Tickle your baby’s senses and encourage movement and learning with these easy sensory activities for babies and toddlers! Easy, low cost and lots of fun!
Do you remember the feeling of playing with sand? Feeling dry sand slipping through your fingers, or seeing how it takes shape when water enters the equation. Squishing and pressing and kneading – there’s something so satisfying about the entire process!
The reason this feels so good is because it’s such a sensory experience. It involves our vision, smell and most importantly, our skin. Our bodies have a natural affinity to sensory stimulation and that is why sensory play is particularly important for growing children whose senses are still developing.
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is simply put, any play activity that encourages the use of different senses, through touching, seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing and moving. Children’s brains develop as they process information using their senses, and more sensory play encourages better brain development. Sensory play also directly influences the development of fine and gross motor skills.
Here are some benefits of sensory play for babies:
- Increases neural connections in the brain
- Increases body awareness in children as they use different parts in different ways
- Stimulates all senses, so every sense develops at the same pace
- Increases children’s comfort levels in unfamiliar situations and surroundings
- Allows young babies a gradual exposure to more stimuli rather than assaulting the senses at once
- Builds a foundation for problem solving and other learning skills
- Helps calm children down and reduces anxiety
- Teaches basic scientific processes by studying cause and effect
If you’re wondering when your baby is ready for sensory play, we have the answer – right now! Even if your baby is still in utero, she is being exposed to sounds, smells and tastes all around her. Even newborns can be exposed to sensory activities gradually, in an an age appropriate manner.
Here are a few things you may require during your sensory play activities with your little one:
- Plastic mat – To spread on the floor during messier activities
- Apron – To keep baby’s clothes clean and dry
- Plastic Bins – For making sensory bins and for containing all small parts
- Zip lock bags – To make sensory bags that don’t leak
- Natural Food Color – To dye the ingredients of your sensory bags or bins
- Wooden Blocks – To turn into any kind of sensory toy you want
- Felt Sheets – To make quiet books or add to sensory DIYs
25 Sensory Activities for Babies and Toddlers
Newborns can only see black and white in the beginning, and soon this extends to seeing primary colors. These monochrome cards from My Bored Toddler are perfect for the newborn stage. Just show your baby the cards one by one to stimulate his brand new senses. You can download the cards or make them yourself with white card and a black marker.
Once your baby can start seeing color, she’ll enjoy this color changing sensory bottle idea from Preschool Inspirations! Get contrasting colors so the effect will be more vivid for baby. Watching this will also have a calming effect on a fussy infant.
Baby ready for tummy time play? Then this sensory hula hoop from Creating Really Awesome Fun Things is perfect for you now! Get a regular hula hoop, cover it with different kinds of fabric and attach a bunch of baby safe toys that make different noises.
This is actually something many families have been doing in India for generations! In case you can’t find a traditional baby anklet, you can easily make one at home with some chunky bells and soft fabric. Let baby kick her legs and listen to that lovely little jingle!
An Oball is a popular baby toy, and Little Worlds Big Adventures shows us how easy it is to turn it into a sensory wonder! Stuff the ball with whatever you like – wool, crochet, velvet or anything else, and you can even put a noisy rattle inside for a one of a kind sensory toy!
6. Sensory Floor Plates
Baby Care Academy features a fun sensory activity for babies who’re starting to crawl. If you have a space in your home that you can dedicate for baby’s play, then this one is a must try! Make sure you don’t put in anything sharp that can tear the plastic or hurt baby’s fingers.
If you don’t want to keep a part of your home hostage with duct tape and plastic, you can opt for a sensory rug instead. Sew it yourself or get a tailor to make one like this one from Krokozyablik. This is a great way to use up scraps of fabric and odds and ends that are safe for baby to play with.
Here’s a simpler version of the sensory rug – sensory mats from The Imagination Tree! Unused coasters would work well for this, as would plastic or wooden lids with smooth edges. Stick on an assortment of objects with strong glue and let baby touch and feel each one in turn.
A quiet book is a great idea to keep young kids occupied, especially while traveling. This one from Powerful Mothering is really easy to make, and doesn’t require sewing. Just gather felt sheets and add your own customized elements like feathers, pom poms or even a cute mirror! You can also buy a quiet book online if you like.
Few things give as much sensory satisfaction as playing with mud! However, if your little one is too young for real mud, you can make do with safer and cleaner substitutions like cloud dough. Check out this recipe from Lemon Lime Adventures that’s absolutely safe for baby to play with.
