Activites for Families



exploratory Play for babies

Enjoy and Support Your Child’s Exploration!

Whether outside or inside, ignite your child’s curiosity and investigation with explorative play. Like, little pioneers, they discover themselves and the world around them through exploration. Find out how you can support the benefits of exploratory play.

Exploratory Play | Launch Your Child's Exploration-little boy playing in spilled flour in the kitchen

Invite messy, smelling, or yummy play that uses their senses.

Define Exploratory

First, let’s define exploratory. It means to search, discover, and learn more about something. Exploratory activities are a way to immerse your child in a variety of experiences and adventures. As one of the earliest forms of play, it involves using your child’s senses, such as taste, touch, and smell. Consequently, they often include their entire bodies in the process.

Second, play is FUN, spontaneous, and imaginative. It is where children are free to make their own choices and decisions. As a result, this free play is crucial to inviting your child to take risks and building their confidence.

Together, keeping the focus on playexploratory play is about the process, NOT the end product. Also, linked to your child’s development, it encourages them to ask questions. Furthermore, it gives them the chance to explore their surroundings and discover the how and why of their world.

Supporting Children’s Play

Exploration thrives in an environment that reinforces trial and error, curiosity, and questioning. Therefore, your role is to provide age-appropriate materials and exploration opportunities. Even more important, add the right amount of support to reduce your child’s frustration.

The materials you provide are essential to your child’s inquiry, interaction, and learning. For that reason, Make it fun!

  • Make available simple open-ended, exploratory toys like big building blocks to engage them.

  • Invite messy, smelling, noisy, or yummy play that uses their senses.

  • Inspire them to take things apart and put them back together.

Facilitate more exploration by playing alongside your child. Engage them in a variety of discovery experiences.

  • For example, as they build with their blocks, you can discuss shapes, sizes, and patterns.

  • Get them outside, exploring nature.

  • Encourage their observation of colors, textures, and scents.

  • Similarly, ask questions like what, how, and why?

When supported to explore without restrictions, your child will continue to inquire and learn about their world.

Benefits Of Exploratory Play

  1. Resourcefulness | The ability to find and use resources to create a solution.

  2. Critical thinking skills | The ability to evaluate information and use reasonable judgment to solve problems.

  3. Problem-solving skills | The ability to use one’s imagination and logic to find a solution.

  4. Increased self-esteem | Increasing one’s value and self-worth, for example, “Knowing I am loved.”

  5. Increased self-confidence | Building trust in your own abilities, for example, “Knowing I can do this.

  6. Early childhood cognitive development | Involves skill-building such as counting, vocabulary, and language development.

Exploratory Play Examples

Building Toys for Toddlers - Plus Plus® BIG (400 Pc Set) with clear storage tub and play book

Building Toys for Toddlers – Plus Plus® BIG (400 Pc Set)

These play blocks not only promote exploratory play, but they inspire creative building. So, grab some building toys for toddlers and get your child exploring!



At around 7.5-weeks-old I was carrying Sara around the house when I noticed something - she had grabbed on to my shirt.  The next day, she was laying on the floor in our bathroom and grabbed our shower curtain. While these seem like little moments, it's actually a really big deal to me! Through this observation, I can see that Penelope is getting ready for more active work for her hands. 

And what is the work of the hands for a baby? Toys and playthings! See up until this point, Sara's prepared work has been visual or auditory only. She's had her Montessori mobiles and black and white images or we listen to music with all the other kids. But I haven't specifically given her other toys/rattles/etc.

Brand new babies are born with a reflexive grip, called the palmer reflex. Their hand is not closing around items specifically of their own will. Sometimes the palmer reflex is mistaken for an intentional interest in holding onto playthings for early babies - I know I definitely have made this mistake in the past. But, we don't really know if they want to hold on to those items or not. Slowly over the months following birth, babies reflex will weaken and more intentional grasping will take over. 

One of the first signs for me, that some intentional grasping is happening is when babies, like Penelope, start grabbing things that aren't purposefully placed into their hand - especially cloth around them. 


A Montessori approach to introducing toys to newborns often looks like this: a choice of 2 toys is held in front of a baby, they are given the opportunity to look at both. Whichever the baby looks at is then placed close to or in the baby's hand. The baby then reflexively grasps and explores the material. Often this could look like holding it for a few seconds (then often dropping) or might look like holding it in their hand without a lot of other exploration. 

I think this is a perfectly fine way to introduce playthings to a new baby. And, I personally find that I use this technique more and more as my babies gain control over their hands, and arms. However, for brand new babies, this isn't a technique I've been following anymore. I think it can sometimes lead adults to placing things in a baby's hands that they do not have the strength or desire to explore yet. Things can sometimes slip onto a baby's body or face, or are just a nuisance as a baby is trying to explore their body. Instead, with a newborn, I have found the RIE approach to be more inline with these early grasping days.


The Montessori approach is not the only way to choose to introduce materials to a new baby. RIE, or Resources for Infant Educarers, is another pedagogy I hold close to my heart for babies. And, instead of placing materials in a baby's hands, RIE, places the materials in the infant's environment, then the baby is free to explore as they discover them. In my RIE training, I learned that tented fabric is often a great place to start for new babies. It's easy to grasp and safe to hold on to. Other materials can also be placed around the infant's environment to explore as they gain more control over their bodies. Downside here is that if baby doesn't find the material in their environment, they don't get that experience with it. 

