As a parent, you are your child’ first and longest-serving teacher.  Family creates the environments and experiences in which learning happens, which makes parents a child’s first and best teacher throughout their life.

Did you know that 90-95% of brain growth and development happens in the first 5 years of life? In the first 3-5 years, there is a dramatic growth spurt of cells that organise and create pathways to more sophisticated brain functions.

The science of early childhood development confirms parenting style and the home learning environment are the two biggest predictors of children’s cognitive performance. Our daily interactions play and activities help develops their basic skills and provide steps to developing sensory, motor and communications skills.

Understandably, we are not all qualified early childhood educators, as parents, we need to learn how to create positive learning experiences to regulate their emotions and behaviours in response to their experience of the world.

Here at Kiddipedia, we are blessed to have Amie Hankinson from Soundsations help. A qualified early childhood teacher and is also a Mother of two, Amie is an advocate of play for the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual benefits it encompasses.

Each month she will share with us her passion for Sensory and Nature play, their benefits and how we can integrate them into our daily lives.


As a qualified Early Childhood Teacher do you have any special research topics that you will be writing about?

As a qualified Early Childhood Teacher, educating children in the early years through PLAY-BASED LEARNING is my professional expertise. Over the past 9 years, my career has evolved throughout management, curriculum advisor, mentor and teaching roles in some of Brisbane’s most elite and well-reputed childcare centres. This has involved creating and teaching government-approved Kindergarten programs and implementing the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum. I have specialist research interests in attachments and bonds, sensory processing and nature play, which all intertwine with my mission to instil evidence-based practices into the unique Soundsations program.


We’ve read that you are passionate about Sensory play, can you describe what it is and what the benefits are?

We require an awareness of our senses to function in society; I.e we know that ‘hot’ is dangerous or we know that throwing a heavy sharp object has a different outcome to throwing a soft small ball. Children do not learn these things from being told or shown pictures on flash cards, rather they require rich and meaningful exposure to these sensations to learn. Research tells us that children primarily learn through play; so combining their need to play and their need to explore through their senses results in the term SENSORY PLAY.

Sensory play stimulates the 7 senses: sight (visual), hearing (auditory), touch (tactile), taste (oral) and smell (olfaction), vestibular and proprioceptive. Sensory play often involves an activity that encourages children to explore the world and particular concepts by touching, manipulating, smelling and interacting with tactile objects. Sensory play is often messy and can include items such as coloured spaghetti, slime, dirt, sand, water or paint.

People often underestimate the value of sensory play, it certainly is FUN but it’s also much more than that. Sensory play encourages a scientific process of observing, forming a hypothesis, experimenting and making conclusions. The benefits include:

  • It helps to build nerve connections in the brain
  • It encourages the development of motor skills
  • It supports language development
  • It encourages ‘scientific thinking’ and problem solving
  • It encourages mathematical and literal thinking
  • It involves focus, patience and therefore is a great relaxation, mindful activity for children
  • The mindful aspect acts as a great emotional regulator (similar to an adult zen garden)


It’s been said that a child’s first teacher is their parent. What tips do you have for parents to help integrate educational and fun elements into their daily lives? 

Playing with your child doesn’t need to be complex. There’s a misconception that you need the most expensive toys and to keep up with the trends. Sensory play is relatively cheap and can be done with household objects. I created ‘Nature Play Prompts’ and ‘First Years of Life Play Prompts’ to help parents be creative and use the resources they have from home. You can easily integrate play in to every aspect of your daily routine, some of our favourite ways include:

– adding a drop of blue food colouring to the bath and playing with plastic ocean animals

– making cubby houses with old sheets

– creating an outdoor obstacle course with chairs, tables and other outdoor items

– singing songs whilst getting dressed, brushing hair and brushing teeth

– playing ‘I Spy’ whilst in the car

– searching for items of a particular colour or starting with a certain letter whilst doing the grocery shop

– playing hide and seek at night time

– having picnics outside for most meals

– getting outside and having unstructured play time where ever possible


Recently the Gonski 2.0 Report provided the recommendation that our education system should provide personalised education to reflect each child’s individual academic level. This was to ensure to bring out the best in each student. Do you think the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum should apply the same to early childhood care to focus on each child’s unique characteristics, and if so why?

The Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum both intend to cater to unique differences. If you read either document they both intend to value unique differences and value diversification. However, there is a large difference between the planned and enacted curriculum. One classroom contains approximately 30 unique and whole beings that all require different teaching methods and all come from differing background. Additionally, each teacher comes with their own cultural biases and belief system. Do I believe that every child is uniquely catered for, certainly not. Do I blame teachers, certainly not. I believe we are struggling to fight against a broken system.


What do you love most about working with children? 

This is another tricky question, there is so much to love. My favourite thing is to sit back and watch; I enjoy seeing that light bulb moment where a child has just drawn a connection between their learning and made their own discovery. I also enjoy some of the brutally honest things that children say and do.


If I was a genie and could grant you three wishes, what would you wish for? (and why?)

  1. A social and cultural shift to regain the ‘it takes a village’ methodology of raising children
  2. Access for all children to schools with a strong nature focus
  3. Mindfulness programs in all classrooms


You may also like to read:

How to Create a Sensory Friendly Bedroom for your Child

5 Top Sensory experiences that can be achieved within the home

Connect with your kids with this nature bonding activity