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DIY Sensory Activities for Babies

Apr 3rd, 2020

Humans are incredible. We start our lives with no knowledge, experience or skills whatsoever, and we can grow up to invent rockets, cure diseases and master arts in ways that have never been done before. 

It’s incredible just how much humans have accomplished in terms of creativity and ingenuity. From Einstein’s theories to Van Gogh’s masterpieces, the human race is full of exceptional people who have advanced our world and our lives.

The most amazing part about all of this is that no matter how smart, how accomplished or how creative people are, we all start our lives as babies who are learning about the world for the very first time.

Why sensory activities are important

Babies are born with no concept or experience of the world. All they have are their five senses, which are sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. These five senses are what babies use to learn about the world around them, and it is through these five senses that they learn vital developmental skills like fine motor skills, language and cognitive functions. 

Sensory activities stimulate the child’s senses and engage areas of the brain that are growing or have never been developed. Most of the time, we understand sensory activities to be textured toys or different fabrics, but sensory activities should engage one or more of all the senses so that the child can learn to use and develop multiple areas of the brain at once. 

When children interact with sensory objects or partake in sensory activities, they also start to form conclusions about how the world works. Through observation with the five senses, children piece together causes and reactions in the world around them. Small objects, when picked up, are easier to carry than big objects. Pointy grass can tickle your hand, whereas round flower petals feel soft. It’s through these experiences that children learn to solve problems, anticipate outcomes and create a reality on which to base their lifetime experiences.

Because children are born with zero knowledge of the world around them, every single experience young kids have is one that requires plenty of processing. Too many new sights, smells or sounds can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for young children. By gradually exposing young ones to new sensory experiences, they can learn to better cope when surrounded by new environments. 

Here are some fun sensory activities for babies to interact with that are easy to make and fun for them to play with. If you have other ideas, add onto what we have and adapt the activities and toys to your baby’s own needs.  

Have fun!

DIY sensory toys for babies 6-12 months

The Jello pool

Difficulty: 👶👶

Supplies: 3 yellow/neutral Jello packets, small inflatable pool

A great way for babies to have fun and learn about new textures is to let them run their fingers through some Jello! 

Make three (or more, depending on how much you want to work with) boxes of Jello as directed on the package. Yellow- or neutral-colored Jello is best, as that is least likely to stain your baby’s hands and skin. When the Jello is almost set, start inflating a small kids’ pool. It doesn’t have to be outside, as it’s just to use as an easy-to-contain and easy-to-clean play area. 

Once the Jello is set, place the bowls of set Jello into the pool along with your baby and allow your baby to go crazy with the dessert. The coolness of the cold Jello and the squishy texture of the gelatin could entertain your child for hours!

It’s guaranteed to get messy quickly, so just give into the fact that you’ll have to run a bath later, and let your baby go wild with the fun new textures and temperatures. 

Take it up a notch: throw a few small toys like farm animals, blocks, teethers or bath toys into the Jello so that the Jello pool becomes a Jello excavation!

Make a sensory blanket

Difficulty: 👶👶👶

Supplies: sewing machine, thread, buttons, scissors, textured fabrics.

A sensory blanket is a great way to entertain your baby while working on that tummy time! If you’re handy with a sewing machine (or not-so-handy, it doesn’t matter!), then making a sensory blanket is only as tricky as you want it to be. 

Head to a fabric store and find some funky fabrics with different textures, colors, patterns and weaving. The more you can find, the better! Generally, look for bold, contrasting patterns like black-and-white chevron stripes or polka dots. Find textured fabrics that have soft bumps or pom-poms attached to them. Hunt for a shiny fabric like satin or something metallic that can catch the light in different ways.

Creating a sensory blanket should be fun for both you and your baby! Assemble squares of the fabric in whatever order you like, then sew on buttons, strings, crinkly toys or wooden teething rings wherever seems best.

Take it up a notch: tie wooden rings to the quilt, then tie the toys to the rings so that you can switch out new toys every now and then as your baby’s needs change.

Make sensory bottles

Difficulty: 👶

Supplies: 2-liter bottles, glitter, water, sequins, beads, super glue, food coloring.

Sensory bottles are some of the easiest toys to make, and they will entertain your child for many hours to come! These clear bottles filled with glitter, beads and other shiny goodies will mesmerize your child as they watch the liquid swirl around with every shake, nudge and tap.

Fill up a clear 2-liter soda bottle (after you’ve cleaned it, of course!) with about 1.75 liters of water. You want to leave a little air in there so that the water can swirl around easily!

Pour in as much coloring, glitter, beads and sequins as your heart desires. Don’t overcrowd the bottle’s contents, but play around with ingredients until you like the combination of object in the bottle. Feel free to add or take out as much water as necessary to get the effect you desire.

Finally, super glue the bottle cap back onto the bottle so that any violent shaking or dropping will not result in your carpet looking like a unicorn barfed on it.

Take it up a notch: make bottles with different amounts of liquid in them so the the swirling speed can vary!

Give these sensory toys a go, and don’t forget to let us know what tips and ideas you have for some great DIY sensory toys, too!


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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/thedanw

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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