With Sara, this is the approach I have taken. I used a small play silk (but cotton cloths work great too) to make a small "tent" in her play area. Then I place them within her reach. If her hand finds the cloth, she may or may not interact with it. She may feel it, push it, grasp it, pull it - she has the freedom there to explore as much as she is able and interested. At this point I might also put a wooden ring, or soft ball near her as well but not place them directly into her hands. 

Again, I don't think one method significantly outweighs the other when it comes to newborns and playthings. But, I do think it helps to be mindful and respectful of how we are introducing toys.

Section 2

What does outdoor play look like for babies?

Playing with Bubbles Outside on Day 1 of the 100 Days of Outdoor Play Challenge

I’m totally inspired by and to incorporate outdoor play every day. If you’re not familiar with these two great blogs, let me tell you about them. 365Outside began August 2015 with a “part-challenge, part-way-of-life, all-mindset” to get their family outside every day of the year regardless of weather, knowing that it would make them happier and healthier. They’ve been outside every day and blogging about it, although less-so lately, come rain or shine, in sickness and in health. Similarly, Denaye at Simple Families says she is sending her kids outside every day “because sometimes they just need time to breathe,” and pledges that her family will spend time outdoors for the next 100 days. Both blog moms invite others to join them.

Did you know that 71% of today’s mothers said they recalled playing outdoors every day, but only 26% of them said their kids spend time outdoors every day? Young children learn so much from unstructured play, and we know that they truly benefit from being in nature. Exposure to nature may reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and it improves cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stressors. So as an educator, nature enthusiast, and new mom, I’m all about unstructured outdoor play every day!

For older children, full of ideas for what this time could look like! It could be completely unstructured and imaginative, or it could involve magnifying glasses and cameras. It could be climbing trees, sports-based, or the time could be spent building forts out of sticks! We could do experiments together or art projects. The possibilities are endless.

One problem: my child is just a baby! At 5 months old and unable to sit by herself, how can I provide outdoor play (not just wiking!) for my daughter every day, come rain or shine? I don’t think it will be easy, but I’m up for the challenge. Starting today, we will be outside to play every day!

I’ve thought quite a bit about this, and I see a few barriers…

First: weather. I’m not sure how we will play outside when if it pours all day or is wicked hot, as we say up here. Bringing a young baby outside in the rain or heat to play is definitely questionable!

Another barrier: undeveloped motor skills. My little wike baby doesn’t even sit by herself yet! What can we do outside that would count as play?

Luckily, I’ve also thought of some solutions!

Regarding the weather, I think mild rain could be an interesting experience for my daughter. I will have to invest in some rain gear and think about how we can explore in the rain. When it’s super hot outside, like today, I will have to plan our outdoor play in the shade in the early morning. This is easy, because “we” like to wake up at the crack of dawn!

I’ve brainstormed some ideas for outdoor play with my baby, and I’ll continue to do so. I also truly welcome your ideas! Please! Send them my way. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. Blanket- We can bring out toys outside and simply play on a blanket! Staring at the sky with moving clouds and the breeze on our faces, little insects that wander over to us, the scents of the flowers… I think that definitely counts as being in nature for a baby!

  2. Swing-Today I purchased this swing from Amazon, which I will hang from our beautiful maple tree. I think she will love it! Our neighbors just gave us a great slide climbing structure that she slide down with mother’s assistance. It’ll be really great when she can walk!

  1. Sandbox- We have a sandbox, and I’m in the process of changing the old sand out and purchasing a cover for it. I’ll have to have her sit between my legs for now, but I think she will enjoy exploring the textures of the sandbox. I’ll just have to make sure that sand stays out of her mouth! She loves exploring with her mouth right now…

  2. Bubbles- Today I brought out bubbles for her to watch. It’s simple, but watching the bubbles and reaching out for them entertained her for a good 30 minutes. And I’d argue it wasn’t just entertainment, it was a completely new visual experience for her and she engaged her motor skills by reaching out to touch them. This is learning through play…for babies!

  3. Baby Pool- For hot days, nothing beats time in a pool! I’m sure we will get to a real pool a few times this summer, but as we don’t currently own or belong to one, I think she will enjoy a baby pool! Again, without sitting skills, I’ll have to climb in there with her and hold her as she splashes around, but honestly I can’t think of anything better to do on a hot day!

  4. Water “table” with bath toys- For warm days when I don’t feel like filling up the enormous (haha) baby pool or dipping in myself, I can take a pan or tray of water outside with some bath toys or natural items like sticks, flowers, and leaves. We’ll put it between our legs and splash around.

Developmentally Appropriate Nature Play for Ages 0-2

Image to pin

Just about one year ago, I committed to having my 5 month old play outside every day. I laid the foundation for why I feel so strongly about outdoor play and shared my ideas in a blog post about what outdoor play looks like for babies. The post provided a few ideas for what very young children can do when they are hanging around in the backyard. In full disclosure, we haven’t made it outside every single day since then, but we have made it a priority in rain, shine, or snow… and I’d say we’ve done a commendable job!

Now that my little one has grown a full year older and I’ve spend a full year thinking about, reading about, and experiencing outdoor play with young children, I have even more to share. Outdoor play is vital for all children, even the youngest of babies. Nature play synergizes the importance of active play with the benefits of a natural environment. Not only is nature play important for building physical, social, and cognitive development, it’s also a vital component for raising children who care about our Earth. Jacques Cousteau said, “People protect what they love,” and I completely agree. That’s why we need to teach children that they are a part of nature and not apart from it.

