Learn by Touch: 4 Steps Parents Can Take to Encourage Sensory Play at Home

Ah, babies. The sweet, toddling tykes we adore so much are the reason we strive to be the best parents we can be. As it turns out, with little ones, sometimes the easiest, simplest activities are the ones best at promoting growth and development. In early childhood especially, sensory play is a great way to help your baby explore and learn about the world: plus, it tend to be tons of fun for mom and dad, too. This is how we can incorporate sensory play in the home:

Sensory Bags

Keep the mess contained by sealing away the goods in squishy, squeezable sensory bags. A simple sandwich bag, filled with anything from hair gel to sand to body wash, topped with fun toys like glitter or alphabet magnets, and sealed with duct tape to avoid explosive messes can provide hours of fun to your tot, and let them explore new shapes, colors, and textures. Plus, they’re easy to coordinate for a specific theme, like for holidays. This means your child won’t get bored, because every bag is unique! They’re a great way to make learning letters and numbers more tactile and fun for baby, too, making them a great educational resource.

Sensory Tubs

Similar to a sensory bag, a sensory tub is any bin or bucket filled with interesting things for your child to explore. Because they’re not sealed, these are better for toddlers, who are a bit better about putting everything into their mouths. Some great sensory tub ideas include a dinosaur dig, where you fill the tub with sand, dinosaur toy figurines, and dinosaur “fossils”. Kids can dig in with hands or tools and play archaeologist, all while exploring the different textures, interacting with new scientific concepts, and, most importantly, having fun! Some other great sensory tub ideas include tailoring one to your child’s favorite story by incorporating toys or objects from the tale, then retelling the story through manipulating the toys in the bin.

Water Play

Water seems to fascinate all children equally, so what better way to play than with some good old H2O? For smaller children, a water table presents ample opportunity to frolic with a favorite medium, all while experimenting with physics via sinking, floating, splashing, and making currents. With adult supervision, the fun can be brought to a pool, like those that you might get from Bonnie & Clydes, where children can experience the feeling of being weightless, try floating and sinking themselves, and feel how different the resistance is between moving through water and through air.

Goop, Gloop, and Oobleck

There are so many different recipes for slimy substances that are child-safe available online that you’re sure to find one that pleases your child. Playing with these substances gives children the chance to learn about different states of matter, seeing how liquids pour through their fingers and adapt to their containers, while solids hold their shapes. Many slime recipes can be altered to add small toys or trinkets that add even more shapes, colors, and textures to identify and explore. Plus, nothing beats the squish of shoving your fingers into a goopy mess of Dr. Seuss’ famed oobleck, which can be both a solid and a liquid, making for an amazing teachable moment.

Giving your child the best doesn’t have to be hard. So much of learning throughout early childhood comes directly from playing and interacting with the world, so creating ample opportunity to explore new concepts in a developmentally appropriate manner does wonders for your little one’s growth. Try these easy play-time activities and see how your tot lights up as they learn.