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Sense in Play

The word sense is fascinating for all its meanings. Sense refers to more than the five ways we perceive external stimuli: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Sense is also a feeling, as in an awareness or intuitive knowledge. We say someone with the ability to see the humor in any situation and make people laugh has a sense of humor. With a hurricane building force as it approaches landfall, coastal residents likely experience a sense of foreboding.

Other uses of sense reflect cognitive and problem solving skills. Think of the ability to assess and respond rationally to circumstances, as in “he had the good sense to come indoors during the storm.” When we express our opinions or present information coherently, we’re said to make sense. After explaining the need for emergency preparedness in a straight forward, easy to understand way, we’re will likely to hear someone say, “that makes sense.”

When someone has been behaving badly, we may be called upon to “bring him to his senses,” to point out the error of his ways and support his efforts to regain control of himself. We want people to “stay in their senses,” fully aware and in control. “Taking leave of our senses” is quite serious. We all want to be sane.

Children and adults alike take in information through all our senses, processing and storing what we learn for future use. Interacting with others and the environment, children develop and test theories, drawing conclusions based on experience and observation. They plan and problem solve, demonstrating by their perseverance the adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” They develop self confidence, resilience, and a can do spirit.

Open-ended play involves sense in every meaning of the word. Self directed, open-ended play builds skills and encourages outside-of-the-box, creative thinking. Children become so absorbed in the process that they lose track of time. Play is fun. Play enriches. Play is essential.

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