How exciting is it watching your child learn a little bit more about the world around them every day? The first time they hear a dog barking, the first time they taste a lemon (have your camera ready), the first time they run their tiny hands through your hair...and then grab a fistful! As they begin to develop their senses, they become more and more fascinated by every single thing they can get their curious little hands on. So many things to learn, so little time!
Sensing The World Around Them
Taste, touch, sight, sound and smell are commonly known as the five senses. Many of us can take these senses for granted as adults, but have you ever stopped to think about how it must feel to really use these senses for the first time? Have you ever considered how much of your brain's time and effort has gone into deciphering the difference between turquoise and teal, between knowing that you're eating a strawberry and not a raspberry, or between smelling a rose and not a daisy? That's where you come in, mama! Your baby's brain is constantly making new connections (known as synapses) as a direct result of everything they do with you in their daily life.
Why Is Sensory Play Important?
When we look at the world around us, we make assumptions and conclusions based on what our senses and previous experiences are telling us. The more senses we utilise, the more information we can gather, and the less confusing or stressful a situation can become.
Sensory play is essential for helping to grow and strengthen the connections in your baby's brain and allows them to more accurately and confidently navigate the world around them. As well as helping to develop the five senses, sensory play is beneficial to perfecting movement and balance and assists with language and cognitive development, spatial awareness, social skills, and emotional intelligence. It is essential to engage children (particularly very young children) in sensory play because they are in a crucial period of their lives where hundreds of thousands of connections are being created and solidified in the brain. These connections, known as synapses, will help them understand and respond to various situations in the future. In addition, synaptic pathways are created more rapidly in babies and young children than in comparison to older children, whose brain pathways are much more permanent and a lot harder to alter. That is why it is so important to introduce your wee one to a whole range of sensory experiences so they can make use of multiple senses, gather more information, and become confident in all of the adventures on which they embark!
What Are The Benefits Of Sensory Play?
- Builds and supports synaptic pathways in the brain, supporting children in complex decision making.
- Supports and encourages language development.
- Helps to develop fine and gross motor skills.
- Can aid in the development of social skills.
- Helps with memory and problem-solving.
- Helps little ones to understand and remember hot vs cold, sticky vs smooth, wet vs dry, colourful vs monotone, hard vs soft, liquid vs solid etc.
What Types Of Sensory Activities Can I Do With My Child?
The great news is sensory play activities are super easy to make; they can even be free if you want! Let's have a look at some easy D.I.Y. sensory games you can make at home. As always, every activity should be under adult supervision.
Taste Sensory Play - Yum, Mum!
If your baby is on solids, there is a whole range of tastes and textures to explore! These foods will differ depending on your baby's age, so always make sure to follow your healthcare professional's advice first. For babies just starting on their food journey, why not give the Haakaa Fresh Food Feeder and Teether a try? Its soft silicone pouch allows only very small pieces of food through, letting your baby safely try new tastes and textures!
For your older tots, try putting some mushy banana next to some peas - your child will be able to work on their fine motor skills as they pick up the peas between their little fingers. Add some cooked fettuccini to the mix for a slippery snack! Our Haakaa Silicone Divided Suction Bowls are perfect for separating pieces of food and helping your child identify what they want to try first before inevitably mashing it all together (and throwing it on the floor)!
Touch Sensory Play - Pouch Painting!
You and your child will love this stress-free and mess-free finger painting activity! Grab a resealable bag, pop some paper inside and add a few small blobs of different coloured paint. Seal the bag shut and tape it onto your window or tabletop, then let baby run their hands all over it! Once they have finished, you'll be left with an original piece of artwork to hang up in their room or on the fridge.
If you have any Haakaa Colostrum Collectors no longer in use, you can repurpose these for watercolour art! Carefully fill each one with a different coloured food dye, fill a separate bowl with some water, then squeeze a drop or two of each colour into the water and watch as they swirl around the bowl!
Sight Sensory Play - Glitter Bottles!
Fill a bottle up with water. Add some glitter (any shapes or colours you want) and secure the lid firmly to create a sparkling, swirling glitter bottle! Gently shake or invert the bottle for baby and let them watch the glitter sparkle in the light. If bubs can hold the bottle themselves, let them have a go at shaking it and watching the glitter fall.
Sound Sensory Play - Noises Galore!
Place a range of different items in front of your baby and let them explore and create their own sounds! Fill a bottle with a handful of uncooked rice that has been dyed with food colouring to create both a visually and aurally stimulating shaker toy. The key here is variety, so try and find toys in their room or items around the house that differ in texture. Grab a piece of paper for them to scrunch up, or add a large spoon to the mix to release the little drummer within!
Smell Sensory Play - Smell The Roses!
For older kids, fill a few bowls with distinctive smelling foods, e.g. vanilla extract, lemon slices, banana pieces, strawberry yoghurt etc. Gently cover your child’s eyes or have them hold their hands over their eyes and see if they can guess what is in each bowl! If you don't want to have too many dishes to clean up afterwards, you could try using Haakaa's Baby Food and Breast Milk Freezer Tray and place a small amount of food into the divided compartments.
For younger children, simply have them stop and smell the different flowers they see while out on a walk or in the backyard. They might even want to pick some to take home and put on display or give to a parent or grandparent!
We love to see our beautiful mamas and babies getting involved in playtime! If you have any great pics of you or bubs enjoying any Haakaa products, please tag us on Instagram @haakaanz.