6 brilliant sensory play activities for your baby

Check out these amazing brain-boosting sensory play ideas for babies under 1 – with simple instructions on how to set them up at home for your baby to have fun with

best baby sensory play ideas

Sensory play is simple, fun – and baby-brain-boosting. Play activities that stimulate your baby’s senses of touch, sight, hearing taste, smell – and engage movement and balance, too – encourage your baby to explore, investigate and do the kind of hands-on learning that really helps to develop core thinking skills and improve hand-eye coordination.

Advertisement

And the really cool thing is, baby sensory activities are super-simple to set up at home. We’ve pulled together our favourite ones here for you, each of them made with easy-to-find household items and taking no more than 15 minutes to create. Bring on the play!

The best baby sensory activities you can make at home

1. Baby sensory colour bags to pat and squish

sensory play bags
Pic: @codidurre/Instagram

We love this genius sensory play idea shared by Aussie mum Codi Durre on Instagram: sealed bags of coloured water taped to the floor for your baby to pat and feel and watch the water swish and sparkle around inside. You can see from Codi’s video post just how fascinated her baby is – and how much play potential this activity offers.

It’s super simple to put together…

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Water
  • 4 zip-lock bags
  • Food colouring in 4 different colours
  • Glitter and/or oil (optional)

Here’s what to do:

  • Put water in each bag – not too much, though, as you want your child to be able to push the water around.
  • Add the food dye – and, if you like, glitter and/oil, to make patterns within the bags.
  • Get as much air out the bags as possible, then tightly seal them shut.
  • Tape the bags to the kitchen floor or any outdoor space
  • Let your baby play!

Safety note: Always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.

2. Baby sensory tray for hide and seek

Pic: Amy Leech
Pic: Amy Leech

This is a brilliant way of creating a baby sensory tray, giving your baby or toddler a fascinating touch-and-feel experience. It also helps develop their fine motor skills and is perfect whether your baby is only just sitting up or is more mobile.

Mum Amy Leech and her son Arco, 13 months, made the sensory tray in our pictures. “Arco loved running the rice through his hands and grabbing handfuls of it,” she says. “It can be rather messy with rice going in several directions, so I’d suggest you either put it on a mat (for an easier clear-up) or play with it outside.”

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A selection of small, baby-friendly toys
  • A deepish tray
  • Some rice or pearl barley (dry beans, grains or pasta shapes will work too)
  • A scoop or plastic cup (optional)
Pic: Amy Leech

Pic: Amy Leech

Here’s what to do:

  • Put the toys in the tray, then fill it with dried rice and pearl barley until the toys are covered up or barely showing.
  • Then you can give your baby the scoop or cup to let them dig down to find the toys – or you can just let your child dive straight in with their hands.

Safety note: Always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.

3. Baby sensory rainbow spaghetti to pick up, dangle and mix

rainbow spaghetti
Pic: Amy Leech

It’s smooth and slippery, wiggly and dangly – and all sorts of lovely bright colours: coloured spaghetti is fab for baby sensory play and is dead easy to make at home.

Mum Amy Leech (who made our Baby Sensory Tray, above) made it for her son Arco, 13 months, and says he loved the bright colours and feeling the texture as of the spaghetti as he moved it between his hands.

She also has an ace tip for making sure the food colouring you use to turn the spaghetti different colours doesn’t stain your child’s hands. “I found it best to leave the pasta to absorb the colouring for 10 minutes before emptying it into the play tray,” she says.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Half a packet of spaghetti
  • Zip-lock sandwich bags
  • 4 different food colourings (gels or liquid)
  • Tray
  • Playmat (if playing with the spaghetti inside)
Pic: Amy Leech
Pic: Amy Leech

Here’s what to do:

  • Take the spaghetti, cook it, drain and run cold water through it
  • Separate the cooled spaghetti out into 4 zip-lock sandwich bags
  • Add a different food colouring to each bag
  • Squish the bags around so the food colouring is evenly distributed. Leave for 10 minutes for the food colouring to be fully absorbed.
  • Empty each bag into the tray, pop a play mat on the floor and let your baby enjoy exploring the different textures, colours and feel of the spaghetti

Safety note: Always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.

4. Baby sensory play gym with lights and a crinkly floor

sensory play gym
Pic: Emma Palmer

This inspired idea has been shared by mum Emma, who was missing taking her baby to activity classes, so set up her own sensory play gym at home.

“I set up this sensory gym with the bits I have in my house and ordered some  extra accessories from Amazon,” she says. “We do it once a week when I would normally have been at class and it’s been great.”

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A foil blanket
  • A playmat or soft blanket
  • Battery-operated fairy lights (preferably ones that flash or change colour)
  • Other accessories of your choice, including rattles and squeaky toys

Here’s what to do:

  • Lay the foil blanket down on the floor on top of the playmat or blanket.
  • Place the fairy lights around the edge of the blanket, making sure you keep them well out of your baby’s reach.
  • Distribute the other accessories around the play gym.
  • Put your baby down on the foil-cover playmat and watch as the explore the different noises the crinkling foil makes and watch the lights bouncing off the shiny surface.

Safety note: Always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.

5. Baby sensory game full of textures and sounds to explore

ziplock sensory bags
Pic: Amy Leech/Facebook

This fantastic activity, created again here by mum Amy (but inspired by a post on the brilliant Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas Facebook group) is easy to make and enables babies to explore different textures, movement and sounds.

Amy tells us that her baby really loved feeling the different objects inside each bag and listening to the different sounds they make. She used ziplock plastic bags and filled them with

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Zip-lock bags
  • Textured objects to fill the bags. Amy used coloured feathers, sequins, cereal and cotton wool balls, but you can use any textured objects or food you have around the house, including pasta, water with washing up liquid, grapes and orange segments.
  • Tape

Here’s what to do:

  • Fill the bags with your objects.
  • Get as much air out the bags as possible before tightly sealing them shut.
  • Tape the bags firmly onto your floor or any outdoor space.
  • Let your baby explore!

Safety note: Always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.

6. Baby sensory scarf station to touch and grab

sensory scarves
Pic: Emma Palmer

Emma, the mum behind the Sensory Play Gym (number 4, above) has also shared with us this clever little play station she made for her baby – with coloured scarves to feel and grab.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A cardboard box
  • A pencil
  • Several coloured scarves
  • A playmat or nappy changing mat

Here’s what to do:

  • Lay the cardboard box on its side, so the opening is facing you.
  • Use your pencil to carefully make some small holes in the top of the box a few centimetres in from the open edge.
  • Thread a coloured scarf through each hole, securing it with a firm knot.
  • Put the playmat or changing mat on the floor in front of your scarf station and place your baby on it, so that their head is near enough to the opening of the box that they can feel and grab the different coloured scarves.

Safety note: Always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.

Advertisement

Read more

Comments ()

Please read our Chat guidelines.