Babies rely on their senses to find their way in the world. Every smell, taste, sight, sound and touch is a new experience and helps to form their view of things that happen all around them. Before they are even born, babies will know and recognise the sounds of their parents voices, and will quickly know and respond to familiar faces too. All of the studies that have been done into the benefits of play for babies indicate towards the importance of helping young babies to experience as many different levels of sensory play as possible. As you know, we are passionate about play and we know only too well that this starts young!
The benefits of sensory play
Sensory play helps babies to explore and form opinions, but it also helps to develop essential learning skills too. Communication skills are enhanced by sounds and visual cues, and vital bonding skills that form through one to one play with a parent help baby to feel secure, loved and confident too.
Before the age of six months, babies rely heavily on parents or carers to provide stimulation in short bursts and respond well to simple games and activities that are easy to set up. Essential hand to eye co-ordination can be encouraged and emotional developments are another great benefit to this kind of targeted play. So now you know, what’s stopping you?
- Keep it simple. Young babies respond well to bright block colours and contrasts, but often black and white are the best combinations to use at first. Once baby is a little older and able to focus her eyes a little better, go for brightly coloured toys such as the wonderful Rubbabu soft balls or the Haba clutching toy colour snake. Allow your baby time to explore the toy with her hands and show her how to move it, letting her follow your actions with her eyes.
- Keep play sessions shorts. Musical toys are wonderful for sensory play but music (and lights) can quickly tire young babies so keep an eye on her temperament. When she starts to fuss or show signs of tiredness, clear the toys away for another time to avoid over stimulation.
- Keep it age appropriate. Make sure your toys meet safety standards and are appropriate for young babies. As soon as they can, babies like to use their mouths to explore, so make sure there are no loose or small parts that can be swallowed. Check toys regularly.
Toys to use in sensory play
- Lights. Babies love to watch lights and this is one of the easiest ways to provide a good sensory experience for young babies. We love using torches or small lights with the Wonderworld Rainbow sound sensory blocks as it creates a wonderful new way to play. Which moves us nicely on to…
- Sounds. Start gently, with musical toys perhaps, and move on to toys that babies can manipulate to make sounds with themselves. Again, the rainbow sound sensory blocks are perfect for this, but we also love the Haba discovery blocks with sounds too. These are suitable from 12 months so please do supervise closely or use yourself to expose baby to new sounds. Another great toy for creating sounds is the Haba clutching toy Triolini (from 6 months) and Haba chimes, which you can use to create soft sounds for baby. These are suitable from two years so perhaps an older sibling can help!
- Textures. Babies love to explore textures through their mouth and their fingers, so always lie them on a soft blanket with other textures that they can explore too. Textured soft toys are also great for sensory play, such as the Haba fabric ball which is suitable from birth and has lots of different textured fabrics to explore. We also love the Lilliputiens Walter the Dragon dancing clutch toy for something a little different!
Once baby is able to sit up unaided (usually around the age of six months) the play can take on a whole different level of activity. Next week we’re looking at sensory play for babies aged 6-12 months- do let us know your favourite toys and we will try to include you in our post!