5 Simple Sensory Development Activities for Babies and Toddlers

In our modern era, with so many educational opportunities, we sometimes forget the simple but profound educational resources that families have at their fingertips.  Think about it – how did humans raise their babies for the last several thousand years without internet games or toy stores?

In some ways, despite our advances, we have failed in our current generation to give some of the most foundational opportunities for learning.  Many of us live in such a clean and academic environment, we forget that we must also learn through experience gained in all five of our senses.

Recently, I have seen a positive shift as educators realize the importance of sensory development. But, on the other hand, sometimes that does nothing more than open up complex ways to use your time and money.  So, here are 5 simple ways to help your child develop.

1. Go Outside.

This may seem overly simple, but there is nothing that can replace it fully, and it’s perfect for all age groups.  I recommend finding an outdoor space in nature – whether it is your backyard, a local park, a friend’s house, or a spot in the country where you can visit.

The outdoors offers developmental opportunities for every sense. Watch the flight of birds, or observe the light/dark patterns of the sun as it filters through the leaves.  Smell the earth and the flowers. Hear the chirps and whistles of birds, the chatter of squirrels, the wind in the trees, and the buzz of insects. Feel all the different textures – the grass, the dirt, the mud, the rocks, the leaves, the tree bark, the wood, the breeze.  And yes, even taste – although that should be restricted to known edibles!

The outdoors provide so many opportunities to explore our world and to build your baby’s skills to navigate it!

2. Involve Them in Your Daily Chores.

This is not always easy.  Everything takes longer when you involve your little one, and sometimes the involvement creates more work for you. But it is beneficial for them, and it is right at your fingertips if you will take advantage of it. Let them dip their hands in your soapy water.  Let them hold a plastic spoon and a metal spoon and compare the two in their hands.  Let them open and close a lid. Let them feel wet laundry and dry laundry. If they are big enough, let them help you move the wet laundry into the dryer, and then the dry laundry into a basket. Let them sweep a floor. Give them a wet cloth to wipe a window – yes, it will have even more smudges afterwards, but it will be worth it. Let them help you bring groceries in, or let them help you unload your grocery bags.

Children need this sort of action, and you can provide it without creating an elaborate lesson plan or buying a $200 kit that would teach the same skills. Why wouldn’t you take a couple extra minutes to include your children in your day? Don’t miss this opportunity!

3. Let Them Touch Their Food.

Okay. Not the best table manners. I get it.

And they make a mess. I know.

When I had my firstborn, I wanted to keep her hands out of the baby food and wipe up every spill instantly. But other moms came alongside me and showed me how to let my daughter learn through her mealtime.

My firstborn is almost 3 years old now and we are increasing our tidiness and table manners as we grow. But I love the foundation she has from experiencing all the different textures and tastes of her food from the time she started solids.  She is not a picky eater, she is not worried by different textures, she is a neat and tidy little person, and she doesn’t have some of the sensory issues that I’ve seen with a few of her peers.  A little mess at mealtime goes a long way.

4. Water Bowls.

I wanted to mention this one because it was one of the first activities that my daughter could do without intense supervision, and she loved it.

I would lay a couple big towels down on my kitchen floor (or porch, if we were outside).  Then I would sit her there with a metal bowl, a plastic box, and several small scoops or cups.  I added some water to the bowl, and voila! She was completely entertained by her studies. She would swish her fingers in the water, scoop-and-dump with the cups, and experiment with floating or sinking things. Yes, she spilled water on herself and on the towels. But in the end, I would dump the water, throw the towels in the laundry, change her clothes…and we were done! This activity was amazing for us because 1) she loved it, 2) cleanup was easy, 3) it could be done regardless of the weather, and 4) it was developing her skills in a healthy way. It was an all-around awesome activity.

5. A Purchased Activity.

I pointed out earlier that you don’t have to spend extra money to provide developmental opportunities for your children. And that is very true. But I also wanted to say that there are some really good tools/toys out there for your little one. And they can range from a $1 bag of balloons to an expensive kit. I have seen several that I think are super cool, so don’t forget that purchased activities can be a great option, too.

Thank you for reading about my favorite 5 sensory activities for babies and toddlers. I will leave you with this simple encouragement. Your children need to be part of your life. The real world, as God intended, has the tools they need for growth and development. Giving it to them doesn’t take elaborate efforts. You just need to take a moment, look for the opportunities around you, and include your little ones in what you are doing. And have fun while you’re doing it!!! Because each of these simple things is important and valuable and has fabulous life-long impacts. So enjoy!