Just like cloud dough, play dough is also an excellent sensory activity for babies, and you can make your own! Learning 4 Kids has an edible play dough recipe so you don’t have to worry if your little explorer gets a little too curious about what he’s playing with!
Here’s a great way to keep your baby occupied while you make dinner – just share the ingredients with him! Happy Toddler Play Time shows us how some frozen peas can keep baby occupied for quite a while so you can relax while watching him have fun smushing peas!
Wouldn’t it be lovely to sit inside a box like this! Give your baby this magical experience from Little Learning Club with a cardboard box and some string lights. Just make sure that the lights are out of babies reach and the holes are too small for the lights to fall through the box.
This is a board that’s so easy older siblings can put it together in half an hour! You can use a large cardboard and Teach Me Mommy gives us some ideas on what to fix on it – pom poms, bits of paper of different textures, fabric scraps some bits and bobs – all secured properly.
If you want something you can carry around in your purse, then these color cards from Teach Me Mommy should work. The best part is the same set of cards will work for all kids. Baby can touch and feel the elements on the card, while toddlers can use them to learn about colors.
Got a bunch of old photo frames lying around? Little Lifelong Learners shows us how to turn it into a baby learning tool! Use command hooks to hang them up on a low level on the wall. You can frame practically anything you want, from a microfiber duster to fleece to gift wrap to sandpaper!
Here’s a sensory activity that’ll look gorgeous on a sunny day! Mostly Under Control shows us how to turn hair gel into a fun sensory activity for babies and toddlers, using dye and zip lock bags. Attach them to a sunny window and watch the light come through.
If you can get your hand on some plain wooden blocks or want to reuse some old ones, we can’t think of a better project than these sensory cubes from Red Ted Art. The opportunities are endless with this one, and you can even take along a block or two when on the go.
This sensory board from Le Carnet d’Emma looks like so much fun! It’s got all kinds of regular household items like bottle caps and loofahs along with craft supplies like pom poms and feathers. Enough to keep your baby occupied for a long time!
Do you use a lot of baby wipes or wet wipes? Then stock up on those wipe packet lids – they’re perfect to make this peek a boo sensory board! Opening the lids is a fine motor activity for babies, and discovering what’s hidden just adds to the overall experience.
Who says toddlers can’t learn about science? A lot of sensory play is a wonderful starting point for learning about science concepts, like this temperature exploration activity from Little Learning Club. Make sure you use good quality plastic bottles so the temperature variations don’t cause it to warp.
This fun activity for toddlers from Little Learning Club that can be turned into all kinds of fun games. Put in an assortment of objects in the box – you can stick to a theme like animals, fruits or vegetables – and let your little one guess what it is only by feeling. A kiwi is scratchy, while an apple is smooth – such a fun way to learn!
23. Texture Walk
Now that your toddler is up and about, it’s time to have some walking sensory fun! Create a custom texture walk like this one from A Cotton Kandi Life. Just make sure that the surface is not slippery or spiky that it hurts your toddler’s feet. Something mildly tickly or rough should be fine – watch out for those expressions!
This is something that even adults will love to play with! You’ve probably seen this fabric on cushions and other home furnishings or stationery, and you can easily turn it into a fun sensory activity – for the whole family! Check out the instructions to make this board from Home Grown Friends.
Bubbles are an inseparable part of childhood, and Hello, Wonderful shows us that you’re never too young to enjoy them! Little kids will love blowing into the bubbles and popping them as they rise – be sure to have your camera ready for some lovely pictures!
Water beads are quite popular among kids, and if you’re worrying about their synthetic origins, Kandy Apple Mama is here to put you at ease! These edible water beads are made from jumbo tapioca pearls – our very own sabudana! Get the large ones and be aware of choking hazards.
Along with these activities, you can also try out some art projects for babies and toddlers to try – they also involve a lot of sensory play, and you can make the paint yourself at home.
Whichever activity you choose for your baby and whatever his age, one thing is super important – NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNSUPERVISED. It doesn’t matter how baby safe you think the activity is, there should always be an adult with the child at all times. You can sit back and watch your child play, but you should still have an eye on her. Here are some more tips to consider:
- Use strong glue and make sure that small parts are firmly fixed and cannot be removed
- Use natural food colors instead of synthetic ones
- Watch out for choking hazards and if you see any, avoid that activity
- Avoid using materials that may contain lead as it may be poisonous
It’s best to play with your child – it’s quite fascinating to watch how young children respond to each activity. Sensory activities are also great opportunities for siblings to bond. If your little one doesn’t seem to like one activity, it’s no problem, you can go ahead and try another one – after all, there’s plenty to choose from!