Despite not being able to communicate emotions, when your little bundle of joy is born, they are constantly exploring the world around them.
As your baby grows, they’ll be exposed to many different types of play, all of which support their transition through to childhood. Our dolls prams and pushchairs help children develop an imagination and provide them with a creative outlet to rehearse real-life social situations. But to begin with, lets look at how a newborn might engage with you.
There are many ways in which a baby can connect with you, including looking into your eyes, feeling the warmth of your skin during feeding, and your heartbeat when taking a nap. They can hear you singing to them and discover their thumbs and feet by putting them in their mouth. Babies can even tell your scent apart from others.
While this is a part of getting to know the world, this is a sign that your baby is on the path of sensory development.
For now, we’ll focus on sensory play. While it is a natural form of play, they do need your support and encouragement when pursuing it. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is any activity that stimulates a baby’s senses; smell, taste, touch, sight, movement, hearing, and balance. Rich sensory experiences support exploration and encourage your baby to use scientific processes while creating, investigating, and playing.
Sensory play activities allow your baby to make strong connections to process and respond to different sensory information. This helps them deal with different situations in their life.
For example, a child may find it difficult to play with another child or a toy when there is lots of noise. Sensory play that includes exploring different sounds, and challenging the child to block out certain noises when focusing on the play time, allows them to adapt to the situation quickly.
Another example where sensory play is helpful is when a child is fussy with foods that have a wet texture. The use of sensory play activities helps your child in smelling, touching, and playing with a similar texture.
This makes them develop trust and understanding of the texture, building positive pathways in the brain that make it say it’s safe to have wet food. In this way, they are more forthcoming to new textures.
Sensory games tend to be unplanned and unstructured, which allows your baby to play and explore at their own pace. There’s no rush or timeframe!
When is the best time to start introducing sensory play with my baby?
Babies are exposed to different smells, sounds, tastes, textures, and sights around them as soon as they’re born.
You can start giving them a rich sensory experience to build their understanding of the world. Apart from being an integral part of child development, this can also be a sweet, simple way for you to bond with your baby, as they feel they have a partner in the activities.
When your baby is about 4 months, they will become intrigued with toys that make a noise when shaken. Give toys to them so they can investigate and try them out. You can start sensory play at this point and watch how your baby acts on different sensory occasions during the day. For more, read our guide on when babies start playing with toys.
It is important to try not to push your little one beyond their limits. Too much stimulation can become overwhelming for babies, which will make them closed off to the experience altogether. Babies will let you know when they are overwhelmed by fussing, turning their heads away, and crying.
As your baby starts trying hands-on sensory games, let them set the pace. Some babies will go right in, exploring a new sensation, such as modelling clay and mud, while others are more cautious and prefer to take it slow.
If your baby seems hesitant in sensory play, provide gentle encouragement by partaking in the activity so they can copy you. You can offer one toy at a time to avoid overstimulation. Remember to notice when your baby needs a break.
What sensory activities can I do with my baby?
Your baby is more of an observer in sensory activities; however, they will soon start reaching, mouthing, grabbing, and crawling toward the sensory item.
Here are some simple sensory games you can play with your baby.
A hanging mobile is a source of visual stimulation that helps your baby enhance their vision skills. Babies in the crib need something interesting to look at. A hanging mobile has a bit of motion, reflection, and colour that stimulates their mind and eyes.
You should replace the sensory objects every few months and play with your baby by moving and touching the mobile, so it catches their attention.
Singing songs for your baby doesn’t always have to be a nighttime routine, as singing can also help them improve their listening skills. Singing with your baby offers lots of sensory development and brain benefits. They will try to mimic you and learn concepts such as rhythm, tone, and language skills.
Looking into the mirror with your baby
Position a mirror, so your baby looks at themselves and interacts with their cute little reflection staring back at them. Help them learn that the reflection is them. Babies are developing self-awareness every day and exploring their environments. Mirror games can help them enhance their visual skills.
Different textures on a board are fun and can give your baby different sensory stimulation as they figure out their sense of touch. These different textures are fun for your baby because they are discovering them for the first time. Materials such as tin foil, string, beads, cotton balls, rocks, shells, leaves, sponges, buttons, and wood are great ones to start with.
Take an empty see-through water bottle and fill it with different objects, such as marbles, sequins, and glitter, then seal the cap with non-toxic glue. Sensory bottles that contain interesting objects can give your baby visual stimulation, like a snow globe. You can hold it, turn it over, and shake it to excite them.
This involves laying your baby on their stomach for some time when they are awake. You should have a bright, colourful play mat so they can explore the colours. This strengthens your baby’s neck, back, shoulders, and core muscles.
Feeling different textures on their bodies will help your baby’s sense of touch. It can also help them develop hand-eye coordination as they look at their hands, seeing how they move and what they can do. This improves their motor skills.
Sponges and water
A small tray with water and colourful sponges will help them develop body awareness, explore objects, and a sense of touch. Sensory games have to be simple and safe, especially as your babies and toddlers want to put everything in their mouths!
Colourful sponges and water are baby-safe objects as they can put them in their mouth, splash in the water, and squeeze the sponges.
Some ice cubes in a plastic bowl with some water is a fun sensory game that your infant will love. They will love splashing in the water, enhancing their fine motor skills by holding the ice cubes and learning about warm and cool temperatures.
Babies and toddlers love sensory games with water and ice, and parents love how low-cost and simple these games are. The clean-up is also minimal, but the learning opportunities are rich.
What activities should I do with my baby?
You can play together, read books, play with toys and sing songs together; your baby will love every minute! Playing and bonding together helps you and your baby get to know each other. It also makes them feel loved and secure.
How much sensory time does my baby need?
You should start your sensory games in three short sessions every day. As your baby gets used to the idea, you should gradually increase the length of the session.
Should I force my child to do activities?
Not at all. Forcing your baby to do activities does not provide them with the benefits you want and will instead cause stress to the point that there’s no fun or learning in the games. You should explore the reason behind the lack of participation and work around it.
Expand your little one’s playtime with Play Like Mum
At Play Like Mum, we are passionate about providing you with the best resources and information on new ways to engage babies, toddlers and children in play.
Our dolls prams and pushchairs are ideal for little ones aged from 18 months all the way to 12 years and older. Our toddler dolls prams are especially important for a baby’s development into the world of play. We also offer a wide range of dolls pram accessories including dolls high chairs to extend sensory play for little ones.