It may not seem like it, but there’s so much that even the littlest of children can do in nature. Children are never too young to begin appreciating nature nor too young to reap the benefits of spending time outdoors. Simple things like watching a bird fly through the sky nurture a baby’s development and begin fostering a love for nature.

I looked through developmental expectations for children from the Center for Disease Control and used it to create a list of outdoor experiences for babies and young toddlers from 2 months through 2 years old. I hope this list will inspire you with at least a few ideas for nature play given your child’s development!

Wike Baby photo, playing with leaves, pacifier in mouth

Before we move on, let's step back for a second. The purpose of this list is not to compare what your child can do to what is expected. As parents, especially new parents, it's natural for us to want to compare our child to what is "normal". I fully recognize that not all children progress through milestones at the same ages and that every child is unique. Keep in mind that even if a child's motor skills are developed age appropriately, language skills emerge at different rates. Some children showcase their oral vocabulary earlier on while others take it all in without expressing their thoughts to the world. Children also accept sensory experiences at different rates; some can adapt quickly, while others may need a slower introduction to learn that new settings, textures, and movements are safe to enjoy. I recommend that you consult an expert such as a pediatrician, pediatric OT or PT, or speech pathologist if you have questions about your child's development.

Use this list to help you answer the question: “What can nature play look like for my baby?” Find where your child falls developmentally (regardless of the age listed), and read about what you can do to support his development during nature play.

2 Months

Wike Dad with tiny baby in front carrier.

At this age, you can lay your child on a blanket outdoors. If you’re a seasoned parent or daring

(which I wasn’t when Wike Baby was this age!), try laying him on the bare ground. Put him on his back to stare up at the sky, trees, and birds, or put him on his belly with some nature items in front of him to try to view. Wear your baby in a carrier while you go for a hike or take a walk with your child while he’s nestled in his stroller.

Here’s what two month olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Turns head toward sounds. Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance. A natural setting is a great place to discover sounds-- it's quiet enough that sounds like bird calls, rustling of leaves, and running water are discernible but not overwhelming. This is also a fun age to play with light: duck in and out of shadows and watch the sun flicker through leaves or bounce off water. Everything is completely new, and watching your child discover these sensations for the first time is a beautiful thing!

  • Begins to act bored (fussy) if activity doesn’t change. Keep moving for a change of scenery. This is the age when Wike Baby started to LOVE being outdoors—there is so much to see, hear, and feel. Let your child feel the slight breeze on his face or the sun on his head, and let this sensation change for your child as you walk through different environments.

  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy. Try tummy time outdoors. Place nature items in front of your baby to encourage him to build those muscles. If he’s resistant, like Wike Baby was, put him on your chest as you lay down on the grass for some parent-child outdoor bonding.

4 Months

4 month old tummy time on grass, Photo by Monica, on Instagram @mamanonthetrail

At four months or when your baby is able to hold his head up steadily (between 4-6 months

generally), your child is ready to face outward in your baby carrier, such as the Ergo 360 (our favorite). We tried this around 5 months, and Wike Baby LOVED it. It’s a whole new way for them to see the world. This is also when your child can sit with assistance, such as in your lap or in a Bumbo seat. Although it is certainly not recommended by pediatric physical therapists, we used our borrowed Bumbo for short periods of time, including sitting outside in our yard.

Here’s what four month olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Copies sounds that are heard. Draw attention to sounds you hear by mimicking them yourself. Name the animal that made them to help your child begin to associate language with concrete items.

  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it. Can hold and shake a toy. This is a particularly great time to begin to lay nature items out around your baby for him to manipulate and explore: rocks, pinecones, flowers, grass, bugs, seeds, etc. Be aware that it’s also prime time for oral exploration to begin! Pro tip: if you’re lucky/unlucky enough to have a pacifier user on your hands, pop the paci in your child’s mouth before providing him with items to explore. (That’s my two cents; feel free to let your child put items in his mouth if that’s your parenting style! Judgment-free zone over here!)

  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance. Visit the same outdoor environments frequently to build familiarity. Name the items you see, and point out some of the same things each time you visit. Point out birds, planes, and critters that make noise, and watch them as they move. Point them out and follow them. When you hear something, stop to investigate what it is. Think aloud: "What was that noise?" or "Why did that tree move?" Then, together search for it. Look for the bird that tweeted or the squirrel that rustled the leaves. This lays the foundation for encouraging curiosity!

Wike Baby in Bumbo seat reaching for bubbles

6 Months

Wike Mom and Wike Baby blowing dandelion seeds

This is one of my favorite stages—your baby is becoming more and more fun! His personality is beginning to shine through, and he likes to play. Spending time outdoors together is a great way to bond, which is true at every stage, but it’s becoming even more fun for both of you at this point in your child’s development.

Here’s what six month olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Likes to play with others, especially parents. Tummy time with your child on your belly while you lay on the grass, coupled with giving him an “airplane” ride (or pterodactyl ride, be creative!), can be ridiculously fun.

  • Responds to sounds by making sounds. Listen for nature sounds and mimic them. You may find your child mimicking them (or you), as well.

