Petting a stuffed bunny or listening to a lullaby may not look like much to you, but these sensory experiences help your baby or toddler learn about her world. Sensory activities also help her stay on track developmentally and keep her happily entertained. Introduce a wide range of activities to engage all your child's senses and watch her face light up with wonder.
Playing with water engages multiple senses. Plus, it's readily available and you can incorporate it into lots of activities easily. Fill a heavy-duty food storage bag with water, a few drops of food coloring and fish shapes cut out of sponges, and let your child squeeze and squish the bag, suggests Zero to Three. An older baby can use small cups and scooping tools to play with water in a shallow bowl or tear paper that is soaked in water, says PBS Parents. At bath time, scoop up handfuls of water and let it drip gently on your child's tummy while saying something like, "Listen to the water drip, drip, drip." As always, supervise your child constantly while he's near water.
Simple activities including reading to your baby and playing finger games such as peekaboo and pat-a-cake can help your baby develop speech and language skills, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. You can also use music in a wide range of sensory activities. Hold your baby while you dance to music, or grab a wooden spoon for each of you and tap out rhythms on the floor, suggests KidsHealth. As you read books about animals or nature, find recordings online of the things featured in the book and play them. As your baby looks at a picture of a tree, for instance, play the sound of leaves rustling in the wind.
Exposing your baby to lots of different textures supports his developing sense of touch. Put a spoonful of yogurt directly on his high chair try and let him mash his hands in it. Place materials of different textures on the floor and hold your baby under his arms while helping him walk over the materials barefoot, suggests Zero to Three. For a toddler, make a sensory table out of a large, shallow plastic storage bin. Fill it with sand, dry rice and beans, hay, shaving cream or anything else he can safely dig around in and add small plastic toys and beach toys, says PBS Parents. Tell him that these items are just to touch and not to put in his mouth, and watch him closely while he plays.
Encourage your little one's sensory development and keep her entertained by making a different type of sensory box. Fill a cardboard box with objects that appeal to all the senses. For instance, include a piece of sandpaper, some velvet and a ball of tinfoil to provide texture. Add a mirror and a few board books for sight development. Place potpourri or cotton balls spritzed with scented oils inside small spice containers or clean salt shakers to sniff, suggests the Scholastic website. Pull out one item at a time for your child to feel, smell and examine. Rotate the objects every few days. For an on-the-go toddler, try creating a sensory obstacle course. Set up pillows for her to climb over, a painting station and a music station for dancing.
- Zero to Three: Activities Bonding and Learning Birth to 12 Months
- PBS Parents: Sensory Play: Early Exploration Through the Senses
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
- KidsHealth: Introducing Toddlers to Music
- PBS Parents: Developing and Cultivating Skills with a Sensory Table
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Media and Children
- Scholastic: Activities that Explore Smell for 0-2 Year Olds