Being a parent is hard work. It’s late night feeds, decoding cries and literally having your heart walking around outside of your body. And then on top of all of that, you want to make sure that your child is receiving enough sensory stimulation to help with their development.
Even though we have a huge array of different sensory toys available for us to purchase, there are actually quite a few ways that you can stimulate your childs sensory development with items you can find lying around at home.
I’m very lucky that my sister is an occupational therapist, she has her own practice and works with kiddies all day long so she really knows her stuff. She’s helped me with this post to make sure you know all you need to know!
There are 6 main sensory systems that you will want to stimulate: auditory (sound), visual (sight), vestibular (within the inner ear and involves movement of the head in space), tactile (touch), oral sensory (taste, smell and texture) and proprioception (working against pressure, eg being swaddled). For each activity I will give a quick run down on how you can incorporate different sensory systems.
1. Pasta: If you’re a carb loving mama like I am, you’re bound to have some penne lying around. Plonk baby in their high chair and empty some pasta onto the tray for them to play with.You can use uncooked pasta or cooked pasta or even a mixture and let baby grab, squich and move it around.
Oral: allow your child to put the pasta into their mouth, sucking and tasting it. Be sure to monitor this closely to avoid choking!
Visual: put different colour paper under the pasta so that as your child moves the pasta around, the colour is revealed. Start with plain white paper and then a bold colour like red or blue and then finally you can use patterned paper or something shiny like tin foil.
Visual: let your child see the shadows, trees, plants and various shades and light.
Auditory: there will be lots of different outdoor sounds like birds and the wind but also some unexpected sounds like a hooter or dog barking.
Tactile: allow your child to feel the grass beneath them so take off their socks and shoes if it isn’t too cold. Once they seem comfortable with their hands and feet touching the grass, progress to their limbs and then their full body. You can also place your baby in some sand or a pile of leaves. Keep an eye out for any possible allergic reactions and also that they don’t start munching on mother nature.
Proprioception: tummy time through their hands building muscle strength in their shoulders, neck and back.
3. Toys in a box: Aria has decided that she is very much over her playmat, nope, she wants to sit. Problem is, she isn’t sitting for longer than about 10 seconds by herself. I mentioned this to my midwife and sister and they both said – pop her into a box or even the washing basket with a bunch of her toys, which I did, and she loves it!
Visual: Start off with just one or two toys in the box and then slowly start to increase the amount. You can also line the inside of the box with different colour fabric or paper.
Proprioception: as your baby wriggles and moves against the sides of the box it gives them a sense of where they are in space and gives them proprioception into their joints.
Tactile: Start with just a plain box, you can then move onto a wicker box or washing basket. Another idea is to drape different texture materials over the sides for your baby to feel. You can also vary the shape and texture of the toys you put into the box.
Auditory: If your baby is tolerating being in the box with all the toys, pop in one of those super annoying squeaky toys. It’s annoying for mom (well it is for me) but great for baby.
Sensory play should be fun and really shouldn’t cost the earth. Let your child make as much mess as they want and only clean up after they are done, as much as it frustrates you. I have found that it is incredibly difficult to get used to this as I hate mess, but it is so important for Aria, so I grit my teeth and get on with it.
Soon I will put up part two where I will show you a few more sensory play ideas. Have fun with your babes and put up some pics on social media and tag me, I would love to see!
DISCLAIMER: All babies and children are different and have different tolerances and so always introduce sensory experiences from least threatening first. Monitor your child for any indications of discomfort or being overwhelmed. You can do the same activity more than once and slowly increase the time. Never, ever leave your child unattended