In my previous life, before becoming a full time mummy, I used to work as an Occupational Therapist. I therefore really value giving babies sensory stimulation from as early an age as possible. I believe it’s great to offer babies new stimulation throughout the day – have play items handy that they can move and feel, visit specific classes, but also explore the natural environment – feel the sand running through your fingers, crunch an autumn leaf in your hands, feel the coldness of the snow, the wetness of the rain etc.
Below I’ve shared some of the specific baby sensory activities I’ve carried out with my boys. I’d love any feedback you have and to hear about the activities you do with your babies/toddlers! Also, please be aware that many of these activities require constant adult supervision – babies love to try to eat the things they shouldn’t be eating!
Visit a Sensory Room
Find out if your local Children’s Centre has a sensory room and visit it. I took both my boys along to these and they are great – the favourite thing for both of them was a giant colour changing bubble tube!
Play Gym Balloons
Hang Balloons from your play gym for baby to bash/kick – I got the idea for this from Laughing kids Learn on Pinterest:
On Laughing kids Learn they tie a helium balloon to the babies legs for baby to kick – great idea but I didn’t have any helium balloons. So, I came up with the idea of hanging regular balloons off the play gym at varying lengths. My boy must have been about 3/4 months at the time and couldn’t yet reach the hanging toys from his play gym/the ones he could reach were hard and would knock him when they swung. The balloons were great – he would bash them and then love watching them swing around. This is definitely an activity which requires close adult supervision.
Sensory Washing Line
We had a really nice early summer last year and my eldest wanted to be out in the garden lots. I wanted something to occupy my baby in the garden, so I constructed a sensory washing line – I tied a piece of string between two trees (high enough that my eldest could run under it but low enough that it was visible to my baby) and tied various colour and textured ribbons to this, as well as some old freebie CD’s and some balloons. My baby would love to lie on a blanket under this and watch the colours and shapes moving in the breeze. If you don’t have trees in your garden, you could also use your actual washing line or tie between fences/posts etc.
Place a mirror (or, as I did, some shiny silver paper) on the floor and put some toys on it – your little one will love looking at the toys reflections and exploring with their toys on this. This is a great activity for when babies have mastered tummy time and can lie on their tummy to play, or for when babies are sitting but not yet crawling/bum shuffling.
Babies also love sitting in front of mirrors with you and exploring their reflection! Be prepared to get baby drool all over your mirrors when they give themselves “kisses”!
We are lucky that we live in a fairly rural area yet not too far from the beach. Try to get out to explore nature with your baby – go to the seaside, woods, parks etc. Feel the sand, watch pebbles splash into the sea or river, look at and feel pine cones, leaves, petals, pebbles….
Make a Nature Treasure Basket
If you can’t get out into the nature – bring the nature home to you….make a ‘treasure basket’ of all the things you find on your walks – pebbles, pine cones, sand, leaves, sticks, conkers. Explore the different textures with your baby. Make sure you supervise baby playing with this treasure basket. (You’ll see that mine also has rice and pasta in – it started as two separate treasure baskets but my sons mixed them together during their play).
When your baby has started to wean let them explore their food, feel the different textures and get mucky with it!
Play with Cornflower
I normally do this at the high chair – using the high chair tray as the place to put the cornflower and water mixture as this play can get very messy! Simply mix some cornflower and water together and you get amazing gloop which changes consistency as you play with it.
Meet an Animal
Animals fur varies so much and is a wonderful texture. Obviously always check with the owner that it is ok to pet their animal and give very close supervision – a great way to ensure relative safely is to visit a petting farm/zoo where the animals are selected for their tameness/friendliness and you have the support of their staff.
Make some sensory bottles for your baby to explore and play with. I have posted a picture of mine but feel they are very inadequate compared to a lot of the great ones I see on Pinterest. Nonetheless my boys have enjoyed playing with them.
Make a rolley tube
Decorate a tube with coloured tape going around it and roll it around near baby – baby will love watching the moving colours coming closer and moving further away. I found mine in a scrapstore but it is easy enough to make with a kitchen roll tube and some coloured tape.
Make a textured crawly area
When my youngest became a confident crawler I placed blankets/pillows/clothing/rugs of different textures on the floor for him to crawl over and explore. My eldest used it as a jumping game to jump from one item to the next.