Sensory Play for Babies

by | Sep 1, 2022

Did you know that sensory play is vital for your baby’s development? Sensory play is designed to help babies learn about their surroundings and how to operate their bodies.

Sensory play can start at a very young age, so even a little newborn can participate in activities during their wake windows. Starting sensory play early helps to encourage the development of all senses and gives them a better understanding of their surroundings.

What is sensory play for babies?

Sensory play is a broad term for any activity that stimulates the senses- touch, sight, smell, etc.

So you can make almost any activity into a sensory activity for your baby, which makes planning super simple!

When should you start sensory play with babies?

You can start sensory play with babies as newborns! I know you may be thinking “how can a newborn play?”, but there are lots of ways to start engaging senses even in tiny babies!

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How do you do sensory play with a baby?

When doing sensory play, you want to engage baby’s senses. It is important that your activity stimulates multiple senses (sight, smell, taste, touch and sound).

Things like sensory bins, sensory bottles, high contrast cards, walks and tasting new foods can all be considered sensory play! Sensory play doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming!

Related Post: How to Make Simple DIY Glitter Sensory Bottles

Why is it so important to encourage sensory play?

When you encourage sensory play, you are encouraging development. Sensory play not only teaches little ones about experiencing new things, but drives curiosity and sharpens problem solving skills.

We all know that children are little sponges and engaging in sensory play helps littles to learn about the world around them and make vital connections in their brain.

Sensory play is a wonderful tool for language development and communication.

Why do babies need sensory play?

Babies need sensory play in order to properly develop their senses and self awareness. Sensory play exposes babies to new tastes, sounds, smells, sights and items to touch.

Learning while playing is so good for babies because it helps them to develop fine and gross motor skills. Sensory play helps babies build cognitive skills that help them to work through problems and develop the ability to trouble shoot.

How to encourage sensory play for babies:

Introduce high contrast images: Babies LOVE high contrast images. High contrast images (like black and white cards or anything dark vs light) are easy for your baby to focus on.

Take a stroll: Going for a morning or evening walk is a great sensory activity for babies. The sound of the cars, birds chirping, etc is wonderful for hearing development. My babies have always loved being outside for this reason.

Try tummy time on the play mat: Some babies love it, some babies don’t, but it is important! If your baby detests tummy time, start out with a few minutes and build your way up to longer periods. Consider using a boppy pillow or rolled up towel/blanket to elevate baby’s chest to help make their experience more comfortable.

Explore different textures: Exploring different textures with a baby can be so much fun, my favorite thing it to watch their face! Playing with play dough, making slime, touching different objects with drastically different textures is so fun for babies and offers them the opportunity to experience new things!

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Offer noisy toys: Rattles, squeaker toys, toys with beads or loud sounds tend to be some of my baby’s favorite toys when they were tiny. This is because they love experiencing sounds outside of what they normally hear.. it stimulates their brain!

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Let your baby get mouthy: We all know babies love to chew on everything, and as long as it is safe, let them! My babies loved everything from silicone chew toys, wooden spoons, frozen washcloths, and really anything that they could get in their mouth!

Have fun with bath time: The water seems to be where my babies are happiest, so we did lots of baths! Having fun bath toys, bubbles and bath crayons on hand will make bath time an easy sensory activity.

Try Sensory Bags: Making sensory bags is a great time and babies will play with them for hours! They love the squishiness, shiny objects and fun toys inside.

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Easy sensory play activities for babies

  • Playing in the mirror: Who is that baby is something my kiddos loved to play! It is so cute when they realize the baby they are looking at is really them. During this activity you can have them point to their eyes, nose, mouth, etc!
  • Ice Cubes: Playing with ice cubes would be a great activity for a warm day. Your little one will have so much fun trying to keep hold of the ice cube and playing in the water as the ice melts.

Messy baby sensory play

My kiddos seem to enjoy messy sensory play the most. I think its because they get to express themselves fully.

  • Yogurt Finger Paint: For this activity it is probably best to strip baby down. You can use plain yogurt or add food coloring for fun pops of color. You can have your baby finger paint on paper, a sheet pan or any surface that is easily cleaned.
  • Sensory Bins

Sensory bins can be especially messy if your baby starts throwing the objects inside..HA! Even though they can be messy, sensory bins are so fun for babies to learn and explore different textures and objects.

I love sensory bins because you can use whatever you have around the house and they are inexpensive to make!

Related Post: 7 Benefits of Sensory Bins and How They Support Child Development

Sensory activities for 3 month olds

  • Balloons: Loosely tie a helium filled balloon to your baby’s foot or wrist. When baby starts kicking and moving their arms and legs they will be able to see the balloon moving too!
  • Peek-A-Boo: Peek-A-Boo is a fun and classic game for little ones. I like using my hands or a blanket for this activity.

