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Sensory Overload? The building blocks for a healthy brain



Before birth – and from the moment they are born – babies are absorbing the world through their senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. But adults often fail to see the importance of sensory learning in toddler and preschool years.

Babies are born with brains full of neurons. Learning about the world through their senses develops pathways between the neurons – and the frequency of an experience strengthens each pathway. However, pathways that are not used often will eventually disappear.


The brain’s ‘wiring’ – one hundred billion neurons intricately connected with one another – develops as each neuron links up with thousands of others. It is believed that the brain also contains trillions of ‘unprogrammed’ connections.

The development of these unprogrammed connections relies on stimulation in the baby’s environment. Scientists believe that to achieve a mature brain requires sensory experiences in the early years, and connections that aren’t made will disappear.

Comparing brain structures of animals raised in various environments – normal, deprived, and enriched – shows that animals in enriched environments (e.g. interacting with toys, treadmills and obstacle courses) had larger brains with more synaptic connections. 

 

In a sensory room children have opportunities for the coordination and performing of small muscle movements, which helps them master tasks e.g. holding a pencil or turning pages in a book.


 

Different textures and unusual materials that can be manipulated easily are great for developing fine and gross motor skills and building body strength. Gross motor skills are practised through exploring surfaces, lifting, throwing and rolling.

 

The darkness in sensory rooms also acts as a brain stimulator. The eyes work with the brain, muscles and nerves to produce complex messages, so as the eyes constantly adapt to the changing environment – so children can move around a nearly dark room with moving and controlled lights – the connections between the brain, muscles and nerves becomes stronger, also creating new pathways. This enables children with different degrees of ability to change and influence their environment in a positive way.


As well as supporting emotional wellbeing, sensory rooms provide a safe environment for problem-solving, self-reflection and testing ideas. They also encourage children to find solutions and engage with new situations with no framework, pre-set activities or expected outcomes; so every child can experience personal success. Positive sensory experiences encourage children’s desire for learning and transform their knowledge, skills and their ways of seeing the world.


Learn more about The Wingate Centre's sensory room by contacting us on 01227780456 or emailing us at gym@thewingatecentre.co.uk



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