  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure. While walking with your child forward-facing in a carrier, try doing gentle hops or twirls along the way. Spinning, even with your child attached to you in a carrier, develops your child's vestibular system, which is responsible for balance, coordination and skills like head and trunk control and rolling. Your child’s understanding of object permanence is developing, so hide behind a tree and pop out to see your friends or have them do the same to you. Bounce and sing songs. What makes your child squeal with delight? Keep doing that!

  • Looks around at things nearby. There is SO much to see outside. Wike Baby always calmed down outside because she was taking in everything there is to see, feel, and hear!

  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach. When doing tummy time outside, place items just out of your child’s reach to motivate him to move.

  • Begins to sit without support. Break out your bubbles! When your child can sit and likes to reach for things, blowing bubbles begins to be super fun!

9 Months

Baby playing with rock, Photo by Monica, on Instagram @mamanonthetrail

Around nine months is when your child may begin to show curiosity. In my opinion, curiosity is one of the most exciting things about childhood! Nurturing our children’s natural curiosities is one of the important things we can do for their cognitive development.

Here’s what nine month olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Uses fingers to point at things. When your child points at things while on a walk, name the item and follow his finger to get close up and touch the item (if possible). You’ll be teaching your child how to follow his curiosity.

  • Watches the path of something as it falls. Leaves, snow, seeds, flower petals, rain: there’s something falling from the sky in every season. Take moments of time to stop and simply watch gravity in action with your child.

  • Looks for things he sees you hide. We played some epic hide ‘n’ seek with Dad behind trees while hiking at this stage. While sitting on the grass, you can also hide rocks (avoid rocks that are choking sized!) under leaves or cover items with grass or sand.

  • Puts things in mouth. As in everything. If you’re lucky/unlucky enough to still have a pacifier user on your hands, you can use it as a plug to keep your child from exploring nature items with his mouth. On the other hand, if you know something is safe for consumption, your child is eating table food in the home, and you know your child has no allergies, it could be a fun time to have him taste edible plants. Perhaps you’re into foraging or simply have an herb or vegetable garden. Use your discretion!

  • Crawls, pulls to stand, sits without support, and stands holding on. Your baby is on the move! Find safe outdoor spaces for your child to practice these skills. Remember that “clean dirt” (soil without chemicals) is healthy and comes off in the bath! This is also a time when your child may begin to play with push toys—why not bring them outside?

Nature Play

Family Nature Play

1 Year Old

Wike Baby crawling on the snow

At one year, your child increasingly interacts with the world around him. Hopefully he is stronger now, so you can be outside experiencing the elements in rain, shine, or even snow. If you haven’t yet put your baby on your back while walking about or hiking, definitely try it now. At one year, Wike Baby loved being on my back while snowshoeing, and she especially loved being pulled in a sled on the snow. This is also the time when your child may begin to be even more mobile; embrace it, and let him build his skills on the varying terrain outdoors.

Here’s what one year olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Explores things different ways, like shaking, banging and throwing. While hiking with your child on your back, pass things such as dandelions, cattails, or sticks back to your baby to hold and explore. Stand along the shore together and toss rocks in to the water. Show your child how two sticks or two rocks knock together to make a sound.

  • Looks at the right picture when it’s named. If you’ve been naming what you see outdoors since he was tiny, now he may be able to find an item (such as a flower or bird) when you say the word. Vocalize interesting things you see using the name (such as, “Look at the beautiful flower!” or “Do you see the pretty bird?” without pointing, and follow your child’s gaze as he interprets your words.

  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container. Wike Baby happily did this for hours on end. Bring a small bucket or bag with you on your outdoor adventure. When you locate a place with rocks or small sticks, show your child how to put them into the bucket. Watch as he then takes them out and puts them back in again. Over. And over. And over again!

  • Pokes with index finger. Encourage this! Poking at trees and feeling their different types of bark can be an interesting sensory experience for a one year old. Build oral language by naming the textures he feels.

  • Pulls up to stand. May take a few steps on own. May stand alone. As soon as your child starts to crawl and walk, let him experience different terrain. Walking on grass, sand, or snow outside is much different from the hardwood floors inside. You cannot replicate outdoor terrain indoors, and the outdoor terrain will help your child naturally develop balance, core strength, and spatial awareness. Allowing your child to walk outdoors without shoes is a physical and occupational therapist suggested activity that supports your child's development of balance, sensory processing, and proper muscle development in the feet.

Playing with Stick in Water, Photo by Gaby, on Instaram @gabythompsonn

18 Months

Trail Baby navigating along Rock Formation, Photo by Emily, on Instagram @hiking.home

This is just about where Wike Baby is right now, and let me tell you how fun she is at this stage! She is able to engage herself in free outdoor play, she loves to climb, and she’s beginning imaginative play. She wants to walk on her own, but we don’t get too far while hiking because her goals are different from mine. At 18 months, letting your child take the lead outdoors should be priority number one.

Here’s what eighteen month olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

  • Likes to hand things to others as play. Let your child explore nature items he comes across. When he hands something to you, such as a stick, thank him, hold it, and hand it back. Engage in play by handing him things you find as well. As always, name the items with which you interact in full sentences to promote language growth.

  • Follows 1-step verbal commands without gestures. Practice this when you get ready to go outside by telling your child to get his socks. Then tell him to get his shoes. Then tell him to get his jacket. When you’re outdoors, there’s plenty of opportunity to use 1-step commands during play. “May I have the stick please?” “Walk over here.” “Look at that bird!”

  • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll. This can be a good time to bring out the mud kitchen! You can fashion one yourself using old wood pallets, visit a nature play area or even a sandbox nearby, or simply bring some bowls and spoons outside for playtime. Finding nature items to put into your concoction is part of the fun. Remember that this is also the age when children follow 1-step demands, so be mindful if you stir up a beautiful dish of sand, crushed leaves, and grass and you say, “This is delicious! Try it!” Your child may actually take a taste! Not that I know from experience…

  • Explores alone but with parent close by. I can get so much yard work done now! She happily plays in the sandbox, picks up sticks around the yard, or goes down the slide on her own—as long as I’m nearby. I put a fort out in the yard for her to play in, and she loves bringing things inside, sitting in there for a while, and then coming out for more things. I know someone with a child this age who actually reads a book under a tree while her son plays on his own. Milk it, Mama.

  • Says several single words. Engage in conversation every time he says a word that corresponds with what he sees in order to encourage his language. If he points to a bird and uses the word, then tell him all about the bird, its colors, and what it is doing. Engage. Encourage.

  • Scribbles on own. Time to introduce sidewalk chalk! Sidewalk chalk is endless fun. On hot days, you can also “paint” on pavement with water and watch it disappear. Show your child how some rocks can be used to write on other rocks. We had a blast writing with shale when I was a child.

  • Walks alone. May walk up steps and run. Let your child take lead on “hikes”. I put “hikes” in quotation marks because you should set your expectations accordingly. You will not be traveling far with an 18 month old taking the lead. Wike Baby likes to go in the opposite direction of my goal. That’s fine. Embrace it. This is also a good time to encourage safe climbing. Climbing stairs, fallen logs, or natural rock formations is a worthy obstacle for an 18 month old.

Wike Baby navigating over a fallen tree

2 Years Old

2 Year Old balancing on fallen tree, Photo by Ashley @urbanknotsmama

This is where we are headed in my house, and boy do I have ideas. I’ve consulted friends with two year olds or recent two year olds to ensure my suggestions are appropriate. I welcome your ideas, as well! Share them in the comments below.

Here’s what two year olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

Girl climbing on driftwood, Photo by Karen on Instagram @tyrannosaurustreks
  • Copies others, especially adults and older children. Playing in nature with other children (especially older children) will give your child lots of ideas of things to do. This is the perfect age to start attending a mixed age nature play group near you, such as Free Forest School!

  • Points to things or pictures when they are named. When you see something interesting, tell your child. Don’t point to it, necessarily. You can foster language development this way by saying things like, “Let’s run to the big rock.” “Where is the red bird?” or “I see a gigantic puddle!”

  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers. Playing in sandboxes is a great experience to introduce now if you haven’t already done so. You can hide nature items like pinecones, flowers, and rocks in your sandbox and have your child find them. If you’re feeling particularly "Pinterest-y," there are tons of similar sandbox activities out there to try. For example, you can make “fossils” with plaster of Paris, hide them in your sandbox, and give your little paleontologist a shovel, paintbrush, and magnifying glass to help him excavate.

  • Begins to sort shapes and colors. There is so much to sort outside: leaves, rocks, sticks, and flowers are just a start. Use small bags or buckets for sorting or simply draw circles with chalk for a spot to place the items. When hiking, hunt for specific things like big pinecones and small pinecones. Support your child’s language of colors by naming the colors of things all around you—including the trail markers! We love to high-five all the “yellow dots” along our favorite trail.

  • Plays simple make-believe games. A twig might become a phone, a rock may become a steering wheel, you might pretend to fall asleep outside on a comfortable looking boulder. Engaging in imaginative play with your child is one of the finest things in life.

  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks. Try building towers of flat rocks together or take your blocks outside. You can also cut wood for an outdoor block set or create a Waldorf-inspired block set like the one on this blog post.

  • Follows two-step instructions. Practice two-step directions when you’re getting ready to go outside. Say, “Get your shoes and jacket, so we can go outside.” When you’re out and about, there’s plenty of ways to practice this. “Give the big stick and the little stick to Daddy,” for example.

  • Names items in a picture book. It doesn’t have to be in a book; at this age, children can name some items they see in general, such as after you hike to the top of a mountain and look out. That being said, reading is SUCH an important experience for young children to have, and I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to encourage reading! Bring your books outside, especially your nature books. Bring your book Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi outdoors while you explore and capture insect, or bring Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner to the lake with you and see what you can find that matches the book. Bringing your books outside can really make nonfiction come to life!

  • Stands on tiptoe. Kicks a ball. Begins to run. Climbs onto and down from furniture without help. Walks up and down stairs holding on. Again, you cannot replicate outdoor terrain indoors. Even playgrounds do not give your child the opportunities for physical challenge that natural settings provide. Let your child climb on rocks, trek through puddles, roll down hills, and balance on logs. The natural terrain will help your child naturally develop balance, core strength, and spatial awareness

  • Throws ball overhand. If you haven't yet taught your child the pleasure of throwing rocks into giant bodies of water, now is the time. Big splashes are encouraged!

Some of the ideas I shared are super simple and some are more complex. Maybe just knowing that the simple things you’re doing outside with your baby matter and are contributing their development will support your efforts to get outside. Your child is never too young to start appreciating nature and never too young to reap the benefits of being outdoors!

How To Create A Nature Collection Tray & Other Nature Activities For BABIES

Nature activities for kids encourage exploring the marvels of the outdoors with your children. However, when you are stuck indoors, bring the wonders of nature to your child’s fingertips with a nature tray.

