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Are you running out of indoor play ideas for cold and rainy days? Winter is coming and our warm days are limited. I love sensory play for indoor entertainment. We started using sensory play techniques with our daughter when she was just a couple months old.
Why do I love sensory play? I love that it stimulates my daughter’s mind in ways she may not otherwise be stimulated. It makes her think about colors, shapes, textures, sounds, and even taste. It makes her artistic and think about how things work. It stretches her mind and challenges her while having fun! It makes her curious and makes her investigate. Here are some sensory play ideas that we love! For all of these ideas, I highly recommend staying right beside your little one for safety.
This is a great one for infants and there’s two ways to do it.
- For young infants that don’t yet roll, put a sheet of tissue paper under babies legs and feet. Every time baby kicks or wiggles he will hear the tissue paper crinkle. He will begin to learn a cause and effect type of reaction. How awesome is that?!
- For those that are a little older, probably starting around 3 months or so, give baby a sheet of tissue paper to hold. Every time he flaps his arms he will hear the tissue paper crinkle. Be cautious with this one. Baby may want to eat it and also make sure he doesn’t accidentally cover his face.
This is for young babies not able to go from a laying to sitting position on their own. I used a diaper box and made it into a star gazing box for my daughter. Put the box on its short side and poke holes through it all over the top and top half of the sides (except for the side sitting on the floor). You don’t want to go too low on the sides in case baby tries to roll over into the side of the box.
Use a string of Christmas lights and poke a bulb through each hole. If you do too many, it will be too bright for baby to look at and enjoy so judge it as you go. You can also easily pull bothersome lights out of the holes. I ended up doing this with mine because there were a couple lights too low and I was worried it was too bright for her. Lay a blanket in the bottom of the box for baby to relax on. Stay with your baby while he enjoys looking at the lights to make sure they don’t get too hot or baby gets a good grip or rolls into the bulbs. I put the lights on the “fade in and out” setting so that she wasn’t looking at any one light too longThis is why this one is geared towards younger infants that don’t get around as well.
Box with Strings.
Similar to the light box, I used a diaper box on its side and poked holes all along the top edge. Use beads and pretty elastic cord to make bright strands to dangle from the box. Make sure you secure the beads really well as they are a choking hazard. This was a good one for teaching my daughter hand-eye coordination as a specific strand would catch her eye and she’d try to go after it. Below is a picture without beads.
We started playing with balloons when our daughter was only a couple of months old. Tie a loop in the string and slip it over your baby’s foot. Every time he kicks he will hear the crinkling of a foil balloon and watch it bounce up and down. Our daughter LOVED balloons and actually got pretty feisty with them. As your baby learns to grip, slip the loop in his hand. Stay with baby to make sure he doesn’t get tangled in the string.
Balls in Muffin Pan
I laid my daughter on her tummy on a boppy pillow and placed a muffin pan in front of her with colorful balls in each cup. She loved trying to grab them and this helps her see differences in colors.
Ice in a Baking Dish
Place a few ice cubes in a baking dish and hold your infant in your lap. Allow him to move the ice cubes around the dish, feeling the cold and hearing them clink against the pan. Talk to him about “cold” to help learn temperatures. Older infants may get a good grip and try to put the cubes in their mouths so be cautious of this. The cubes are too slippery for young infants to get a grip on.
Beans in an Empty Spice Container
Place some beans in an empty spice container and seal it shut with super glue. You don’t want the beans to accidentally spill out and baby choke on them. Let your baby shake the container and hear the beans moving around and watch them as he moves the container around. Another one I did is toothpicks and rice.
Soaking in Water
Even a good ol’ soak in the bath tub is great sensory play. Let your infant splash and kick around for a while after your done bathing her. Use an infant floating device for a swimming pool. Such a great experience for your little one!
Play some music and sing and dance with your little one. You will be surprised at how young of an age she will begin to bounce with the music. No need to be shy, your baby doesn’t care how you boogie!
