The role of the sensory environment in nurseries in developing children's cognitive skills

The role of the sensory environment in nurseries in developing children’s cognitive skills

Abstract

The use of the sensory environment is not limited to children with disabilities, but it is a need for all children alike. It helps develop children from early childhood age and older. It works to stimulate all their senses and develop their skills. This study focuses mainly on the extent to which the sensory environment in nurseries and kindergartens contributes to the development of children’s sensory, cognitive, and perceptual skills.

Spatial limitations 

This study was conducted in the BabyZone Nursery in Nablus, which contains some sensory environment equipment, such as the sensory box, the lighting table, the sensory space bag and the sensory tile.

The nursery was established in 2017 and adopted the sensory box in the same year, and then followed it by adding other sensory environment tools.

The Nursery focuses mainly on childcare in the daytime period for ages from 3 months to 4 years old. The nursery provides children with an educational and entertaining environment at the same time, through the use of the sensory box system for children aged 2 and a half and 4 years old to work on developing their cognitive skills and perceptual skills, and they use it for children from the age of two years and less to provide a calm environment in which to relax by integrating lighting with sound effects and music.

Sample size

There are 54 children in the nursery, including 20 children between the ages of 2 and a half to 4 years old, including 6 males and 14 females. Emphasis is placed on them in a development plan for them to be ready to move to kindergarten in terms of cognitive and psychological skills.

The nursery employs 5 teachers who use the sensory box system and assertive sensory tools with the children inside the nursery.

Study tools 

In conducting this study, the research team relied on the semi-structured interview tool, which was conducted with the classroom teacher, Al-Bustan Wassila Dawaya, where the teacher has been working in the nursery for nearly two years.

The interview included (18) quantitative and qualitative questions, in addition to sub-questions depending on their type, which allowed the research team to delve into details other than the previously prepared questions with a focus on the same topic.

Interview Analysis

It was found through the interview conducted with the teacher that the sensory environment in the nursery contributed greatly to the development of children’s sensory, and cognitive skills. Also the development was very noticeable for the nursery and parents.


The interview questions focused on several axes:

The first axis: the components of the sensory environment in the nursery and their role.

The nursery contains several tools for the sensory environment, which are the sensory box, which is used for all children, the light table that is used with children between the ages of two and a half and up to 4 years, the sensory tile that is used for children in the from the age of 9 months to 4 years, and the sensory space bag for children from the age of one and a half to 4 years.

The teacher explained that each of these sensory tools had a clear contribution to the development and growth of children of all ages in the nursery.

The second axis: the nature of the sessions that are carried out within the sensory environment in the nursery

The duration of sessions within the sensory environment for children is 20 minutes for each sensory tool in groups of 10 children. The total time the child spends in the sensory environment is one hour a day, 20 minutes on the sensory box, 20 minutes on the lighting table, and 20 minutes on the sensory space bag, alternating between the divided groups.

In the interview, the teacher emphasized that the division between children is based on individual differences between them, so that children can benefit and develop, build a spirit of cooperation within the same group and ensure their integration.

As for the session that is implemented using the sensory box, the teacher emphasized that the full control over the selection of content and answers within the educational and entertaining games is from the children and not from the teacher in most cases, which prompts the children to interact more.

The third axis: the role of sensory tools in the development of children’s skills.

The teacher, Wassila, confirmed that the sensory environment tools in the nursery contributed significantly to the development of children’s skills, and that each tool had a role in building and developing specific skills.

She explained that the sensory box with all its contents had the greatest contribution to this development, especially to the cognitive skills of children, by changing the colors of the lighting inside the room in a way that suits the displayed content and the mood of children as well, which contributed to making children integrate into the sensory environment and live the information in its details. The method of presenting the information to the child was not in the traditional way, but through entertainment and stimulation of all the child’s senses while receiving the information, in addition to the appropriateness of the content inside the sensory box for the cognitive level of the nursery children, especially for the ages of 1 and a half and 4 years. Children at this age can distinguish colors, shapes, and letters in several languages, in addition to teaching them the names of countries in the world, how to express their feelings correctly and elaborately, and other cognitive benefits. The teacher confirmed that the interest rate of the contents of the sensory box for children is estimated at 95% of what they were before using it.

As for the interactive table, it had the greatest role in teaching children shapes and colours and distinguishing between them accurately through the shades of shapes on the surface of the table. The role of sand in psychological discharge is well known due to many psychological and scientific studies. It also worked to strengthen the delicate muscles of children by drawing with sand and moving it on the surface of the table, also using it for drawing and writing on its lighting surface with different and changing colours through paper and pen.