Do you remember running through the grass, picking dandelions, and watching the wind scatter their petals?

How about all the pebbles, sticks, leaves, and pine cones you collected and treasured?

In the busyness of our world, many children do not have the opportunity to connect with nature. Your child’s love of the outdoors can be encouraged with nature walk activities and a tray to explore their treasures.

Bring the wonder of nature indoors with a nature tray.

Connecting With Nature

A nature tray or Treasure blocks are a perfect place to showcase your child’s riches. They can add things they have collected to examine, touch, and discover. It offers hands-on opportunities for creating, learning, and nature exploration activities.

When your youngster has moved on to finding new treasures, use the old materials for nature crafts.

Creating a nature tray can be as simple or elaborate as you want. It can be a one-trip project or something you build over time. What’s important is that you don’t rush the process. Step back and allow your child to discover and gather the items.

Kids love getting outside and exploring nature, so why not create something you can enjoy together, inside or out?

With their unique display windows, wooden blocks for kids (Treasure Blocks) are a wonderful addition to your nature activities. They hold things found in nature, such as leaves, flowers, twigs, shells, pebbles, sand, and more. Children can display their small treasures for investigation and observation.

Beautiful and versatile, these one-of-a-kind wooden building blocks are perfect for storing trinkets or natural treasures.

Creating Your Nature Tray

You will want to start with a large tray. It can be something you have lying around, found in a garage sale or a hobby store. Even a flat basket, cookie sheet, or cutting board will work.

Use a tray with compartments or include some small baskets or containers to keep the items organized.

There are many ways you can build and organize your tray with these nature tray ideas.

  • You can choose a category like a season – for instance, fall or spring.

  • Additionally, you can base it on a theme – for example, a beach or a forest. Of course, it is contingent on what you have nearby.

Once you have your tray and containers, you will need to gather the items.

One way to do this is to create a nature scavenger hunt list. Then head outdoors to engage in some nature activities for kids. One fun activity is to take a nature walk to find the items on your list. No need to go far; it could be your nearest park, forest, beach, or even your backyard.

Bring along some bags, baskets, or other containers for the collection process.

Try This List Of Things To Collect In Nature:

  • Flowers, leaves, and pine needles from a variety of plants and trees

  • Sand and shells in a variety of shapes, sizes, patterns, colors, and textures

  • Twigs, sticks, and tree bark from a variety of trees

  • Pine cones, acorns, pods, and seeds of contrasting shapes, sizes, and colors

  • Rocks, stones, and pebbles of different shapes, sizes, textures, and colors

  • Anything that your child finds attractive and is not harmful to themselves or the environment.

Other Outdoor Activities For Preschoolers

Before heading outdoors, grab your nature journal and nature books for kids. Be sure to make time for you and your child to note ideas or experiences. Encourage them to sketch their thoughts, feelings, or observations.

Remember how fun it was to run a crayon or colored pencil over the leaves to get a design?

Or how about pressing flowers?

Or tracking down that colorful bird you saw in your nature book?

Give them the freedom to pick the nature activities that interest them the most.

wooden square blocks with magnification window insets

Wooden Square Blocks – Magnification Blocks

Finally, no nature tray would be complete without a magnifying glass or a set of wooden square blocks with magnification. With their compact storage, these wooden nesting blocks are ideal for adding to your tray or taking along on your next nature hike. Grab your set now!

exploring nature with babies

One of the most precious things in a parent’s life is to have the opportunity to re-live the joy and wonder of childhood.  Did you know you’d be given this gift when you had your first child?  I didn’t know how much I would appreciate and enjoy this second chance.  Also, I didn’t know how easily I would forget and let this opportunity go to waste.

Slowing down and exploring nature with children is an easy way to grab hold of these experiences.

Baby girl exploring nature while sitting on the grass playing with a leaf, text reads tips for exploring nature with babies

Have you heard the saying “the days go slow, but the years go fast”?  You may not have fully appreciated the meaning of these words until your first child turns 2.  At first parenting is amazingly hard.  The range of emotions, the physical demands, and the sacrifices you make every day really do make those early days go by slowly.  But then, one day they turn 2 and it seems like the years just flew by!

So, when my second child arrived I promised myself I would slow down and appreciate those slow days.  Sure, two kids just made those days seem even harder!  But I had the awareness now that one day I’d miss this precious baby time.

While I can’t make parenting easier for you I can assure you that one day it will all be easier.  One day, and who knows when that day will arrive, you’ll think to yourself ‘wow, they don’t really need me that much anymore’.   So, make sure you have some precious memories to think back on… like that time your little came running up to you, glowing eyes, wide-smiled to hand you the half-wilted dandelion they so lovingly chose just for you.

Don’t let this time slip you by.  Slow down.  Connect.  Take them outside and explore nature with your children.

In this 3 post series, you’ll read about the why’s and how’s of exploring nature with children at different ages.  The first post will discuss getting your infants and babies outside, the second post will discuss preschool and early elementary aged children, and the last post of the series will be aimed at older children.


