Like a sponge, your baby is constantly soaking up information and learning new things about the world—so why not make it fun for them? We’ve rounded up a bunch of hands-on activities that will engage one or more of the five senses, and chances are playtime is about to get a lot more exciting. Keep reading for some sensational inspiration.
Sight: Glitter Sensory Bottles
Shiny objects hold baby’s attention, so these glitter-filled bottles from See Vanessa Craft are always a hit. They’re super easy to make and your little one will be mesmerized as they roll or shake the bottle and watch the glitter move and sparkle.
Engage your tot’s senses of both sight and touch with this simple sensory bag from NurtureStore. You can experiment with different add-ins, like pom poms, rice and pasta, based on what your child responds to. Tape it to a table, floor or window for some mess-free, magical fun.
Sound: Exploring with Objects
Keep things simple but fun with this easy activity from Hands On As We Grow. Gather some household objects like blocks, spoons and rice or beans in plastic containers. With younger babies, you can create different sounds and see how they react. Let older babies bang and shake to make their own sounds. Or better yet, make music together!
Babies naturally respond to music, and playing with musical instruments together helps baby bond with caregivers. Check out this list of homemade musical instruments you can make yourself, from jingly ankle bracelets to shoebox guitars.
Smell: Scented Edible Finger Paint
We love how vibrant these edible finger paints are, and they contain only two common ingredients: yogurt and Kool-Aid drink powder! Nontoxic ingredients means it’s fine if your tot sneaks a taste. And yes, it works with nondairy yogurt (coconut, soy, etc) too. Head to Fun at Home with Kids for the instructions.
Take your homemade playdough to the next level with an intriguing scent. This version from The Typical Mom uses vanilla extract and lavender essential oil for a calming vibe. But you can experiment with your favorite essential oils or vary scents by season: pumpkin spice for autumn, winter peppermint, spring florals and bright lemon for summer.
Touch: Kinetic Sand
Check out this genius kinetic sand recipe from Surviving a Teacher’s Salary—it’s made with ingredients you probably have in your pantry, and it keeps well in an airtight container for future play. Littles will love shaping the sand and letting it run through their fingers. Add your child's small cars, Duplo blocks or small plastic animals to encourage imaginative play.
Touch and Feel Sensory Sticks
Teach your mini-me about different textures with this cool idea from The Baby Bump Diaries. Glue sandpaper, cotton balls and other items with varying textures onto popsicle sticks, and then let your little one examine each one. This is a great activity to try during tummy time.
Taste: Fruit Exploration
If your child is starting to dabble in eating solids, it's a great time to try this sensory exploration from Fun Littles. Set up a tray of fruit in varying forms and let baby examine and smell each one, and have a taste of each. You can point out the different colors, textures and scents of each fruit.
Cooking together is a great way to interact with your child at any age, including babies. Show your child a whole apple and let them touch or nibble it. Then cut it so they can hear the knife sound and see and lick the inside. You'll get a great snack and a wonderful-smelling kitchen at the end of this activity. Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds shows you how to engage older kids in the activity; with younger babies, you do the prep work and talk to your baby about each step.