Sensory play is any activity that requires your baby to use their senses. It naturally encourages children to use scientific processing to understand, investigate, and explore the world around them. In this article, we’ll explore why it is important to start sensory play for babies and top sensory activities to try at home.
Why is Sensory Play Important?
Sensory play for babies is any activity where babies are using their senses to explore and experience their world. This can be through touching, smelling, listening, looking, tasting, or multiple senses combined. Families can use sensory activities at home to help encourage their children to explore the world with their senses.
Sensory activities for infants don’t need to be anything fancy, they often involve sensory tables, messy play, and tubs. Babies learn by using their senses to explore their environment. While the five senses, taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound are the most well known, there are also internal senses like balance, position, and movement that are just important.
14 Sensory Activities to Try With Your Baby at Home
1. Edible Finger Paints
This is an activity involving a baby-safe finger paint recipe using jello powders. This is a wonderful sensory experience that combines smell, taste, and motor skills. It can be a great first painting experience for little ones, and it’s incredibly easy to set up!
You’ll need a few different flavors of jello powder, some little dishes to pour them into, and some warm (but not boiling) water. You can find jello powders that are free from additives, or artificial colors and flavors.
Stir the hot water into the jello powder and mix using a spoon until it is a thin enough consistency for finger-painting. Next, set up some brushes and tape some large pieces of paper onto your table. Lastly, let your little one explore with their fingers and taste buds!
2. Watching Bubbles Float and Pop
This is another fun and simple activity to prepare for your baby, and even all of the members of your family can join in on the fun as well. Even though this activity is fairly simple, your baby will look on with amazement as the bubbles form, float, pop, and disappear in front of their eyes.
Lay your baby in a place that is comfortable and safe for them, then proceed to blow bubbles around them (not into their face directly), being careful to avoid soap getting into their eyes.
3. Sensory Discovery Bottles
Create some fun and engaging discovery bottles for babies and toddlers. You can easily create them by upcycling everyday materials from around your home. These are cost-effective, long-lasting, and can be easily adapted to create a new and exciting sensory play for your little one.
You’ll need to locate a few small, empty water bottles that have completely dried inside. Then, go to your craft materials or kitchen cupboards to find some simple materials that are small and safe to explore through the clear plastic barrier of the bottles. You can choose them based on the sounds they make when they are shaken up or for the way they look suspended in liquid. Once the items are inside the bottle, seal them closed using a glue gun or very strong glue.
4. Water Play
Babies and toddlers love playing with water. It can be held, thrown, funneled, frozen, and splashed! It’s a great way for babies to explore the effects of gravity, capacity, temperatures, and more.
You can start playing with water during bath time. Try using a reclining chair or fixed upright bath seat so they can splash (and be splashed!) safely while keeping their head above water. Using things like funnels, bottles, and cups to pour water on or around your baby, trickling water on their arms helps give them more awareness of their own body. You can also use a sponge to slowly drip water over their head and face so they can get used to having water near their face in a safe environment.
5. DIY Light Box
You can create an affordable light table using items from around your home. You will need a clear bin, some Christmas lights, and paper. Simply place the string lights inside the box, cover the lid and sides with paper so that it can diffuse the light, and secure the lid.
Then, you can bring out items that are colored yet have transparency to them, like some liquid color blocks or colored bingo chips, which can be placed on top of the box and on top of each other so your baby can explore light as well as color mixing. Other than that, there are hundreds of other activities you can do with your new lightbox with some creative thinking.
6. Outdoor Sensory Play
Another great sensory activity is to simply take your baby outside to watch the world go by and explore the natural environment around them. For this activity, you can take your baby and a blanket outside to lay down together underneath some trees. You can lay next to each other and look up at the branches as they sway in the wind for a different perspective. If the area is quiet, your baby will be able to listen to the sound of the leaves rustling against each other, and maybe some bird sounds. This activity is a great idea for some quiet observation together.
7. Exploring With Foam
Grab a tub, some dish soap, water, and food coloring to make this easy foamy soap that will keep your baby entertained for hours. You can add in bath toys or plastic animals for more interest. If you can’t play with it outside, you can place the tub on top of a towel to catch any splashes.
8. Playing With Velcro
Velcro is an interesting material for babies to play and explore with as it makes an interesting sound when pulled apart and it has a curious way of sticking together as well. Velcro can simply be used on its own so babies can see how it sticks together and comes apart, or it can be used with other things like shoelaces or socks to see what sticks and what doesn’t. This is a great option if you’re looking for something that has little to no mess involved.
9. Squishy Water Beads
Water beads have taken the hearts of both children and adults. These squishy little balls of water can provide a lot of sensory fun for your baby. One idea is to fill up a resealable bag with the beads, seal it with tape and let your little one move the beads around and explore the bag to their heart’s content.
10. Silly Spaghetti
Colorful cooked spaghetti is a great sensory play item to introduce color and slimy sensations to your baby. You can cook up different colored spaghetti and add it to a bowl or bucket with some alphabet letters. Fingers, mouths, toes, and eyes will be able to explore with this activity.
11. Sensory Board
You can make a board of sensory materials with items you have on hand. Just glue, tape and some kid-friendly scraps you might find lying around the house to make a combination of interesting colors and textures your baby can touch and look at.
12. Rain Sticks
Rainsticks are awesome auditory items that can keep your baby inspired for a while. They can be used as a musical instrument, and you can make a few different types so that each of them sounds different. You can try small items like rice, lentils, and barley. You will need to put them into a cardboard tube stuck with nails on the inside. Be sure to use cardboard rolls that are thick and can hold their shape well. Then cover the nails over with tape, and one end of the tube with tape before pouring in your ingredients. Seal the other end with tape, and then cover the outside with wrapping paper, or construction paper. Then let your baby turn it over and over to hear the sounds it makes when the ingredients inside slide up and down.
13. Cloud Dough
Baby-safe cloud dough is light, soft, flakey, and shimmery which will appeal to your baby’s senses. And, it is made from two baby-safe ingredients: rice-cereal and coconut oil. Simply combine the ingredients to get a light, fluffy dough and let your baby explore as it crumbles and balls up in their hands.
14. Frozen Jelly
Frozen jelly is a great sensory play activity for those hot summer days. You make it by freezing jello. It’s a great hands-on science experiment to watch changes in the state of materials and for experimenting with how substances melt.
How Vivvi’s Learning Model Supports Sensory Development
At Vivvi, our inquiry-based learning model helps children grow through interacting with the world around them. By engaging in activities that include sensory play, scientific inquiry, literacy, and more, children will develop the skills they need to progress in kindergarten and beyond.