You’ve probably heard that children learn best through play, and this is certainly true for babies. Sensory play, in particular, is important because it helps babies’ brains develop. As a parent, it’s gratifying to watch your baby discover new sights, sounds, colors, and textures and learn about the world around them. If you’re looking for ways to engage your baby, give the activities below a try! Our list contains 15 ideas of sensory play for babies for their first year and a half.
15 Sensory Play Activities for Babies
0-3 Month Sensory Play Ideas for Babies
Newborns are learning and growing at lightning speed, but they can only handle a little bit of sensory stimulation each day. Most babies do best in the first 15-30 minutes after a feed or after a nap. Also, keep in mind to start slow and try a few different times of the day.
Young babies are still developing their senses, and in these early months it can be helpful to focus on touch:
- Gently stroke your baby’s face, arms, legs and feet and watch her react. You can use your hand, or a soft blanket or toy.
- Use baby massage techniques to encourage touch and to bond with your little one.
- Footprint painting crafts are a great way to encourage baby’s senses, while also creating a meaningful keepsake.
3-6 Months Ideas
By 6 months old your baby is getting more and more curious about the world, especially since their sight is improving. At this age, many babies also begin to enjoy tummy time more. One fun and easy sensory play idea for your baby is to put things on the floor in front of them that they can reach out for on their own. Here are a few to try:
- Colorful Water- Simply put a bit of water in a shallow baking tray and add a touch of food coloring. Lay it on the floor in front of your baby, where they can use their hands to reach out and feel the water on their skin. Let them splash around and enjoy the color.
- Ice- Let baby learn about temperature and sound by placing a few ice cubes in a plastic bottle. Baby will be able to feel the cold, as well as create sound.
- Rice- Babies love swishing their hands through uncooked rice; it makes a delightful sound as well as providing a new texture. Empty a bag into a baking dish and add a few toys for extra enjoyment.
6-9 Months Sensory Play Ideas for Babies
Your child is able to handle more sensory stimulation now and might be sitting up on their own and getting a new view of her home and the world around her. Offer additional stimulation with activities like:
- Rainbow Spaghetti- Die cooked spaghetti in a variety of colors and place them on baby’s highchair tray for her to dig her hands into. As a bonus, she can safely eat this sensory treat!
- Jell-O Digging- Make a batch of Jell-O in a baking dish, with a few baby-safe toys encased inside. Allow your baby to dig through with their fingers to release the toys. Pro Tip: use natural Jello to avoid food dye that may stain the baby’s hands.
- Edible Sand- Place graham crackers and uncooked oatmeal into the blender. Then, use the “liquefy” setting to create a fine powder. It’s great for a highchair activity, or you can put the sand into a shallow plastic storage container and sit baby right inside.
9-12 Month Sensory Play Activities
Once your baby begins pulling up and standing or walking, there is an even greater world available to them to explore. Consider adding even more fun to your little one’s exploration with the following sensory play ideas for babies:
- Baby Bells- This is a great sound sensory experience. Lace a thin ribbon through loose bells (the kind you might use for a holiday craft) and tie them loosely around your baby’s ankles. He’ll be delighted by the sounds he makes with every movement.
- Rainbow Bins- Create one or more bins of dry beans, cereal or colorfully dyed rice, complete with colorful toys inside. Scooping toys are great and help your baby practice motor skills while enjoying the sensory experience, too.
- Ziplock Sensory Bag- This water activity is great for those nearing a year old, and you can make it in many different ways. Simply add a bit of water to a Ziplock bag, then fill it with items that will be interesting for little hands to squish. Magnets, hair bands, crayons are a few fun things to try this out with. Tape each edge of the bag with strong tape to avoid leaks.
12-18 Month Activities
At this age, your little one is more curious than ever and their brain is in the process of doubling its size at birth ”“ amazing! Help them along with these sensory play ideas for babies. They are designed to jump-start even more brain development:
- Magnet Play- All this one requires is a cookie sheet and an assortment of colorful magnets. Alphabet or animal magnets are great choices, and you can help baby learn their names as he plays. (Make sure Magnets are large and not a choking hazard)
- Pasta Straws- Roll out a bit of playdoh or other dough of your choice and stick a few straws into it so they stand upright. Next, give your little one uncooked pasta noodles in a shape that can be stacked up on the straws. Rigatoni works really well and is my favorite pasta to do this with!
- Pom Drop- This activity is great for fine motor skill development as well as sensory stimulation. Use washi tape or masking tape to affix an empty paper towel or toilet tissue tube to the wall at baby’s height, then show her how to drop colorful pom-poms through. If your baby is old enough, begin talking about each color as she drops it.
Sensory play is one of the best ways for your child to learn, as well as to promote brain development and enhance your parent-child bond. As with any activity, keep a close eye on your little one if there are items involved that could pose choking hazards.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Sensory play helps your child learn complex tasks and also helps with cognitive growth. Sensory play helps with fine motor skills and problem-solving abilities.
You can start as early as 0 months. Simple things like gently stroking your baby’s face, arms, legs, and feet and watch her react. You can use your hand, or a soft blanket or toy. Use baby massage techniques to encourage touch and to bond with your little one. Footprint painting crafts are a great way to encourage baby’s senses, while also creating a meaningful keepsake.