Babies learn about the world by experiencing it through their senses. You’ve likely seen your baby pick up an object and bring it to their mouth. That’s their way of learning about it. Because babies lack the verbal skills to communicate and ask questions, they learn through sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sensory play encourages little ones to experience the world through their senses, cultivates a better understanding of the way things work, and is important for brain development.
Key benefits of sensory play:
Stimulates the sense of touch. Introducing your baby to different textures helps develop their sense of touch, which is a precursor to fine motor skills and object identification.
Exposure to a broader set of object attributes. Playing with sensory materials that exhibit opposite traits (e.g., wet vs. dry, warm vs. cold, shiny vs. dull, smooth vs. rough, messy vs. clean) introduces children to a broad set of characteristics. Talking to babies while they interact with these objects can help expand their vocabulary and improve their ability to sort and classify.
Fuels creativity and teaches little ones to enjoy the process. The non-scripted nature of sensory play encourages creativity and experimentation. As babies grow it will also teach them to enjoy the experience instead of focusing solely on the finished product.
Increases their appetite for other new sensory experiences. As a child gets used to sensory play, they become more open to other new sensory experiences, which has multiple benefits. For example, some studies show that allowing fussy eaters to explore and play with their food improves their openness to trying new foods.
Children as young as 1 month old can benefit from sensory play activities.
A Few Ideas from Our BabySparks Development Program
Here’s a sample of our fun ideas for sensory play for babies. You can find nearly 100 more in the program!
Aromatic Sponge (Smell & Tactile)
|With a sponge dampened with a scented substance like body lotion, cinnamon, vanilla, breast milk, or formula, softly rub it under her nose, on her forehead, cheeks, chest and the rest of her skin, so that the smell is all over her body. Change the aroma each time you do this exercise.
Noisy wrists (Auditory)
|Tie bells or small rattles to the baby’s wrists and let him discover the sounds that he can make by moving his hands. Repeat the exercise but tie the objects to his feet.
Change in Temperature (Tactile)
|Dampen a washcloth or sponge with cold water. Gently rub on the baby’s body from head to toe. Then dampen the cloth with warm water and repeat the exercise.
Sensory Bathtub Play (Tactile)
|Let the baby play in the bathtub. Fill it with different baby-safe substances like water, shaving cream, sand, foam blocks, or plastic balls.