The benefits of sensory play are endless. Sensory play can help with cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and more! I love doing sensory play with L&H for all those reasons – I like knowing they’re having fun but also learning too. I call it, playing with purpose! But also, honestly I like doing sensory play because adds new and different activities into our daily routine because really, there’s only so many times in a day I can read “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?”. Plus, a great thing about sensory play is that it doesn’t have to be fancy or cost much (or any!) money.
Any age, any stage can benefit from child led, parent guided sensory play. I began making my own activities for L&H when they were 11 months old – but prior to that I would do things like letting them feel the bark on the trees at the park or touching kiwis as I put them in the bag at the grocery store. Even if your baby is very young, you can still find ways to engage their senses with touch, hearing and sight. Then later on add in taste and smell!
As I said, when L&H were almost a year old I began making my own sensory activities. We now have a small collection of DIYed activities and after getting some feedback on my Instagram page recently I wanted to share some of our favorites. I’m hoping this will be an ongoing and growing series of posts as I add more items to our collection.
Please note, before I go any further the safety of your little one(s) should be of the upmost concern. With some of these activities you are giving your children items that are not traditionally what we would think of as a “toy” for a baby. That being said, please supervise at all times and do not leave your child unattended during these activities.
Our Fabric Box was my first attempt at DIY sensory play activity – and I’m pleased to say it is the gift that keeps on giving. The first time I introduced it to the twins, they sat and played with it, uninterrupted for 45 minutes. Do you know how much time that is in baby time? I’m pretty sure that’s like the equivalent of 3 adult hours.
Like many babies, I noticed that L&H got a huge kick out of pulling the wipes out of the container whenever I changed their diapers. So I decided to cut up some fabric scraps into various shapes (no need to be tidy with it!) and stuff them into an old wipes box – you could also use a tissue box. The result? Endless giggles, and a lot of fun. You can do this with any type of fabric – all different textures, colors and thicknesses! I like to say the color of the fabric as L&H pull it out of the box. Fabric stores often sell bags of scraps for really cheap, or if you have any old stained baby clothes that you’re planning to get rid of you can cut those up. I used pinking sheers to help the edges from fraying, but that’s not completely necessary. Once they’ve pulled all the fabric pieces out – I stuff them back in the container and they start again!
Squishy bags are a great sensory activity for babies of all ages – and BONUS, it’s a great activity to use on the go like at a restaurant or flying on a plane. Squishy bags are exactly what they look like – bags filled with hair gel and trinkets! L&H love to smoosh them, slap them, and flip them over and over to look at the objects floating inside.
These are very simple to make. All you need are Ziplock Freezer Bags – I used quart sized, but you could do a smaller size, or even go bigger with the gallon size. (Note: if you are using these on-the-go you may want to stick with a smaller size. A gallon bag could get quite heavy.) Fill the bags about halfway with hair gel – get the cheapo hairgel at the drugstore. The kind that you’d use if you want your hair to be like cement! For trinkets you can use anything – I used 9mm pony beads but you could use buttons, flat marbles, small dice, fabric flowers, etc. Anything small without sharp edges – you don’t want it to poke through the bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can then seal the bag. Then run packing or duct tape all around the edges to reinforce it. Don’t skimp on this step – otherwise you’ll end up with a little one covered in hair gel!
Pom Pom Buckets
I made Pom Pom Buckets to help L&H practice their fine motor skills as well as their pincer grips – plus pom poms are also great for sensory play because they are colorful, squishy, and soft! These are extremely easy to make – all you need are some quart sized plastic containers and pom poms. For younger kiddos, I’d suggest sticking with larger pom poms that are at least 4cm. I ordered an assorted sized package because I didn’t know what would work best and found the larger ones are best for little ones. Cut a few small holes in the lid that are about the same size as the pom poms – and that’s it! So simple. L&H love to push the pom poms in the containers one by one and I like to say the colors as they do it. But I think their favorite part is when I take the lid off and they dump the pom poms out onto themselves then start over again!
What are your favorite things to do with your little one — do you have any favorite sensory activities? I’m always searching for new and fun things to do with L&H. I’ve already got some ideas for new things — and I will be sure to share new activities that we add to our collection in future posts!