You may wonder if sensory play is good for your baby. The answer is yes; sensory play has many benefits to a baby’s development. It is an important learning experience during the infant years!
Sensory play is children’s way to explore the mind-body connection. Sensory experiences stimulate sensory systems throughout the body, sending messages through the nervous system to the brain and back.
What is Sensory Play for Babies?
Sensory play is an interactive learning activity where babies can learn about their world.
Sensory play activities encourage babies to use touch, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and movement, to understand their environment. This can be touching different fabrics and textures, tasting new foods, exploring toys, listening to sounds in their environment, or being rocked by a caregiver.
In the beginning, sensory play can be simple activities or experiences. Babies are building the foundation for more complex sensory play in the toddler and preschooler years. Learn more about the stages of play development.
The Benefits of Sensory Play for Babies
The vestibular system is responsible for balance and spatial orientation. Sensory play stimulates the vestibular system and helps babies develop a sense of balance and coordination.
When babies experience different movements and body positions, they are learning. Caregivers can gently rock, swing, or spin with their baby to stimulate the vestibular sense. When babies roll, crawl, cruise, and walk, they are developing balance and coordination.
The proprioceptive system is responsible for body awareness and understanding the positions of different body parts. When babies engage their muscles and use their joints, they stimulate the proprioceptive system.
Climbing, crawling, pushing, pulling, and squeezing are all sensory play activities that help babies learn about their bodies and abilities.
Cognitive Learning & Brain Development
During sensory activities, babies develop new neural connections in their brains. All sensory play gives babies new information that helps them understand their world.
Through sensory play, babies can develop cognitive skills like problem-solving, cause and effect, memory, exploration, and discovery.
Through sensory play, babies learn to explore and influence their environment safely. This helps babies build a sense of control and confidence.
Sensory play also helps babies explore the types of activities and sensory experiences that are soothing. Babies can discover that rocking, tight hugs, a soft blanket, or a cold drink of water can calm them down.
So, how does sensory play stimulate social development?
Sensory play includes exploring a sound book at storytime or tasting new foods during a family meal. These are opportunities for babies to participate in turn-taking, communication, and social interactions.
For babies, so much of sensory play is discovering how they can use their bodies to interact with their world. During sensory play, babies can manipulate objects and move their bodies in new ways. This helps them build fine motor and gross motor skills.
Sensory play is an incredible opportunity to introduce new words to babies. Because they are engaged in a sensory experience, babies can make associations between the words they hear and what they smell, feel, see, and taste.
Introducing new sensory experiences also prompts babies to share their reactions. A yucky face over tasting something sour or cooing while touching a soft toy communicate how a baby feels.
Sense of Connection
Sensory play helps babies connect to their world and understand their surroundings in a more profound way. They learn about their environment and how they can influence it.
Sensory play is also a way for babies to learn about the shared human experience. They can feel their caregiver rocking alongside them in a rocking chair. Or smell food cooking while their parent comments on dinner smelling delicious.
Sensory play is an important and fun way for babies to learn about their world. Through sensory activities, babies develop cognitive, motor, and social skills.
Discover sensory learning activities to do with babies: