Tara Ient, is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist, first-time mum and self-confessed children’s play and development nerd. She started @lets_play_charlie after having her first child – Charlie, not only as a way to share the fun things they were getting up to, but with the added benefit of OT developmental tips thrown in to support other mums!
The Importance of Sensory Play
The most powerful way to support your child’s development and learning is through play. How fun is that?! Secondary to attention and affection from loved ones, sensory play is often the most enjoyed type of play for babies (and us adults too!)
Sensory play is crucial for brain development as it helps build nerve connections allowing for more complex thinking, encourages development of gross and fine motor skills, supports language development and provides social interaction opportunities.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory Play is anything that engages the seven senses – sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch, movement and balance! Babies are naturally curious about everything in their world so giving them lots of opportunities to explore different things through sensory play is an ideal activity for babies (and kids of any age in fact!).
Below are a few ideas to try with your little ones. As always use your judgement, and never leave your baby unattended when exploring. Playing together provides more opportunities for sharing, bonding and communicating.
This is always a winner! If you have pets, there’s a reason why bub is attracted to their water bowl. It could be a simple dish of water to splash hands or feet in, a small amount of water on a highchair tray with some balls, or a set-up with floating things to look at, citrus fruit for smell, utensils to scoop and pour and even a touch of food colouring. The options are endless.
Mess-Free Finger Painting
Using a zip lock bag, cut a piece of paper to size. Squirt a little bit of paint on the paper and carefully place inside the bag, zip closed. Let your little one squish and bang away at it and at the end you have yourself a lovely artwork to keep! We make birthday cards out of these paintings!
Muffin Tray Exploration
Grab out that muffin tin and fill it with things for little hands to explore! You could also add in things to taste and smell!
Sensory Bags & Bottles
The great thing about these is you can use pretty much ANYTHING inside them! For the bottles use something plastic, fill and seal (you can glue closed if worried – however it is then not reusable). For the bags you can use ziplock bags and tape the edges down to the floor, baking tray, highchair tray or window etc. They do break easily; a more robust alternative is laminating pouches which can be sealed with a hair straightener. Just fill with desired object and some water, ensure no air is in the bag and seal the top closed!
Spaghetti & Jelly Messy Play
Cooked spaghetti and Jelly – enough said…Enjoy!
Coloured Rice & Pasta
You can make this out of uncooked pasta or rice! Use one cup of rice and one teaspoon of vinegar with the food colouring of choice – shake it to mix and then lay out on paper towel to dry for a few hours.
Wrapping Paper & Baking Foil
These all make wonderful sounds and are a great cause and effect activity that can be used with both hands and feet! For example tummy time on foil, crinkling baking paper with hands and kicking or ripping wrapping paper tucked under a couch cushion!