All children develop their sensory-motor skills at different rates and times, which is why it is better to engage children in a wide variety of sensory activities. But when young children struggle to acquire these skills, they can have trouble with key tasks like grasping objects or just figuring out exactly where their bodies are with everything around them. Here are a few classroom activities for you to practice with them. But first, let’s explain sensory skills and motor skills.
Motor skills are the movements and actions of the muscles. They are categorized into two groups: Gross motor skills require large muscle groups to perform tasks like walking, balancing, and crawling. And fine motor skills utilize small muscle groups to facilitate holding a pencil or picking up something.
Sensory skills include vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, etc. They are majorly responsible for receiving information.
Sensory-motor skills are a combination of physical activities and the senses, which allows the child to express—through physical activities—the information received by the different senses. Four areas make up sensory-motor skills, they are:
- Body in space: The child learns to be aware of their body in space – the physical and mental proximity of people and objects around them. An example is learning to move about without bumping into people and things.
- Laterality: Here, the child learns about laterality, or the two sides of their body, left and right. They also learn how they can make movements from one side to the other. For example, learning to write the English alphabet will teach the child that writing and reading begin from the left and move to the right.
- Balance: As young children start to walk, they learn to balance on two feet. This sense of balance is in sync with every movement they make and can become a highly-developed skill. Example: Riding a bicycle.
- Centering: Here, children learn about how their limbs are coordinated and connected through the center of the body. The legs and arms have to work together. But if they work independently, it can lead to poor everyday movements and sports activities.
Some classroom activities for students’ sensory-motor skills
You can have children jump on a bed, couch, or a trampoline. It helps them lift their bodies without bumping into objects or their peers, gain balance, and build stamina.
- Target practice
Set up a target for students to throw stuff at. It should be a harmless object. This activity is better off outdoors to ensure they have enough space. You could set up buckets outside and ask students to throw mild objects into them from a distance.
- Sensory bin
Young children naturally love to explore a box of “garbage” looking for their favorite toy. And you can utilize this hobby to teach them how to identify specific objects in the midst of many. Fill a bin with harmless objects and their favorite toys. Then ask them to find their toys. But make sure they are properly guided to avoid chaos during group searches.
- Playing with textures
Playing with textures helps young children stimulate their tactile senses. They will get to know what rough, smooth, hard, and soft feels like.
- Apple Tasting
Bring in different apples. Have one of each apple available to pass around, and then at least one more for eating. Let the students hold each variety of apples, talk about their features —such as smoothness, weight, color, spotting, smell, etc. Then slice the apples and allow students to taste while discussing the sound they make when they bite in, taste (sweet or sour), texture, etc.
Other sensory-motor skills include:
- Building with blocks
- Water play or swimming
- Modeling clay
Sensory-motor activities are necessary for a child’s development because it helps build connections in the brain, and prepares the child for learning more complex tasks. For example, children learn about what is hot and cold through their sense of touch, as the muscles of their hands react in response to the input from the senses. And whether they are outdoor or indoor, these sensory-motor activities will help them develop capacity for bigger tasks as they grow up.