10 Sensory Play Ideas for Babies 6-12 Months Old
Baby's first year is so much fun, and, for me, I especially enjoy the 6-12 month age range because it seems like baby is hitting a new milestone all the time. I'm in it with little Leo who is 9 months old now and amazes me every day.
As a mom, I love being able to support Leo's development and satisfy his curiosity through sensory play. Introducing him to new textures, scents and sounds, and seeing his reaction to everything new in his world is so exciting to watch.
This time flies by so enjoy it and document your baby's growth as much as you can! Note: There are a few affiliate links in this article, but we use and love all of these products in our own home.
Here are my favorite ways to incorporate sensory play into baby's day:
1. Lay different objects down on a mat and have baby reach, crawl, touch and feel. A variety of textures—from soft blankies to prickly velcro—and shapes are all sorts of fun for curious babies. Not only does it satisfy their need to explore and touch, but it's also a great motivation to get them moving and practicing those crawling skills!
These O Ball Rattle & Roll Cars are perfect for little hands to grab and push around.
2. Water play! Mommy and me splash time in the baby pool or during bath time is always fun. If it's not summertime, or you're stuck indoors, get creative on the kitchen floor with some water in a bowl and some cups to scoop and dump! Add some dish soap, and you now have some slippery fun!
Water play is important for babies because it teaches them all sorts of new things from texture (slippery and slimy) to temperature (cold and warm). Pouring buckets of water and moving objects around with waves is also a way to practice hand-eye coordination and cause-and-effect.
3. Drag out the kitchen pots, pans, and wooden spoons to play drums. There's no need for fancy toys here, the kitchen has some of the best tools for noise-making and sensory play. Drumming out a tune teaches baby rhythm and gives them some more practice on controlling their hands and movements.
4. Play tug of war with a lovie! Give your baby a lovie, blankie or thick yarn to hold gently pull and watch baby giggle and react. Allow baby to pull too to learn this motion, build her upper body strength, and practice squeezing her fists.
5. Eat with your hands! I'm a big fan of baby led weaning but whatever your feeding style is, let your little one touch, feel, play, and enjoy what they're eating. Exposing them to different textures, flavors, and spices will make it easier to introduce new things later. It's also a good time to introduce baby to his first sippy cup to get him working on his drinking skills. Having baby dine at the same time as you is a way to reinforce that dinner is not just about food. It's a social event that encourages communicating with each other and spending time together.
My favorite high chair for how easy it is to clean: Antilop from IKEA
6. Have fun with a flashlight. Sit in a (safely) dimly lit room or hallway and turn on a flashlight. Point it to the ceiling and walls and get baby to look, point it to their hands and feet to let them reach and catch the light. This is a great way to teach hand-eye coordination and visual tracking, and get them moving as they chase the light!
7. Play hide-and-seek with objects. Encourage auditory skill development by hiding a musical toy behind a curtain or furniture item and let your baby find the noise. You can also work with touch by hiding toys in a toy box and feeling your way to the soft stuffy at the bottom.
8. Create a squishy soft climbing play space with pillows and blankets to let baby jump and fall. This type of play encourages baby to learn all about balance and using those arms and legs together. We love this padded play mat, it allows baby to tumble around safely, while big brother can flex his imagination on the playful streets and beach scenes.
9. Play music. Teach your little ones how to clap along to a beat, wave their arms, and stomp their feet to the music. You can switch things up with fast and slow songs, pop and jazz, loud and quiet. Listening to music is a great way to encourage auditory development.
The Baby Einstein Take-Along Tunes is our favorite musical toy, passed down from big brother Ryan. It's the perfect size for bringing to the car or hiding in the house for some musical hide-and-seek.
10. Let baby play INDEPENDENTLY! I can't stress this enough... find even 10 minutes in each day to allow your baby to play independently in a safe space with you nowhere in sight. It'll give you a little break and it will teach baby skills to entertain himself (and that you'll always come back). Soft books like the Very Hungry Caterpillar are perfect for independent play time.
Sensory play is such a short and fun time period. It's so sweet to see them exploring their world with their hands (and mouths) and soaking in everything around them.
What are your favorite ways to encourage baby's senses? Join the Happy Mom Tribe over on Facebook to let us know.