating, trying new things and willing to have a go. They are ‘Play & Exploring’
  • Motivation; we see them concentrating, they keep on trying and show pleasure in their achievements. They are ‘Active Learning’
  • Thinking; we see children having their own ideas, making links between ideas, and looking at different ways to do things. They are ‘Creating and Thinking Critically’

All three of the characteristic have a strong synergy with sensory play. We need to offer lots of opportunities for child-initiated play through the use of use open-ended resources to allow children to take play in their own direction. There are no set goals when using open ended materials they can be used in a range of ways, bringing children’s creating and critical thinking to life.  Children need lots of opportunity to make their own choices, explore, take risk, and try our their own ideas

Think about a sensory experience that you offer in your setting consider:

  • what was on offer
  • how it was offered
  • if the children became deeply involved in the activity and their thinking

Did you observe any of the characteristics of effective learning?

  • Playing and exploring
  • Active learning
  • Creating and thinking critically

Activities that go well will more than likely link to many of the characteristics of effective learning.  Children will be engaged and motived because activities are based around their interests and supported by adults who understand the children’s learning style

Everyday sensory experiences are essential indoor and outdoors

The Adults Role

  • Offer stimulating resources
  • Ensure safety
  • Manage space
  • Allow time
  • Observe, plan and develop
  • Don’t take over allow the children to explore, experiment and take risks
  • Support children when needed following their lead
  • Think about sustained shared thinking
  • Reflect, review and evaluate with the children
  • Have fun!

We can offer support; advice, training and consultancy around sensory play, how children learn and the characteristics of effective learning for more information visit our website or email us

By Mary Lestrange – Quality 4 Early Years



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