Like a sponge, your baby is constantly soaking up information and learning new things about the world. These hands-on activities will engage one or more of the five senses, giving them lots of new things to touch, taste, smell, see and hear. Chances are, playtime is about to get a lot more exciting for you both. 

Sight: Glitter Sensory Bottles

Shiny objects hold babies' 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 move the bottle and watch the glitter sparkle.

Sensory Bags

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. 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 to them. Let older babies bang and shake to make their own sounds. Or, better yet, make music together! 

Homemade Instruments

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. Playing instruments is also a great activity for babies to play with older siblings.

Smell: Scented Edible Finger Paint

We love how vibrant these edible baby-safe 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. For a non-scented variation, try this recipe, made with flour, water and food coloring.

Scented Playdough

Take your homemade playdough to the next level with a yummy scent. This version from The Typical Mom uses vanilla extract and lavender essential oil for a calming vibe. Experiment with your favorite essential oils or vary scents by season: pumpkin spice for autumn, peppermint in winter, 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 multiple playtimes. 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 let your little one examine each one. This is a great activity to try during tummy time.

Taste: Fruit Exploration

If your child has started 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 and even have a taste. As they do, you can point out the different colors, textures and scents of each fruit.

Applesauce Activity

Cooking together is a great way to interact with your child at any age. Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds shows you how to engage older kids in making applesauce. With younger babies, you do the prep work and talk to your baby about each step. 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. Once the apples are cooked, show your baby how you mix it and then enjoy a healthy snack.

—Susie Foresman

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