Sensory Play for Babies

We talk a lot about sensory play for toddlers and preschoolers, but did you know sensory play for babies is also beneficial? It can really help with their development in a variety of ways that you don't want to miss out on. I'll be breaking down why sensory pay for babies is important, suggesting a few baby sensory play ideas by age, as well as sharing some important safety tips.


Before we move on, I want to recap on what sensory play is. In short, it's exploring your environment through your senses. This can be through visual stimulation, sound, touch, taste, or even smell. This can include bright colours, strong smells, different textures, and so much more.

Let's explore why all of this is so important for babies.

Is sensory play important for babies?

In short, yes it's important for babies to engage with sensory play. It helps support brain development in a variety of ways, which I will explain below.

Motor Skills: The first year of life is a time for your baby to develop a lot of motor skills from learning to hold their head up, sitting up unassisted, pulling themselves up to stand, and more. There are a variety of sensory play activities that can help support these first milestones.

5 Senses: Sensory play allows babies to explore their environment through texture, temperature, sound, visual stimuli, and so much more. As babies develop through their first year, sensory play will help support their developing senses.

Language: Language development is a huge milestone in the first several years of life. As you explore with your baby, you can talk about what's in front of them to help them develop language. The more they hear you talk, the better!

PS: if you want to learn more, read this article about the importance of sensory play and this article about baby milestones.

The good news though is that sensory play for babies is very simple. You're likely already doing it without even realizing it! After all, sensory play is simply any activity that stimulates the senses and encourages them to explore. This means anything where they are interacting with their environment likely counts as sensory play!

What age can I start sensory play with my baby?

Sensory play can start at any age - it will just look different at different stages! A baby who has just learned to hold their head up won't be doing the same sensory activities as a baby who can pull themselves up, for example.

Let me explain what sensory activities will look like at different ages. I'll also share more specific sensory activities for babies below.

Newborn: In the first months, the world is incredibly new to your baby. You'll be setting foundations for sensory exploration as they develop eyesight and learn to hold their head up. Visual stimuli and sound will be key activities at this point.

3 months: At this point, your baby will start developing senses and getting curious about what's around them. This is a great time to introduce different textures, sounds, and other engaging stimuli.

6 months: Lots of key milestones are hit around this age! They will be able to explore their environment a lot more through fun sensory activities. This is when sensory play gets a lot more exciting for them.

9 months: By this age, your baby will be further developing key senses and working on motor skills. This comes into play a lot with sensory activities that will help support those developing skills.

12 months: At this age, sensory play really starts to take off as they start to get immersed in imagination, start developing more key language, and can explore their physical environment much more than ever before.

It's so fun to watch all these things develop and see what they're interested in when it comes to sensory play for babies! Let's get more specific in regard to the types of sensory activities for babies.

Sensory ideas for babies

If you want more specific sensory activities for babies, there are so many fun ideas you could explore! Remember that sensory play can be as simple or complex as you want, so you can use whatever you already have or add to the experience through engaging activities.

0-6 months

Prior to 6 months, most sensory play for babies will be surrounding tummy time as they develop key skills and hit important milestones.

  • Provide textured mats or soft blankets for them to feel
  • High-contrast (black and white) books, cards and toys for them to look at
  • Toys that make small sounds such as rattles or ankle toys
  • Singing and talking to your baby
  • Skin-to-skin with your baby

6-12 months

Sensory play at this age starts to get a lot more interesting. This is when they start to hit more key milestones, develop their senses, and so much more. This is when baby sensory activities become more complex (and more fun!).

  • Mashing up food during mealtime
  • Sensory bins with soft materials
  • Water play with floating toys
  • Finger paints for them to play in
  • Soft squeezable toys
  • Tactile wall when they can pull themselves up
  • Sensory bottles for them to look at

Check out these sensory activity ideas as well:

12-18 months

Once your baby gets closer to toddler years, sensory play gets even more fun. You can explore even more as more milestones are being hit. With imagination starting to flourish here, there are so many fun ideas you can create!

  • Explore playdough with sensory tools
  • Create homemade sensory boards with various textures
  • Music toys or homemade instruments
  • Outdoor nature walks to explore textures and sounds

Check out these sensory activities for babies:

Safety tips for sensory play

The last thing to really mention about sensory play for babies is how important it is to take safety precautions at all times. As with everything, things can go wrong quickly!

If you follow these tips, you can focus on how much fun you're having with your little one!

  • Always supervise babies during play activities
  • Choose toys and materials that are suitable for their age 
  • Avoid small objects that can be swallowed or choked on
  • For things like playdough or fingerpaint - opt for edible materials
  • Make sure to clean and sanitize regularly since so much will go in their mouths

Final thoughts

Sensory play for babies is so much fun to explore and really helps so much with their development. Especially as you narrate what you do with them, explore their senses, and help them develop motor skills.

If you haven't thought of setting up sensory activities for your baby before, I highly encourage it! It's such a fun way to help them explore and develop. Watching babies explore their surroundings and learn by exploring their senses is so much fun.

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