Looking in a Mirror
My daughter loves looking at herself in the mirror. I started this when she was very little and we were attempting to tolerate tummy time. As soon as she could hold her head up, I put a little play mirror under her for her to look at herself. She is now 18 months old and still kisses herself in the mirror.
This one is so fun! Cook a box (or 2, or 3!) of spaghetti noodles and rinse with cold water to help them cool. Place them in a large tub. Strip baby down to his diaper and set him in the noodle tub. Let him go at it! Depending on your babies age, you may or may not want to let him eat the noodles. This is an nice edible sensory game but it may not be appropriate to let your little one eat the noodles if he isn’t on table food yet.
Cook a box of instant jello and pour into a 9×9 dish. Let it set up in the fridge until stiff. Place a couple of toys in the jello. Strip baby down to his diaper and put him in his high chair. Let baby play with the jello and explore its texture. I would wait until baby is on table food before doing this one. If he gets a taste of that jello he may not want to stop eating it! So messy but so fun! We love messy play in our house!
For infants and very young toddlers that you are afraid will try to eat the paint, use the following super easy edible paint. Its edible but taste very tart. So only one taste by your little one should do the trick and turn him off from eating it. It did my daughter! This also cleans up really easy.
- Plain yogurt
- Kool aid packets of different colors
- Spoon yogurt into a few different small bowls.
- Mix a packet of kool aid into each bowl to create different colors.
- Strip baby down to his diaper and allow him to use his fingers and hands to paint the yogurt onto a large sheet of paper.
I also used this trick in order to use real paint when my daughter was an infant.
- Tape foil to the bottom of a large cookie sheet.
- Tape a sheet of card stock on top of the foil.
- Dot washable paint onto the card stock.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the paint and extend the edges to the sides of the cookie sheet. Tape the edges of the plastic wrap down.
- Let baby bang on the plastic wrap to squish the paint around without actually getting messy.
For older toddlers you can use a washable paint that you can buy almost anywhere and let them finger paint.
Cornstarch and Water
This one still amazes me to this day, and its so simple! I remember my mom doing this with us when we were little. All you have to do is mix cornstarch and water. I do a mixture of about 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part water. It doesn’t have to be exact and you will know when you have got it right. What you are looking for is the mixture to look runny when you are just looking at it or stirring it very slowly. When you go to stir it faster it becomes solid. So awesome! Liquid at rest and solid with motion. You just have to try it to understand what I mean. My daughter was in awe of this one.
You do NOT want your child to eat this. Watch your kiddo very closely. My daughter tried to take a bite a couple of times. With its texture, this is NOT safe to eat.
Edible Play Dough
I’m not going to give you a recipe because I don’t have an original and there are a ton out there. Although it is edible, you don’t want your little one to put a huge hunk in his mouth with the texture. It would be very hard to swallow. The one I chose has a ton of salt so my daughter quickly decided it didn’t taste very good anyways.
This is a pretty awesome one because it is a full body sensory play. We got a ball pit for our daughter when she was probably less than 6 months old. We let her lie in it (with our hands on her) and feel the balls beneath her and around her. This also helps teach colors, shapes, and gross motor skills like throwing and maneuvering around in the balls.
You can get an inexpensive ball pit on amazon. Here is the ball pit we have for only $10.99. The balls are little more expensive and this package comes with 200 for about $22. It may take a couple packages to fill the pit. We caught the balls on a great sale so save the link and watch for the price the price to drop. This would also make a great gift; kids love ball pits!
My big helper loves to “help wash dishes”. What this really translates to…”loves to play in the dishwater, pop the bubbles, and make a huge mess”. We do love messes around here. Kids are supposed to be messy! She stands in a learning tower made for little ones to help in the kitchen and to reach things up high. We bought our learning tower local but you can find them on Etsy and Amazon as well. We added dowel rods to ours to prevent our daughter from slipping out because she was very young, very wiggly, and not afraid of anything when we first started using it.
Make sure your dishwater is just lukewarm with lots of bubbles and there is nothing sharp or breakable within reach. My daughter use to try and eat the bubbles so watch your little one for that.
I hope you found some new ideas for your little one in this post!
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