Your child soaks up information like a sponge, so every activity is an opportunity to teach! Try one of these sensory projects – they’re activities that involve textures, colors, scents or sounds that stimulate and heighten a child’s senses. These games can be played at home, require items you probably already own and are designed to help improve a specific sensory skill.
As you try them out, keep in mind that everyone learns differently, so some games may not jive with your child’s learning style. If one game doesn’t seem like a fit, try a different one!
Note: It’s important to keep an eye on your baby while they’re heightening their senses to avoid any accidents.
Name game. If your baby is younger than six months old, he or she is only able to respond to loud noises, but they're starting to fine-tune their hearing. To teach your baby that certain objects make certain sounds, place them in their crib. Say their name repeatedly while standing on one side until they look at you. Then, move to the opposite side of the crib and repeat the game. Do this four or five times – they won’t get sick of it!
Egg noisemakers. If you have any leftover plastic Easter eggs, use them to make a sensory toy for your older infant or young toddler (10-13 months). Simply fill the plastic eggs with popcorn kernels and seal them tightly. Keep an eye on your child while they’re playing – you don’t want a kernel to come loose! Enjoy watching your young one discover the sound and delight in their new instrument.
Mix and match cotton balls. Improve your older infant’s (10-13 months) odor awareness with cotton balls and a few different scents (vanilla, lemon, peppermint and vinegar all work well). Put a few drops of each scent on two cotton balls each, and then mix up all of the balls. Have your kid smell and then match the two like-scented cotton balls and group them together. Note: If your child is old enough to talk, have them describe what they smell.
Scented sculpting clay. Not only can you make play dough for your toddler – you can make it scented so it will be a sensory experience for them. All you need for this project is flour, salt, cream of tartar, water, vegetable oil and Kool-Aid. Mix it together over the stove and you have play dough! (For more detailed instructions, visit A Nation of Moms.) Let your older infant or young toddler sniff and sculpt. If they’re old enough to chat, have them describe what they smell.
Textured painting. What’s better than finger paint? Finger paint that feels good! Mix coffee grounds, seasonings or oatmeal with paint on separate paper plates (we recommend assigning a unique color for each item). Let your older infant or young toddler use their hands to feel the texture differences while they paint. This can get messy! Use plenty of newspaper to line the floor or table where your little Picasso is working. Note: This should be a closely monitored activity – you don’t want your little one to eat paint! Once the fun is over, make sure they receive a good bath so there isn’t any tempting paint residue for them to taste later.
The Cheerios game. Older infants (about a year old) can learn how to use their pointer finger and thumb together with Cheerios! This one is simple. Spread the Cheerios on a piece of paper or a high chair tray. Show them how to pick up the cereal with your pointer and thumb, and then applaud them every time they do it. Note: This is a great game for babies that still put everything in their mouth.
Spaghetti hide-and-seek. This game will help develop a child's visual attention to detail, and is great for older infants or young toddlers. Fill a large pot with cold, cooked spaghetti. To keep the spaghetti from sticking, use a lot of salt in the water during the cooking process. Then, hide a few brightly colored toys in the spaghetti. Let your little one “seek” the toys using their hands. Tip: To take the game up a visual notch, use food coloring to dye the spaghetti.
Rainbow bath. This bath may not get your infant squeaky clean, but it will be a lot of fun and teach them about colors. Fill a sink or bathtub (if your child has graduated to real baths) with a bubble bath mixture and warm water. Then, add food coloring in varying colors and use a Popsicle stick to swirl the food coloring into the bubbles. That’s it! You’ll need to give them a proper bath after the “fun” bath to wash away any color residue. Tip: If your child can chat, ask them to describe the colors as they’re playing with the rainbow bubbles.