There are some things in this world that cannot be taught or explained. The scent of rain on a hot day. The feeling of sand between your toes. The squish of warm dough. And for babies, that’s extra true, since they can’t understand a lot of what you say anyway. That’s why sensory play exists.
What is sensory play?
It’s any activity that stimulates the senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. A sensory activity could include more than one of the senses, like say, taste-safe oobleck. If it is made from edible ingredients, baby can taste it, touch it, listen to it, and see what it does when they engage with it.
How does sensory play help?
None of us exists in a bubble. We interact with the world every day, from the moment we wake up and brush our teeth until the second we get back into bed between crisp, cool sheets. With babies, we want to normalise different sensory experiences. Introducing sensory play early can help to reduce sensory difficulties when your baby grows up.
What does sensory play look like for babies?
In younger babies who aren’t walking yet, the world is hugely stimulating. If your baby is eating solids, allow them to explore some cooked and cooled pasta, or dig their fingers into cooled mashed potatoes. A bowl of water — taped down or in a heavy dish — for them to splash in allows them to explore cause and effect and it’s just plain fun.
Where should babies experience sensory play?
The location is up to you. Sensory play can be done with hands in a highchair or on the floor with the baby’s full body. It can be in the bath with you playing with bubbles or sitting next to a dish taped to the floor. Different sensory activities will lend themselves to different locations.
Is all sensory play messy?
Much is, and if that upsets you, try to mitigate it by keeping some outside or spreading out a washable shower curtain or something underneath your baby to catch the mess. Others, like a sensory path — different textures materials like foil, fabric, bubble wrap and similar, taped to the floor — are not. Each type stimulates different areas of your babies brain making them all useful.
Sensory play and body movement
Sensory play isn’t just for brain development though. It also stimulates gross motor skills and body movement, too. Take the sensory path mentioned previously. That can be helpful for babies that are new to or near to crawling or new walkers, encouraging them to go further to experience the different textures. It also helps with fine motor control, pincer grip, and hand strength, which all contributes to learning to hold and use a pen down the road.
There’s no right or wrong way to “do” sensory play. Simply make sure that it’s age-appropriate and safe for your baby to engage in and stay close to supervise them. There are so many sensations in the world and so much that babies haven’t experienced. Sensory play gives them the chance to do so much great work and it’s fun!
What is Sensory Play?: https://www.famlii.com/what-is-sensory-play/
Sensory Play Activities For Babies: https://theimaginationtree.com/sensory-play-activities-babies/
Importance of Sensory Stimulation for Babies: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Importance-of-Sensory-Stimulation-for-Babies.aspx