The sensory space bag is also used with children in groups. Where the teacher wears the space bag with the children and encourages them to make movements that strengthen their muscles. The teacher emphasized the great role played by the sensory space bag in making children know the limits of their bodies while walking and strengthening the muscles of their hands and feet by jumping and rolling using the space bag and limiting the random movement of children inside the nursery. Everyone in the nursery noted the balance in the movement of children while walking after several uses of the space bag.

The sensory tile was used with several children in the nursery whose movements were very random and not integrated with the children. The sensory tiles helped them engage with the children by jumping and playing.

The fourth axis: the methodology that is used for teaching in the sensory environment and how to determine the needs of children

The education method used for children is learning through entertainment. The sensory environment within the nursery is considered an educational and entertaining environment at the same time. In addition, it is used to provide a relaxing atmosphere for children of all ages by incorporating lighting, music, and sound effects.

The teacher explained that the sensory environment is used whenever they feel that the children’s mood is turbulent or unbalanced, as they immediately show signs of calm, comfort, and enjoyment, which helps to limit their movement and energy in a useful and safe environment for them. She emphasized that each age group in the nursery has different needs. Young children, from the age of months to a year and a half, need a sensory environment that is focused on the sensory box and the contents that are suitable for them, in addition to the sensory tile that strengthens the muscles of the hands and feet by pressing them and enhances their visual feeding with the bright colours of the liquid inside it. While children from the age of one and a half to four years focus on all sensory tools in addition to the contents of the sensory box that serve their cognitive level and add new skills to them, the sensory box helped to significantly increase the focus and attention of the children and served as an educational tool that greatly served the children.

The fifth axis: How to measure the impact of using the sensory environment on the development of cognitive and perceptual skills

During the interview, the teacher confirmed that observation is one of the most important tools for measuring the impact of children, as the remarkable development in their skills, information and behaviour was evident for the nursery and parents as well. Also, the children who graduated from nursery to kindergarten were passing the kindergarten level examination distinctively, in both English and Arabic, in addition to the arithmetic skills that they acquired through the content of the sensory box.

It was also very noticeable that the information given through the sensory box was more firmly established in the children and is more easily remembered than the information given through memorization or using the board.

The sixth axis: Practical models on the development of children’s sensory, cognitive and perceptual skills.

The two-year-old child, Samir, had random movements when walking and did not know the limits of his body in relation to other objects around him. But after using the sensory space bag in group sessions in the sensory environment, contributed greatly to improving his walking and realizing his position in relation to other objects. The sensory space bag was a sensory, motor, and cognitive activity for the child.

The 4-year-old Laure is now expressing her feelings in a better way and using the correct terms and expressions, in addition to distinguishing all countries in the world through the interactive games in the sensory box.

As for Mustafa, who is two years old, he is the most child in the nursery who has benefited from the sensory tile and the activities on it. He is a child who has excessive movement, and his interaction with the sensory tile and his commitment to activities on it contributed significantly to controlling his movement and his integration with the rest of the nursery children in a noticeable way for the teachers and his parents as well.

The lighting table played a role in developing the spirit of cooperation among children between the ages of two and a half and four years old, through educational and recreational activities that were carried out using it, in addition to helping them develop their writing skills by drawing on its surface using sand or paper and pen.

Seventh Axis: Parents’ opinions about the sensory environment

The teacher confirmed that all the feedback that came from parents about the use of the sensory environment with their children were positive and that the children wanted to come to the nursery more and have fun during the day. She also explained that the sensory environment was a qualitative addition to the nursery and became one of the reasons parents register their children in the nursery.

Results

  1. The sensory environment in nurseries plays a major role in developing sensory, cognitive skills in children.
  2. The benefit rate for children from using the sensory box and its contents is estimated at 95%.
  3. The sensory environment plays a major role in developing the spirit of cooperation in children
  4. Sensory environment tools are tools that provide motor, muscular, sensory and intellectual exercises at the same time.
  5. The sensory box contributes greatly to making the child live the experience and the information in all its sensory details by stimulating all his senses to focus on the information he receives.

 

summary

This study addressed the role of the sensory environment in nurseries in developing children’s sensory, and cognitive skills through the use of several sensory tools. The study found several findings, the most important was that the sensory environment contributed significantly to the development of early childhood skills and served to develop a spirit of cooperation.