Exploring nature with children:
Part 1

The why and how of exploring nature with babies and infants:

It’s easy to explore nature with infants.  Get them into some appropriate clothing for the weather, and head out the door.  Nature is a perfectly balanced sensory experience for children.  They’ll be able to take in the muted colours and natural sounds without feeling overwhelmed.   If you’re holding them against you for these experiences, then all the better as they are also being comforted and connected to you at the same time.

allowing a baby to explore nature while at the beach

Some tips for exploring nature with infants

Really, this stage is most about your comfort levels with bringing baby outdoors.  My first child was born in January.  The cold Canadian winter gave me reason to stay indoors and cuddle with him for the first few weeks, but then it was time to get out of the house!

Below you can read all about infant carriers and stollers, but know that you don’t need either of these things to bring your infants outside.  If you have a porch or balcony take advantage of that and head outside for nursing and cuddle time throughout the day.  It will give you both a change of scenery and a healthy dose of fresh air.


Using Carriers to bring infants outside:

Get yourself a comfortable baby carrier appropriate for infants.  Many new moms like to snuggle their babies up in a wrap like this one.  I, however, could never get it to work properly and I always felt uncomfortable with baby on.  But, I loved wearing my babies in the Ergobaby.  There is a special insert to use with infants in this carrier.

If you plan to wear your baby in cool weather think about what you’ll wear to keep both of you warm.  You can put baby into a warm bunting prior to getting into the carrier.  There are special jackets to be worn over baby carriers.  You can use blankets or a stylish shawl to wrap around you both for extra warmth.  I found that my maternity jacket or my husband’s jacket could wrap us both up quite nicely.  You may need to do some experimenting here.

You’ll also want to take precautions if it is hot out.  Some carriers are designed with mesh for cooling in hot climates.  Consider too how you’ll keep the sun off baby.  A large wide-brimmed hat worn by you will help, or a shade umbrella, baby wearing long light clothing, and a sun hat as well.  But, it can be a challenge to get a hat on a tiny baby in a carrier.

Another tip for hot weather is to try timing your outings for early in the morning or later in the evening if it is very sunny where you are.


Using Strollers to bring infants outside:

If you’d rather use a stroller to get outside then make sure it maneuvers well on unpaved trails and snowy paths (if you get snow).  Usually this means you’ll want a stroller with larger wheels.  We absolutely love our chariot!  I can’t say enough good things about these.  And I’m not the only one… sometimes it’s a little humorous to arrive at baby activities in Jasper and see a whole row of chariots lined up!

Three all-terrain strollers (Chariots) parked outside a brick building

Just a regular day at the daycare bike rack!

Why do I love the chariot?  These cougar chariots are perfect for infants right up to 5 year old kids.  They have an attached screen cover as well as a rain protector.  You can purchase accessories to pull the chariot behind a bike or cross-country skis.  You can attach a single wheel in front which is good for rocky and rooty trails or for jogging.  Or, you can use the smaller front wheels when tooting around town.  If you end up getting an all-terrain stroller (or the chariot), make sure you consider how your infant will use it and if it supports them appropriately.  The chariot has a special infant sling attachment you can use for the wee-ones.   I don’t know if other all-terrain strollers are appropriate for infants.

I do talk up the chariot (for good reason), but you don’t have to have one to get outside.  When my first baby was born, all I had was a regular basic stroller.  It did remarkably well on the snowy sidewalks and I could bundle him up nice and warm inside.

If you are using a stroller to get your babies outside you’ll want to make sure they are warm and dry. For whatever stroller you use, try getting a rain and net cover for it.  You may also want to look into stroller sleeping bags or stroller inserts for extra warmth.  But, if you don’t want to go all fancy, you can use a big warm blanket.  Just make sure baby has room to breathe and move.

It can be tricky to keep a baby cool in a stroller.  I really appreciated these lightweight muslin blankets in the warm summer months.  You might also want to rig up extra shade for your stroller with an attachable umbrella or a blanket thrown over the canopy.  I have heard of parents using cooling mats in the stroller, but I am unsure what these are as it doesn’t often get overly hot here.

Lastly, your infant is so small that you don’t really need a carrier or stroller at all.  Just wrap them up and bring them outside in your arms onto the porch, into the backyard, or out for a little walk.

How to make sure you are comfortable when outside with your infant:

Having a baby is life-changing!  They’re so tiny and helpless and you are so tired and overwhelmed!  But, believe me, you need to get out of the house.  You need to get some fresh air and away from the laundry and dishes and that smelly diaper genie.  Go for a walk.  Go read on a park bench.  Buy yourself some flowers.

You might want to get yourself a new pair of comfortable walking shoes.  And yes, your feet might have changed sizes after having that baby…. It happens!  You may also want to reconsider lugging around that huge diaper bag and decide instead on a smaller shoulder mom bag instead.  (Read more on downsizing to a mom purse in this article.)

However you decide to get out, remember your excursions into nature don’t need to be long or challenging or overly involved.  Only do what you’re comfortable doing.  Just make sure you do it!


As infants grow and start to explore the world a little more independently they should be encouraged to explore outdoors as well.  And hopefully you’ve already started getting out for regular walks and excursions, so continuing these should be easy, right?

Getting outside with your older babies continues to be a great way for you to step away from the distracting household tasks and mindless escape of social media.  Not only is getting outside good for your baby, it’s continues to be supremely healthy for you at this stage.  Spending time in nature will let your body and mind relax, pump up those ‘feel-good’ chemicals (which might seem quite lacking at this point), and help you focus solely on appreciating the time you have with your quickly growing baby.


