Sensory Play - Baby Sensory Ideas for 0-12 months
Hi, I'm Ayesha and I run Little Sensory Play on Instagram and Tiktok, sharing learning through play and fun sensory play ideas!
I'm a mum of one - her name's Elana and she's 3. We have been doing sensory play since she was 7 months old and she absolutely loves it. I'm going to share my baby sensory play ideas for your children up to 12 months. There is no set age to start sensory play! Start whenever you like, and try different things to see what your baby is into. These ideas are also things your older child will love too!
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play, for my daughter Elana, is an emotional regulator. While she's playing, she's concentrating, breathing deeply, and is completely focused on the skill at hand.
Sensory play doesn't have to be fancy, you don't need the latest tools, or instagrammable trays. Make it colourful, add a scent (like orange or lemon extract (the kind that you bake with!), add lots of tools, and leave it out for your child to explore, and just watch how they develop a range of skills: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, emotional regulation, new vocabulary, problem solving. Being exposed to new textures and experiences can also create new pathways in the brain, making it fantastic for brain development!
Even as adults - anything new that you do, be it rock climbing, learning how to ride a bike, going on an exploration/walking holiday when you usually sit on the beach - these all help grow our own brain pathways too, and help us make connections between experiences. The older your child gets, the more they will be exposed to new vocabulary, and the more you can use sensory play in activities to support phonics, maths skills, writing skills and more.
Sensory play ideas - From Birth to 6/7 Months
From birth to around 6-7 months, keep it really simple with lights, textures, black and white images, and sounds.
Your newborn baby will benefit from its main caregiver singing to them, making close eye contact, and lots of snuggles. As soon as they are showing signs of being more alert, display black and white cards close to them, or show them a black and white book. The black and white images help develop their eyesight as they can only see in black, white and grey tones - hold the cards/books 12-15 inches away. It will help them focus!
A really fun idea to explore sounds and textures is to lay your baby on a foil blanket! The shine, the crinkliness, the shuffling sound, is very appealing to the senses and will keep them entertained for ages (and tire them out!).
The key for sensory play up until your child stops trying to east everything they hold (mouthing), is to keep it edible. That way, if they have a little taste, it won't harm them! This kind of play is perfect for when they start weaning as they're exploring so many textures through their mouth.
Playing with food items is something that can cause a bit of controversy, but I truly believe that food play is really beneficial! 1) it's cheap! 2) children can explore new textures in a non-pressure way, and if they have a taste, all the better! Its a great way to introduce fruits and vegetables or let children eat them in a no-pressure way.
Baby Sensory Idea - Citrus play
Citrus play (or sliced cucumbers and tomatoes!). So simple - all you need is a tray, some water (add food colouring for extra impact!) and sliced citrus fruits (orange, lime, lemons!). This is a fabulous taste safe experience suitable for babies from the time they are able to sit unaided, and have already begun weaning and can feed themselves. As children get older you can add tools, such as a tea strainer, cups, spoons and a ladle to practise pouring and scooping. I believe that these skills really helped Elana with her hand-eye coordination particularly when it came to feeding herself with a spoon!
Baby Sensory Idea - Taste Safe Sand
Taste safe sand! Blend some cereal in a food processor, tip onto a tray and add digger toys or sea life figurines to make a construction or beach scene. This is a fantastic one for older children, as they can make marks in the "sand" with the sea creatures or the diggers.
An alternative is cloud dough or moon sand - you just need 1 cup of flour, a drizzle of oil and some food colouring then mix together until the mixture is kind of like clumpy, light sand. It's recommended to bake the flour for 10 mins to get rid of nasty germs first though - raw flour on its own isn't edible (but is taste safe! Meaning it won't harm in small quantities but better to be safe than sorry).
Baby Sensory Idea - Yogurt Painting
Yogurt painting! Drop a couple of drops of liquid food colouring into some yogurt and mix. let your child go free and get very very messy! You can swap this for a dairy free or vegan yogurt if your child has any dairy allergies.
Baby Sensory Idea - Dyed Spaghetti
Dyed spaghetti - boil some spaghetti, drain, then cool. Mix a solution of oil (about 1tbsp) with some food colouring, and stir into your spaghetti. You could make pink worms, or rainbow colours that your child can mix up!
Baby Sensory Idea - Died Oats
Dyed oats - pour oats into a ziplock bag or a large container. Pour a few drops of liquid food colouring neat onto the oats and give it a really good mix. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes to make it edible. Make in rainbow colours so your child can have fun mixing it all up and store in an airtight container for future use!
Baby Sensory Idea - Sweetcorn Mash
Sweetcorn smash - boil some sweetcorn, leave to cool. Dye some water green (or even a colour like orange or purple) and provide spoons, ladles, or just let them use their hands. Children may crush, squeeze, taste; a really fun way of playing and getting 1 of their 5 a day too!
Baby Sensory Idea - Ice PlayIce play - this is great for littles especially on a hot day! freeze some fruit in ice, (or herbs and spices, or just plain coloured water). Let them explore melting and finding the fruity surprise! Definitely one for the older bracket (11-14m).
Whatever you do - enjoy your little one exploring and describe to them what they're feeling - introducing them to new language! make yourself a hot drink, and enjoy it HOT while you play with them! Keep some water and towels close by and be prepared to bathe your children afterwards as things could get quite messy!
Importantly - Always, always closely supervise your children when playing, particularly if playing with small food items or small loose parts!
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