If you’ve had a baby in the past few years the chances are that you’ve been inundated with an insane amount of classes all promising to aid your child’s development and make him or her meet their full potential….at a cost of course. Yes they are only weeks or months old but that doesn’t mean that baby massage, baby exercise, baby sensory, baby swimming (I could go on but you get the idea!) will help them become the next baby einstein.
One of these such classes is baby sensory, and I admit I signed up and went along with Darcie first time around and she loved it. I even signed up with Henry this time and although he seemed to enjoy the class – albeit less than Darcie did at his age – Mummy was less keen this time. The teacher spoke like she was an overenthusiatic childrens TV presenter and the other mums were just a little too cliquey for me: I’m in my 30’s and have no desire to act like we’re back in a school playground. So what do you do if you have no classes near you, you can’t afford the rather hefty term fees or if they’re just not for you? Well, you do it yourself of course!
At it’s basic form, baby sensory is designed to simulate your childs senses which in turn will in theory enhance their development. This is something we can do simply using the things we have around us at home, therefore I wanted to share what we have in Henry’s baby sensory home kit and hopefully give you a few ideas to build up your own.
Touch: think about texture – things that feel interesting for them. We have natural sponges, pine cones, ribbons, a variety of coloured balls (those designed for pets are actually great for this) along with different materials like sheets of felt, silver insultation sheets and pom poms. Look around you in the house and outside and think about how nice some of the items you see would feel for them.
Sight: think about a wide spectrum of colour. Initially babies can only see in black and white so colours that contrast are great at first and then slowly but surely build up your collection to include all the colours of the spectrum as their eyesight develops. Turn down the lights and use anything that flashes and watch how captivated they become and finally, I am yet to encounter a baby that doesn’t love bubbles!
Sound: self explanatory but anything with different sounds: rattles, bells, and those silver insultation sheets are great for this too as they make a great crinkle sound. Pasta and rice in empty bottles and containers work great for this as well and don’t forget about water which sounds wonderful to them. Also don’t forget your voice! Babies love the sound of your voice so sing some nursery rhymes, Disney songs or even chart toppers if you wish, but the key is to get close and make eye contact throughout – I promise they will love it!
Smell: child friendly things with different smells are a little difficult but dried citrus fruit often retains it’s smell really well and dried flowers like lavender works great. Obviously this sense is less about letting them explore and more about you letting them smell it – the last thing you need is your baby ramming dried lavender into it’s mouth!!
Taste: obviously only for babies once they start weaning, but baby led weaning is a great form of baby sensory as it allows them to explore the taste and texture of food at their own pace. Grapes need to be cut, no honey until 1 and no whole nuts until they have teeth but other than that let them explore! Favourites for us are pasta, banana pancakes, buttered toast and crumpets.
Finally if you’re feeling extra brave then messy play is a great form of sensory play – turn up the heating, strip them down to their nappies and let them play! Add food colouring to cooked rice or spaghetti for a wonderful mix of new textures and colour and maybe even put out some water for them to splash around in. Shaving foam, oats, dried beans, paint, sand and ice are other messy things which give a wonderful variety of textures for them to explore.
So here are our top 5 baby sensory items:
(1) Dried pasta in a pot which cannot be opened but is still small enough for little hands to get hold of and explore. Both Darcie and Henry have both loved playing with these and it’s only recently at 2 that she’s discovered how to remove the lids of most of them!
(2) A natural sponge which you should be able to pick up relatively cheaply at your local beauty shop. I think this particular one was from Tesco and cost about 99p but you should be able to find them at most places on the high street.
(3) Ribbons! This one was very kindly gifted to us for Darcie’s first Christmas (and now handed down to Henry!) but you can easily make your own by getting hold of a plastic hoop and then add in a wide variety of long coloured ribbons. Your local habidashary is a great place for this and your local market is often a great source of supplies.
(4) A dogs play ball – this one is extra exciting as not only is it covered by lovely textured spikes but it also flashes some great colours when hit. This is Henry’s current favourite thing to pull around and try and ram into his mouth! We have a variety of options though and with kids, you often cannot go wrong with a ball!
(5) Pine cones. You can pick these up on your winter walks and then bring hom to place onto the radiator to dry out. Or if you’re a little lazy like me (or maybe just unlucky not to spot any out and about on walks!) you can often pick these up at Christmas time as decorations.
What about you? Is there anything else you would add to the list of homemade baby sensory items?