Sensory play is such a fun exciting time for children of all ages. When you start it with your baby, you are jump starting their early childhood development. Sensory toys or tools help and enhance a baby’s curiosity and creativity while helping them use their 5 senses. Research has suggested that this hands-on learning and play can promote learning and engagement. It also is another bonding experience for you and your baby!
I was first introduced to sensory toys when I was a teacher. They were offered to my students with special needs or learning disabilities to help with distractions or getting energy out. After teaching for a few years, I would create tools for all of my students for them to use when sad, upset, hyper, or just needed a break. I loved how much they loved them and seeing their minds at work. These tools ranged from sensory fidget toys to soft textured items. I knew this was something I was passionate about and wanted to introduce them to my baby as soon as it became developmentally appropriate.
This can start at any age that you feel your baby is ready. There are many different ways to do sensory play. It can be through eating, playing with toys, household items, or an activity/bin you create. There is no right or wrong way for creating sensory play for your baby, as long as the items you use are safe for their age. Obviously, babies put everything in their mouth, so keep that in mind while creating sensory bins or activities. Think about items you have at home that would peak their curiosity and help them with using their fine and gross motor, 5 senses, and problem solving skills.
I have a subscription to Panda Crate, which is a bi-monthly subscription where my daughter gets a box of 4-5 toys sent to her. Each toy has a special sensory skill she will practice. These toys are considered open-ended, which means they have multiple different functions of play. The box also comes with ideas for sensory play while using items you already have at home. You can select how often you want the box. There are obviously plenty of other ways to have your baby play with sensory related toys, this is just an easy option! This company has subscriptions for every age.
Here are other few sensory activities I have used and found most successful:
-When introducing a new toy, talk to them about the different textures, sounds, noises, or colors
-Tie different lengths and textures of ribbon on something in your house for your baby to touch and fidget with (I use a wire basket from my living room)
-Create patterns of masking tape over their toy basket, that way they have to figure out ways to pull it off or squeeze their hand through to get an object
-Use a muffin tin to tape 12 objects in each section for your baby to figure out how to get them out (I use pacifiers and small animals toys)
-Use a baking sheet or deep pan to place floating and sinking toys (I use mini toy animals from Amazon and floating bath toys) filled with water. You can have them do this at their high chair or in the bath.
-Blend Cheerios to create a “sand” then pour into basket or pan and have your baby go “digging” for toys.
Instagram accounts I follow for ideas:
Sensory play can help babies learn by doing what they do best — playing and exploring. This is just the beginning of the wonderful world of sensory play. Happy exploring!