What is sensory play and why should you do it?
Sensory play for babies is basically any activity that allows your baby (or any toddler or kid) to safely explore using any combination of their senses.
These are the body’s sensory systems:
the auditory system – the sense of hearing
the olfactory system – the sense of smell
the oral sensory system – the sense of taste
the vestibular system – how we sense where our bodies are in space
the proprioceptive system – our sense of the way our bodies move
the tactile system – the sense of touch
the visual system – the sense of sight
the interoceptive system – the general sense of our body’s physical condition, such as hunger, thirst, and internal discomfort.
What are the benefits of sensory play for babies?
By providing a variety of baby-friendly, open-ended activities through a variety of every-day materials, they have the opportunity to discover how their senses work through imagination-based play and new experiences.
Research has shown that sensory play for babies actually plays an important role in the development of babies’ brains and bodies, building nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks. (source)
Sensory play supports their coordination, dexterity, and muscle strength. They increase fine motor skills when they have the opportunity to manipulate materials in a variety of ways. (source)
It enhances their vocabulary as they learn various sensory attributes such as hot, cold, slimy, wet.
What did we do?
I did this colored oats activity when G was 8 months old and he was so fascinated by the texture of the oats. He kept picking it up and looking at it, then dropping it, putting his hands back in it, letting the oats run through his fingers, and on and on for the next 20 minutes straight.
I think this can be so fun for babies because when do they get the opportunity to hold lots of small things. We’re always trying to keep the tiny objects away from them because of choking hazards. This gave G the opportunity to really dig his hands in, hold, and feel small new textures.
Yes, I’ll admit, he did try and eat it a few times in the beginning. I wasn’t to worried though because I used gluten free rolled oats with a natural plant based coloring, so if he actually swallowed any it wasn’t a concern for me. Just know though, there’s probably a good chance some oats will end up in the baby’s mouth.
(6-12 months, we did when he was 8 months old)
What you need:
1 cup of oats
1.5 TBS cold water
8-10 drops of food coloring – I used this natural one.
This is per color you want to make. So if you want to make 4 different colors, you’ll need 4 cups of oats total + 6 tbs water, and so on. I suggest making at least two.
Mix the food coloring and water first. Put one cup of oats in a ziplock bag, add the colored water, and shake shake shake! Not every bit will get color, and that’s ok. If you feel it needs more, you can add a little bit, slowly. I don’t recommend adding too much more though because this can quickly turn to porridge!
Spread the colored oats onto a paper towel in a thin layer for it to dry out. After an hour or so it should be ready for your baby to play with. I have found though that I like the texture best after it has been left out over night to dry.
Additional ideas to add to the oat bin:
Measuring cups and things to scoop
Put the oats in an empty water bottle and make a colorful shaker out of it
Put it in a ziplock bag with other things like plastic bugs and turn it into a discovery bag. Duck tape the sides closed so it’s sturdier and won’t accidentally open up and spill everywhere.
I hope you and your little one enjoy it as much as we did! Tag us in your posts. We love to see pictures!
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What things have you done for sensory play for babies?