So you’ve had your baby, brought him home (along with all that stuff!) and now have to raise him. Raising a new person is an overwhelming, exciting task. Though babies are delightful little lumps who don’t do much besides smile at first, it’s important to keep their brains stimulated as they learn about the world around them.
Sensory toys are a fantastic way to introduce your baby to the concepts of sight, touch and sound (food takes care of taste and smell!), as well as other concepts like cause and effect. Creating your own sensory toys is also a great cost-saving measure, too. Rather than spending lots on fancy, noisy plastic toys, these can be made from things you have around the house, also allowing you to add your personal touch.
These toys are designed for an interactive experience between you, your baby and the toys themselves. Language acquisition is built into this play as you narrate all the different things your baby is experiencing. She’ll build her motor skills too, making this a rich, educating experience while being highly entertaining!
Perfect for occupying your baby during the ever-important tummy time, a DIY sensory board is a fantastic way for her to learn about textures and colors. Your baby can explore what she hears, sees and feels as she interacts with the easy-to-make board. You can add to the learning experience by giving her descriptive words for all the different textures she’s touching and the colors she’s seeing.
All you’ll need to get started is a large piece of cardboard (a box lid would work perfectly), a hot glue gun and various flat things with different colors and textures. Kate from LaughingKidsLearn.com has excellent instructions and ideas for objects to securely glue down.
Sensory bags are another great way for your baby to explore different colors and textures. They’re easy to make with sturdy plastic freezer bags, duct tape and all sorts of liquids and gels to put inside. Body wash or clear shampoo are a great base, or you can combine water and baby oil with a few drops of food coloring for a lava lamp look. Use shaving cream to hide some small objects for a treasure hunt!
Inside the bags, your options are many! Your local dollar store is a great resource for inexpensive fillings. You can make themed bags with small toys like ocean animals, farm animals or dinosaurs. Add glitter for sparkle (and for your baby to learn more adjectives!) and beads for a neat feeling. Plastic alphabet letters are a great learning tool, and for older toddlers, a bag with their name spelled out in it is a great way to learn spelling skills!
As with all the sensory toys, safety is of utmost importance. Use heavy-duty freezer bags and reinforce the sides and zipper with duct tape. Make sure your baby is playing under close supervision in case of rips in the bags, since nothing within them should be ingested.
Discovery bottles are a fabulous way for your baby to manipulate objects! Simply fill clear, empty water bottles with all kinds of small objects. Try beads, glitter, small toys, pom-poms, buttons or sticks for an interesting visual (and audial) experience. Fill other bottles with water and objects for a different experience. Oil and water make a lava lamp look-alike, and dish soap is a great introduction to making bubbles! Use food coloring, glitter and mono-colored objects to make a series of rainbow discovery bottles for learning colors. Just make sure the caps are reinforced with superglue or sealant, or use duct tape to secure them tightly.
It’s a great way to introduce the concept of cause and effect as your baby shakes, rattles and rolls the bottles. Older toddlers will love the concept of “Does it sink or does it float?” and if you add a ball, you’ve got the fanciest bowling game you’ll ever see!
If sewing’s not your strong suit, there’s an incredibly easy way to make no-sew bean bags with socks. Fill them with any number of objects. Try beans, rice, pom-poms, buttons, cotton balls, beads, pennies or stones – just make sure nothing will cut through the socks! Your baby will learn the concepts of hard and soft, as well as those adjectives that make sensory play so enriching.
For older babies and toddlers, teach the concept of numbers with some customized number bean bags. Using fabric and a fabric marker, make a bag with a numeral 1 on one side and one dot on the other. Fill it with a single object, like a bean or a button. Repeat on the second bag with the numeral 2, two dots and two of your objects, and so forth.
It’s a long-standing truth that babies will always go for the tags on toys immediately – there’s even an industry for baby blankets with nothing but tags! Capitalize on your baby’s penchant for pulling and tugging on tags and cords by making him a tugging box.
Punch small holes in a small cardboard box (shoeboxes are a perfect size) and thread strings through one or two holes each. Twine, ribbon and pipe cleaners provide different textures, and you can vary the lengths, too. Your baby will work on his hand-eye coordination and cause-and-effect skills while indulging his proclivity for pulling.
Do you have any favorite sensory toys or activities? Share in the comments below!