Parents love to watch their children grow and explore. When it comes to babies, it almost seems to happen too quickly! As soon as they’re born, infants begin honing their sensory skills. Sensory learning is very important because the primary ways we interact with our world are through touch, sight, and sound. Babies reach out to touch objects, focus their eyes on faces, and turn their heads towards new noises. Sensory stimuli keep their brains active and learning—which is why baby toys are often so bright and loud!
However, parents don’t have to rely on toys to teach their children. In fact, parents themselves are often their greatest source of sensory stimulation. Infants learn to recognize their parents’ voice, face, and touch before anyone else’s, and sensory play ideas are often as simple as talking and moving around. Most parents contribute to sensory learning naturally, but if you’re stumped for new ways to interact with your baby or simply want a few more games to play, Sally and Phil Featherstone’s book 50 Fantastic Things to Do with Babies offers simple sensory activities for babies. Below are just a few activities to help boost your child’s sensory learning right from the start.
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What to Do:
- Sit holding your baby so that she is facing you. Make sure to support her head and neck and that your arms are comfortable
- Face your baby about 8 to 10 inches away (babies focus best at this distance)
- Talk or sing softly to your baby, watching her face as you do so
- While you talk, make different facial expressions such as opening your mouth wide or sticking your tongue out. See if she tries to copy you
- Move your head slowly from side to side and watch how your baby follows the movement with her eyes
- Keep talking, singing, and smiling. If your baby starts to get bored, put on a hat or a pair of glasses and do the exercise again
- A few everyday objects that are small and light enough for your baby to hold (ex. Spoons, a plastic lid, a toy)
What to Do:
- Make sure your baby is sitting comfortably and is well-supported. Sit in front of her so that you are face to face
- Hold out one of the objects and encourage her to take it. Hold it close enough for her to touch it first, but not so close that she need not reach for it
- Let your baby play with the object, talking and singing to her while she does. Make sure to smile and praise her for holding it
- After a few minutes, offer her another object and praise her if she reaches for it. Give her time to play with new objects and experiment
Shake It All About!
- Some things that rattle, like wrist rattles, tins full of beads, or purses with coins
What to Do:
- Collect a few rattling objects that are light enough for your baby to hold and shake
- Sit opposite your baby and show her one of the rattles. Shake it to get her attention
- Shake the rattle rhythmically, saying “Look, look, look. Shake, shake, shake.”
- Offer her the rattle. Shake it more to encourage her to reach out for it