Library program allows kids to explore through their senses
(Photo: Abby Alusheff/Livingston Daily)
Twice a week, 3-year-old Emma Gunckle comes to the Brighton District Library to play with other kids.
What she doesn't realize is that she learning in the process through sensory stimulation.
She thinks we are just coming to see some of her friends to play," said Samantha Wainwright, Gunckle's nanny. "She loves knowing we are coming here; she always asks to come here actually.
Gunckle, who is vision impaired, is one of many young children who attend the sensory play class at the library. Sensory play allows children an opportunity to investigate what lies before them by grabbing, exploring, smelling, listening, tasting and seeing by using their five senses.
Class is started with hands-on story time, where the children can participate in telling the story. Then the kids explore their senses through different stations. The stations allow the toddlers to explore and understand new information with their senses.
It's incredible to watch Emma explore at such a young age and understand what she is touching or hearing or seeing," Wainwright said
Margaret Vergith, Brighton library media relations coordinator, said the library started offering sensory play to give parents the chance to let kids explore in their own way.
When children's senses are stimulated, messages are sent to their brain helping to build pathways needed for future learning," said Carla Sharp, Brighton District Library youth services director. "The library became inspired by the idea of sensory play after attending a workshop at West Bloomfield Library. After we launched this program last year, we received several feedback from parents and children that was wildly popular. We saw there was a need for it.
Sharp said because parents may not have the time to set up stations for kids to explore at home, this gives them the option to bring their child to "get hands-on."
Toddlers and parents play with their children at the Brighton District Library during a sensory class where kids get to learn about their five senses.
(Photo: Abby Alusheff/Livingston Daily)
The library uses colorful sensory bins to better engage children. The bins include a base of sand, foam, colorful rice, water beads, shaving cream and cotton balls. Manipulatives such as funnels, shovels, toys, measuring cups, numbers, letters, and beads are added to the stations.
Sometimes parents don't have the time to sit on the floor and just let kids play with shaving cream," said Vickie Weyand, who runs the library's adult sensory story time. "But kids need to explore; they have a desire to explore and get into things, so why not have them do it here?
Kids, such as Gunckle, don't only learn about their five senses.
What emerges is a bustling center of discovery and creativity that encourages developmental growth by using math, science, fine motor skills, new language and creative play," Vergith said
In fact, they also learn how to better interact with other kids early on.
Emma doesn't see many kids, so this is truly great for her because I've seen her blossom and make friends," Wainwright explained. "She is learning how to share, take turns, clean up after herself. I could go on and on about this program.
The library makes sure what they are teaching during sensory play best prepares toddlers for preschool.
The way I see it, families bring their children to story time to have fun, but librarians always have the motive of educating while we entertain," Sharp said. "For my sensory story time, when choosing activities or books, I always ask myself, 'How can I turn this into a way for kids to practice their language skills? How can it help them practice social skills like eye contact or executive functioning skills?' We truly think like teachers.
Each sensory station has instructions for parents to talk their child through.
Wainwright has seen improvement in several of Gunckle's skill sets that make Wainwright want to continue to bring her.
Emma's language has improved so much since the very beginning, sometimes it shocks me," Wainwright said. "For being a library program, I am just very impressed with how much growth I've seen in Emma.
Kids aren't the only ones who use sensory play and story time. Weyand recently started teaching an adult sensory play and story time class for special-needs adults.
MORE - Will school libraries be gone soon?
It's just amazing to see how much music and hands-on experience positively affects these adults' lives," Weyand said. "It's so rewarding to watch both youth and adults get so much out of it.
For more information about sensory play and story time, contact Vergith at the library at email@example.com or call at 810-229-6571.
Contact Livingston Daily education reporter Abby Welsh Alusheff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @abby_welshLD or find her on Facebook by searching "Abby Alusheff."Read the full article here