by Alix Tonsgard
Childhood is often loud and messy, and while it may seem that this is the case merely to test our patience, noisy, messy play has developmental significance. Children learn best and retain the most information when they are actively exploring their environments as well as the materials in them in ways that engage their senses. Sensory play includes any activity that engages any of your child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. By providing children with open-ended sensory play activities, you are helping to develop and refine their cognitive, physical, social/emotional, language, and creative expression skills.
At the Museum, we are intentional in providing sensory experiences both in our exhibits and in our programming. For example, we sometimes work with shaving cream and give children tools such as assorted paint brushes with the intention of supporting the development of eye-hand coordination and fine-motor skills that are important precursors to writing. Activities are designed with children’s natural curiosity in mind. As all things DCM, there are many ways to do each activity, and there is no right or wrong way. This approach builds a child’s confidence and self-esteem, which in turn supports their ability to concentrate, plan, and problem solve.
One of our visitors’ favorite activities is scooping and squishing in gooey pumpkin guts! The insides of a pumpkin offer a fantastic opportunity for children to really dig in, get their hands dirty, and explore a sensory play experience. This is an easy activity, this time of year, to do together at home, or come to the Museum for Pumpkin Palooza, where you can leave the mess with us. We’ll be celebrating the fall season at Pumpkin Palooza on Saturday, October 26. Learn more at dupagechildrens.org/pumpkin-palooza.