Besides being fun, sensory play is incredibly important for babies’ development. From the time they’re born, babies rely on their senses to make sense of the world around them. As such, providing opportunities for little ones to actively use all of their senses can make it easier for them to learn crucial stuff. And early learning is found to support healthy brain development.
Sensory play refers to any activity that encourages babies to utilize the senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. As such, it can refer to anything – from observing shadows of different objects to scrunching paper to hear the noise. But one of the best ways to engage babies in sensory play is through specialized sensory toys. These are mainly toys that come in a multitude of textures, bright and contrasting colours and make all kinds of sounds. Here’s a list of some of the best types of sensory toys and how they can benefit your baby’s development.
Sensory play can help babies understand the cause and effect relationship better. And one of the best sensory toys for doing so is a wrist rattle. When the baby moves the rattle, it produces a sound. As a result, the baby quickly learns that if she wants the rattle to make a sound, she needs to move it with her hand. As she tries to grasp the toy and extends the arm in that direction, the baby also practices her grip and gradually becomes more aware of her body. As a result, this type of play can also teach body awareness and basic gross motor and coordination skills.
Whenever given the chance, babies will put things in their mouths. Especially during the first months of their lives. Providing them with teether toys with different can not only help soothe their sensitive mouths, but can also introduce them to how different textures feel in their mouths. In addition, teether toys also teach babies how to manipulate things using their tongue and teeth. As a result, teether toys can make it easier for babies to get used to eating solids when the time comes. When choosing teether toys, it’s incredibly important that they do not contain any toxins such as BPA and phthalates which can lead to a number of health problems such as asthma, hormonal problems and even cancer.
Some babies love bathing time, while others cry the instant they touch the water. In any case, bath toys are a great way to encourage your baby to stay still while giving her a bath. In addition, bath toys are also great in encouraging sensory development. For instance, rubber ducks or bath balls with different textures can not only provide different tactile sensations but can also be squeezed, rolled and thrown, thus simultaneously engaging babies’ motor skills. Even simply watching the various bath toys float on the water is stimulating for babies’ senses.
Processing music is a great way to fine-tune the sense of hearing. Through playing with musical toys, babies and toddlers can learn how to block out the surrounding noise that’s unimportant and focus on a particular sound. In addition, musical instruments teach babies and toddlers how tones can differ depending on which button is pressed or when striking or blowing on the instrument softly or forcefully. Besides producing sound, musical toys for babies are also colourful, come with buttons for pushing and often emit light. As such, they manage to stimulate the senses of sight, sound and touch at the same time.
Building blocks are some of the most popular toys as they are easy and fun to play with. Babies older than 6 months can arrange blocks easily. Picking blocks with different textures can provide children with different tactile experiences. In addition, blocks in different colours can provide visual stimuli. You can even help your child learn how to separate different colours by building towers in a single colour.
Simple Rolling Toys
Toys that roll on the ground when they are being pushed can be great for stimulating babies’ vision. A brightly-coloured rolling toy which also makes a rattling sound as it rolls will encourage the child to follow it with her eyes. As a result, this can help young children learn to focus their vision on a thing that’s moving and also develops the tiny muscles around their eyes which is great for visual-motor skills. And mastering this can help with reading lines for text later on.
Although technically not a toy, babies can benefit from spending time in front of a mirror. Studies show that babies love looking at faces – their parents’, other people’s, and especially their own. By observing the face in the mirror and reaching out to touch it, babies can eventually learn to recognize their reflection. And this can develop their proprioception better. However, make sure that there is no risk for the mirror to break and there are no sharp edges that can hurt the baby.