Sensory activities for 6 month olds

If your babies are anything like mine, they looooove tissues. This toy allows them to pull out tissues to their hearts content. The magic tissue box encourages fine motor skill development and color distinguishment.

I love this 6-1 Play Cube! This toy encourages problem solving and there are lots of different activities to keep your baby interested for a while!

Sensory activities for 9 month olds

This fun toy encourages crawling, but your baby will love trying to get to the balls inside and looking at all of the different pictures!

Your little one will love hearing all of the different animal sounds when looking through this book! My kiddos loved learning the animal sounds, and this book is a great place to start and engage that hearing sense!

Sensory activities for 12 month olds

Your little musician will love playing with this 3 in 1 music toy! The drums light up when they hit them and they will have the time of their life making their first tunes!

We love bubbles in our house. I love that these bubbles are no spill! My kids love to blow bubbles, chase and pop them.. and if I am not watching closely enough taste them, lol!

Bubble wrap is a crowd favorite of my kiddos. They love stomping on it, popping it in between their tiny fingers and they would do that for hours if they could!

Popping the bubbles with their fingers is great for developing fine motor skills and jumping on them is wonderful for gross motor. Sometimes the bubbles will make a tiny pop noise and sometimes it’s a loud noise.

These types of things are great for them to experience.

Sensory activities that don’t make a mess

Sometimes you may not feel like cleaning up a mess or you may not have the time. These activities are perfect for those times.

I love this tummy time water mat! This mat is great if your baby needs to be a little more upright during tummy time. It is squishy, which is great for the touch sense and has a lot of different animals to look at!

Your little one will love squeezing and squishing this glitter sensory bag! The best part is that it is mess free!

Sensory activities for babies for each of the 5 senses:


  • Jello: Make a few different flavors of your favorite jello. Add the jello to a few different bowls and let your little one squish the jello and taste!
  • Noodles: Make a batch of noodles and add in some food coloring. You can use whatever pasta you like best!


I loved using sensory books for my kiddos! They are a great, simple way for them to use their touch sense!

I love this sensory bin and the toys that it comes with! The bands around the box help to promote problem solving skills. The toys have different texture patters which is great for developing the touch sense.


  • Singing songs: I love to go onto YouTube and search for children’s songs. Another popular one in my house is CocoMelon.
  • Filling Bottles: Fill plastic and glass bottles with water at different levels. Blow air into the bottles. You will be able to hear different pitches depending on the water level and type of bottle.


Babies love high contrast images because they are easier to see as their eyesight is still developing. When my babies were newborns they LOVED books like these!

This rattle is another good option for a high contrast toy. Not only will this baby stimulate their sight sense, but also their hearing sense because they double as windchimes!


  • Scented Noodle Play: Make a batch of noodles and and separate the batch into a few different containers. Add a few drops of different essential oils to each container and have your little one get to sniffing!
  • Smell Bottles: Find some containers, you can use bottles tupperware or whatever you have on hand. Add different things to the containers like orange peel, spices, coffee and let them smell!

DIY Baby Sensory Activities

I love a good DIY activity, especially if I can use items that I already have on hand!

Sensory bottles are a huge hit in my house! They also double as calm down bottles for when your babies are a bit older. Sensory bottles are a fun and easy DIY sensory activity.

Try these bottles from amazon, and you can fill them with things like glitter, tiny erasers, pebbles, or food coloring. If you don’t have the things around the house and don’t want to buy them separately – check out this DIY Sensory Bottle kit!

Add dish soap and water to a bin. Use your mixer to activate the bubbles and then add some plastic toys! This activity is best to be done outside or in the bath tub where water messes are easy to clean up!

When should you do sensory activities with baby?

Everyone is different and we all have different schedules. For our family I liked to do sensory activities in the afternoon after nap.

It is best to avoid sensory activities when kiddos are on the tired side like right before naps or bedtime. You don’t want them to become overstimulated and cranky.

How often should you do sensory activities with baby?

You should do sensory activities with babies every day! Your activities don’t have to be complicated or intricate either!

Sensory activities are one of those things as a parent that is easy to over think, but you don’t have to. You can mix and match with simple sensory activities and ones that are a little more complex.

What if baby doesn’t like sensory activities?

If baby doesn’t like sensory activities, that’s okay! I recommend that you keep doing the sensory activities in short bits of time.

Allowing your baby to do sensory activities for short amounts of time in the beginning, allows them to get acclimated to things they aren’t yet used to.

Sensory play and activities is a vital part of a baby’s development. Encouraging your baby to experience new things is wonderful for their development and so fun to watch as a parent.

Did I miss any of your favorite activities? Let me know in the comments!