Sensory activities for babies

sensory play for babies

by Lorna White |

There are so many wonderful sensory activities for babies you can do with your little one. We've rounded up some of the best activities to engage all your baby's senses, how you can DIY a sensory class at home, and share tips and inspiration for engaging sensory playtime.

Why is sensory play for babies important?

From the moment your baby opens their eyes for the very first time, they're taking in a whole new world. Each new sight, smell, touch, taste, sound and experience will teach them so much about the world around them. This is where sensory play is so brilliant at engaging your baby and teaching them about so many different things.

A newborn’s most evolved senses are touch and smell, so cuddles are the best way to help him develop emotionally. He probably won’t be that interested in toys until he’s around three months. But by practicing sensory play, you can engage your baby in learning about new textures and sounds, as well as teaching them valuable development skills such as motor skills, listening and problem solving.

"Your baby will learn so much about their surroundings from sensory play sessions," says Nicky Picollo, a mum of two who runs sensory music classes for Music Bugs. "The great thing is that sensory play is so easy to do, you've probably got everything you need already. Remember, babies love repetition, so don't be afraid to stick a song on loop, and let them enjoy the sensory experience as long as they want to."

Sensory activities for babies to do at home

Make some music

Get out a pile of plastic bowls, pots and kitchen utensils, and let your tot have a go at playing the drums - hold their hand if they haven't quite grasped the skill of gripping objects yet. Give her a few options for drumsticks, including a wooden spoon, a whisk, or a plastic spaghetti spoon. As well as being lots of noisy fun, this activity will boost your child’s listening skills and hand-eye coordination.

Related: The benefits of music toys for babies and toddlers

Listen to some music

Cradling and rocking your baby in time to music is a great activity, and a really good one to do when you want to wind down for bedtime. Use her favourite nursery rhyme and add actions for her to watch or copy, too.

Try some percussion

Hand your little percussionist some baby-safe bells, a rattle or maracas to jingle along to the music. If she can’t yet pick up objects by herself, gently place your hand around hers and move the bells to the beat. She’ll love to express herself by shaking out the sound, and using an instrument in a basic rhythm is a great way to introduce the concept of patterns, which is vital in the development of problem solving and reasoning skills.

Enjoy the twinkly lights

Turn the lights down low and use a feather or soft paint brush to gently tickle your little one’s feet, hands and neck as you listen to this calming music together. Use slow movements, hold him close, and take time to connect with each other as you listen to the music together. Your baby will love the opportunity to unwind and bond with you.

Crinkle some paper

Start the fun of Christmas early with this activity, which will stimulate your baby's senses and develop his fine motor skills. Buy an extra roll of festive paper – don’t worry about the quality, just avoid any with glitter. Pop your baby on a blanket and give him some large pieces to scrunch, rip and explore. Encourage him to get stuck in by throwing pieces of the paper into the air on the word ‘wish’. You can also explore using a range of different papers, such as tissue paper, cardboard - think a range of textures. Try wrapping up objects too, scrunching the paper around it so they can easily remove it.

Have a mini disco

Pick an upbeat party tune, turn off the main light and get the disco lights flashing (fairy lights work as well). Sit your tot on your knee, and bounce him up and down, before rocking him gently in all directions to the music. Try forwards and backwards, side to side, and round and round, so he gets a good range of movements, which will help him become more aware of his own body. If your baby is not able to support his own head yet, then lay him on your lap and use very gentle movements instead. When you move your youngster in time to the music, you develop his vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and spatial awareness.

Have a themed play time

Themed play, such as teddy bear's picnic, under the sea, space exploration, or safari make sensory play fun for you as well as your baby! For under the sea, lay a blue blanket on the floor and throw on whatever teddies or baby-safe objects you can find to fit your ocean theme. Sit or lie your little one in the centre and let him explore while you blow some bubbles. Following the bubbles with his eyes is a great way of boosting his visual tracking skills.

Other brilliant sensory play ideas include edible finger paints, splashing in water (yes, bath time can be sensory playtime) and creating treasure hunts or sensory bins/tubs by hiding colourful toys in different textures - such as cooked spaghetti or sand.

If you're looking for more activities for older babies and toddlers, take a look at our brilliant toddler sensory play ideas (that you won’t have tried before) here.

How to make a sensory bottle

• Tip a cup of uncooked white rice into a bowl

• Mix in a teaspoon of vinegar and some food colouring (optional)

• Spread the mixture out on a paper towel to dry for an hour.

• Do the same with a second cup of rice and a different colour food colouring.

• The vinegar hardens the rice, so it’ll sound super-loud!

• Tip it into an empty water bottle, along with a few small colourful objects, such as an animal toy, a ball or some sequins.

• Then glue the lid on securely and leave to dry.

Top tip - with any sensory play, make sure you are with your baby at all times, so you can ensure he doesn't put anything in his mouth.

If you still don't feel that confident doing baby sensory by yourself, or would rather have the support of a group (plus the chance to make great mum friends) Baby Sensory are offering @Home Classes - bringing their baby sensory expertise to your own living room!

It's the perfect chance to build on your baby's development, create special one-to-one moments, gain play ideas and even have some much needed social interaction with other parents.

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