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Jan 29

DIY with SPL: Sensory Play for Babies and Toddlers

Posted on January 29, 2019 at 4:41 PM by Angela Sumner

Sensory play for babies and toddlers is absolutely essential to developmental growth. In general, children learn through play well into their teen years. Even as an adult, hands on activities are still my learning preference.

But what exactly does sensory driven play look like for our littlest learners? Since babies and toddlers are continuously learning, there is really no limit to what sort of activities you can do with them. The best activities for this age group are safe, messy, and explorative. The important thing to remember with this age group is that putting things in their mouth is a natural way to learn, so we want to avoid choking hazards and toxic materials that could be harmful if put in the mouth.

At Suffolk Public Library, we offer a baby and toddler program called Busy Babies. This program offers a variety of sensory play stations for babies to explore independently, or with limited guidance from their caretakers. Some of my favorite activities are ones you can absolutely recreate in your home. For example, did you know that you can create edible paint from yogurt and Kool-Aid? How about edible Playdough using cornstarch and yogurt? While paint and Playdough are already nontoxic, they don’t taste well, so these substitutes would have a sweeter appeal to your little ones.

Yogurt Playdough

Probably my favorite sensory play activities are sensory bins. You can create sensory bins with any everyday object in your pantry. I have found that dried peas, rice, beans, and noodles work best as a base. Then, I hide various objects (cotton balls, toys, foam letters, etc.) in the base mixture to have baby find by digging with spoons, cups, and bowls. A bonus activity for toddlers could be scooping the mixture into the cups of a balancing scale to explore weights and measurements. A bit of a warning with sensory bins: They get messy! I would suggest putting down newspaper, or a washable table cloth to help with easy cleanup.

Sensory Bin

 A fun winter sensory bin is creating fake snow using ½ cup of hair conditioner (I used Suave) and 2 cups baking soda. The mixture actually feels cold! Keep in mind that, although this is nontoxic, it is not edible, so you’ll want to do this with activity when you are close by. The mixture will hold shape, so little ones can use sand or Playdough toys to create building structures. Unfortunately, this mixture is very messy and sticks to hands, so if you have a kiddo who doesn’t like mess on them, this is not the activity for you.

Sensory Snow

The final activity I would like to share with you is super easy, super cheap, super squishy bags. Squishy bags can be made using very cheap hair gel from the Dollar Tree. You can buy them in any color, but I usually use the clear and change the color using food coloring. You’ll need the following materials to make the bags:

  • Ziplock bags (gallon size)
  • Hair Gel, 40oz (LA Looks is what I use)
  • Duck Tape
  • Toys, beads, googly eyes, etc. (optional)

Basically, you add the hair gel to the ziplock bags, put whatever toys in you would like kids to explore, and then Duck Tape all the edges to avoid leaks. Squishy bags can even grow with your little ones. For example, you can have your preschooler practice letter and number tracing on the bag, instead of adding toys.

Squishy bag

For more awesome sensory play activities for babies and toddlers be sure to check out Busy Babies at Suffolk Public Library! Registration is not required for this event.

This DIY session is brought to you by April Watkins, Early Childhood Services Senior Librarian.


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