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WATCH: How to make edible jelly raindrops
When kids use their hands to create something, especially when the materials are geared towards a sensory experience, it helps their brains to learn as well. So here's a cool way to get your tot's hands dirty... with wobbly, squashy "rain drops"!
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There are so many body parts that we don’t truly realise we use as often as we do because it’s just, well, there.

Like our nose, which we’re only really aware of during hay fever season, or our ears that we only mention when the altitude is changing or they’re filled with pool water.

Another important body part that we often take for granted is our hand, of course. Our hands can even help us develop thoughts and ideas, through embodied learning.

Sensopathic play and how you can encourage it at home

It is strongly recommended that parents encourage sensopathic play – play with things such as plush toys and dolls, finger paints and play dough, where kids end up using the biggest sensory system in the body: their sense of touch.

“Sensopathic play is a very real, concrete and experiential way to learn through personal experience. And as Albert Einstein said: ‘Learning is experience. Everything else is just information’,” explains parenting expert Nikki Bush who advises Toy Kingdom.

“Screens don’t provide three-dimensional learning. And these days a 4-year-old can play a shape-matching game on a tablet, but can’t do it in the real world. Similarly, a 5-year-old can build a 64-piece puzzle on a computer game, but struggles to build a puzzle in class.”

Letting kids feel, touch, move, and connect objects in real life helps to form better neuro-pathways in the brain than digital devices every can.

You can introduce sensopathetic play in simple ways in the home by encouraging kids to do new and exciting things with crafts by painting, drawing and making things with play dough.

There are plenty of toys you can buy that facilitate sensopathic play. Dozens of toy manufacterers and the big toy stores dedicate entire ranges to kids using their hands to play, create and learn.

But you don't necessarily have to buy lots of toys to get them to use their hands and familiarise them with different textures. We've found that even taking the time to make something quick and simple will get them excited. So we did a little experiment with one of our little ones and gave them edible jelly raindrops to play with. Watch the video below to see how to make it and see little Isra Parker's reaction to slimy, jelly-like puddles.

She didn't love it at first but once she realised she could break them apart and eat them, she was all smiles. Who wouldn't be?

Bush explains, “Every child needs an opportunity to experience the world in a very real sense and through the sense of touch. By ignoring sensopathic play, your child will not learn as effectively as when they are fully, physically engaged in their own learning creating meaningful experiences…

"Balance children’s time on screens with even more time doing real activities in real time with real objects and real people and you’ll be surprised at the results.”

Why it's important to introduce sensopathic play

Maria Montessori, the physician and educator who came up with the teaching philosophy and approach that we now know simply as the Montessori system, knew full well the idea of embodied learning. Embodied learning can be defined as the learning technique which combines the mind and body to enhance the learning experience. She said:

“Movement, or physical activity, is an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.”

It therefore makes sense that Montessori education focuses largely on practical experiences in a prepared environment to help nurture a child’s intellect, as well as their social and psychological skills and abilities.

According to professor of psychology Sian Beilock, the way we use our hands even affects our brain. Using their hands can often help children process certain ideas and even respond quicker within a learning environment. 

If we consider how, when we’re growing up, we learn how to do basic maths by counting on our fingers this becomes somewhat easier to understand.

When we count on our fingers, we make a certain connection with our brain because the part of the brain responsible for numerical representation also controls finger motion. So we're sending certain signals to our brain that helps us develop particular thoughts.

So while kids are moving further and further away from using their hands to pick something up and feel it between their fingers, unless it’s a tablet or mobile phone, of course, this research reveals just how important it is to encourage kids to use their hands.

Do you have any other cool and innovative ideas as to how parents can introduce sensopathic play in the home? Tell us by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we may share it with our readers.

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