Today more and more parents are more aware of the benefits of sensory play and its role in brain development. Most sensory activities focus on stimulating the touch, sight and hearing senses. When exposed to various sensory experiences, it allows their young brain to develop good sensory processing capabilities, especially during the first 3 years when a baby’s brain grows rapidly.
Sensory play also supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, including crucial problem-solving skills, and social interaction.
Here are some of the sensory activities you can attempt with your little one. We’ve broken them into different levels to complement their various developmental milestones.
- Depending on the mobiles’ model, it will provide your baby with visual and possibly audio stimulation if you attach it to their cot. They don’t always have to be expensive. Just find one with striking colours.
- Encourage your baby to hold or shake a soft rattle. You can also teach your baby to track your voice by singing and calling out to them.
- Introduce touch by gently touching your baby on the face, arms, hand and feet. Watch as they slowly develop their grasping reflex, when you place your finger in their palm. Skin-to-skin contact is another good way to introduce touch.
- Vary your positions when playing with your baby. Smile at him or her and watch them respond to touch and voices.
- It is never too early to start reading to your baby to enhance his or her listening skills. Soft books that crinkle and have different textures are a great choice.
- Although it might take a while for their vision to get better, you can always place a child-safe mirror in front of your baby. Over time your baby will develop the cognitive skills to recognise himself or herself in the mirror.
- Continue to offer them soft books that have varying textures, especially during floor play and tummy time.
- Parents can also gently lift the baby up and down during play to help their baby develop their sense of movement and balance.
- Coloured balls are great for motor skills. Roll them on the floor towards your baby during tummy time to encourage their hand-eye coordination. This activity also teaches them to track and focus on moving objects. Soon they will progress from knocking the balls to the ground, grasping, rolling, dropping, and bouncing them.
- Your baby will also be interested in everyday objects. Young as they may be, they are already watching and copying you. Through this activity, they will learn how to grasp, hold, move objects and release them. Just make sure to provide a variety of hard and soft objects that are clean. It is also important to be mindful of the things you choose as most of these items will end up in the mouth and could potentially be a choking hazard.
- Teach your baby to make their music by drumming on overturned buckets. Play one of your favourite tunes and get them to play along!
- A discovery bin or container with different sized objects will keep them occupied for quite a bit as they learn to examine things using both hands. You can always mix it up with items of different shapes, size, and textures. Watch them take things out one by one and don’t forget to teach them to put it back in!
- If your heart can take it, allow some messy food play. Through this activity, your baby will learn smells, textures, even the sounds of food being squished! Your baby will get to experience, interpret and explore. Furthermore, when some finally end up in their mouth, he or she will get to know tastes too!
- Chunky books are great right about now to fine-tune those motor skills because your baby might be able to flip several pages at once between the 7-9 months mark.
- Allow your baby to play with smaller blocks or craft pom-poms (with supervision) to encourage his or her pincer grasp.
- Continue to play peek-a-boo or hide and seek with your baby. This activity will teach object permanence — a cognitive milestone where they learn that objects and people can still exist even when they can’t see them.
- Grab the opportunity to let them explore the great outdoors—nothing like introducing them to wonders of nature.
- Include water play and sensory bins. If you have the luxury of a backyard, these activities could be potentially less messy compared to being indoors!
- Makeshift drums with plastic containers and DIY bottle maracas with rice and beans will encourage two armed coordination and fine motor skills.
- Mirror activities are great for teaching body parts, and all you need is a mirror! Just face the mirror and name them clearly while pointing out each body part.
- Make your own simple “obstacle course” at home to encourage your baby to crawl over, under, and through various objects in your home. Enhance their crawling experience with tunnels and tents. This activity teaches coordination and simple problem-solving skills.
- Almost every child would be fascinated by bubbles. But even something as simple as playing with bubbles can actually help develop visual and tactile senses while teaching them to track objects near and far.
- Let your baby touch the bubbles you blow for them. Let them watch them soar through the sky and pop when they land. Let them try to pop them, as this teaches them cause and effect.
- Wrap a table in plastic and spray shaving cream on top. Encourage your baby to explore the shaving cream with hands, brushes, spatulas, or plastic spoons. And if you think that is too messy then try making them some homemade playdough.
- Play I-Spy with them to build up their memory and learning skills. This activity allows your child to search for different objects and remember the names to those things.
- Rolling a ball back and forth will strengthen their hand-eye coordination, truck rotation while learning to take turns.
- Teach them to fill bottles up with rice or beans and dump them back when it is full. While dumping is a simple enough task, filling the containers requires more precision and can take months to master.
- Introduce movement and songs to encourage body awareness and boost language skills. Not only are actions fun, but they will also strength core and neck muscles.
- Encourage pull and push activities with a stroller or pull carts. This activity strengthens their upper body, including shoulders, arms, and hands while teaching them about objects’ weight.
These are just a couple of simple ideas to encourage sensory play with your baby. There are plenty of sensory bin ideas on Pinterest if you are unsure how to start. But as you continue to see learning opportunities, you will also be inspired to develop your own ideas to teach through play.
Always remember that every child develops at their own pace. If your child doesn’t seem interested in any of the sensory activities mentioned above, do not be disheartened. Perhaps they are just not ready for it yet, so don’t give up yet. You can always set it aside for now and try them again in a few weeks.
But the most important thing to do is to read to your children consistently to enhance their language skills. Plus it is good to instil a love for reading from a tender age.