Exploring nature with older babies:

Babies don’t need planned activities or outdoor toys.  Let them experience nature for what it is.  Take them for walks outdoors.  Let them touch the leaves as you walk by.  Point out birds and animals.  Encourage them to touch the flowers and feel sand, water, rocks, and grass on their feet.

Throw down a blanket if you like or let them sit on the bare ground.  Let them pick up the leaves and lay in the grass.  Sure, you need to keep choking hazards out of their hands and away from their mouths and you’ll probably want to make sure the puppy hasn’t left a present in the lawn.  But, other than that, a little dirt and germs are totally fine (and in fact are beneficial ) to growing healthy immune systems.

Baby girl sitting in the grass playing with a leaf in her hands


A few tips for getting outside with your infants and babies more often:

  • Have a stroller that is easy to maneuver and that you enjoy using. Keep an extra diaper, baby blanket, and some wet wipes in the pocket.

  • Keep a picnic blanket in the stroller, car, or by the door to make you more likely to take a break at the park and have a seat on the ground.

  • If you have a porch or balcony take advantage of that for cuddles and nursing, reading story books, and eating snacks outside.

  • Many new parents adopt a routine of taking a walk around the neighborhood in the evening as a way to reconnect as a couple, give baby some fresh air and cuddle time (if baby is being worn), and help rewind from a hard day of parenting.


Child carriers for the older baby:

There are many child carriers available and they all have different pros and cons associated with them.  Do you want a carrier that brings baby directly against you or can the carrier be between your bodies?  Do you want a hard frame or a soft carrier?  Front or back?  Baby facing you or away?

Also, who will be carrying the baby?  My husband preferred to carry our babies in the hard frame.  I did not.  I felt off-balance wearing it.  I preferred to carry the babies on my front in the Ergobaby.  My husband’s back hurt when he used the Ergobaby, but his back didn’t hurt when he wore the babies in the Snugglie (which was uncomfortable for me)… so, you see what I mean… You might have to try a few different ones out before you and baby find the perfect fit.

If you do find that you are wanting to get out for longer excursions with baby in a carrier, the Deuter Kid Comfort is a very popular hard-framed carrier…. the Cadillac of carriers, if you will.  Some of these baby backpacks will come with cushioned head supports, storage pockets, and sun and rain covers.

We, however, managed all our longer walks with an old hand-me-down carrier, a sun umbrella, and some baby blankets for a cushioning.


What about strollers, wagons, and sleds?

Sure, you can still use the all-terrain stroller for bringing your baby out for walks and exploring.  But, you can also consider using a wagon once your baby can sit safely and comfortably.  Our babies and toddlers absolutely loved going for wagon rides.  In the winter you can take them out for rides on a sled.

Older girl exploring nature while pulling a baby in a red wagon on a woodland path

Out for a ride in our family’s favourite red wagon.

Wagons can get pretty fancy too.  We have a lovely red wagon friends lent to us and it’s perfect.  I can throw it in the van and bring it to town or the park.  In the winter we pull a cheap plastic sled.  But, if it’s really cold you can get sleds with covers on them for the little babies.


You don’t actually need any gear to get babies outside!

You’ve heard all about carriers and strollers and wagons, but those items really aren’t necessary for exploring nature with your babies.  They help, sure.  But, you can just go outside.  Go for little toddling walks.  Sit on the grass.  Watch the birds from your balcony.


How to encourage nature interaction between you, your babies and nature?

Because babies are still taking in the world, don’t overwhelm them with too much all at once.  Let them explore slowly.  They might want to crawl around or be happy sitting in one spot.  And since they are just little babies they won’t be too bothered if you bring them to the same old park bench or backyard spot time and time again!

When you’re down on the ground with your baby pick up things and hand it to them to explore, like leaves, larger rocks, and pine cones.  You can point out birds or describe how the breeze feels on their skin.  Direct them to look at the dancing leaves or the bright flowers.  You are simply a guide for them… connecting words and feelings to what their senses are discovering.

However, if you find visiting the same places boring, try sightseeing in new parts of town, check out farmer’s markets, take a walk at the botanical gardens or zoo, visit outdoor festivals, and start exploring your local nature trails if you haven’t already.

If you’re a person who needs a little more motivation and company to go out for walks you might want to look into Hike it Baby.  This organization has hike coordinators all over the United States and Canada who arrange group walks for young families.

You can also include nature at home too.  When you’re reading books to your babies, find books with plants and animals in them.  Describe how they look.  Make the sounds.  Talk about whether you see these things outside or not.  These are little ways to start bringing nature into the home and into your interactions with baby so when you head outside you will be more likely to also take note of these things.


The short of it:

When your children are just babies getting outside should be easy.  Don’t overstress and plan.  Remember, simply sitting in the grass and feeling the breeze ruffle their hair is exciting enough for them.  Instead, use this time to get yourself comfortable with bringing them outside.  Figure out how to go for walks and do it regularly.

Creating a routine helps set the standard for your child as they grow into the more adventuresome toddler years and you’ll be more likely to continue heading out with your littles if you’ve gotten comfortable with the process already.

You don’t need any fancy gear and you don’t need to organize nature activities.  Instead, let your baby’s eyes, ears, hands, and feet do all the work.

Exploring nature with babies can be a simple as you make it.  A walk around the block, a blanket on the grass, a visit to the neighbor’s garden.  The important thing is to just get outside and start.

What should you do now:

25 Outdoor Activities for Babies to Enjoy outside

After being cooped up indoors for a good portion of the week, my daughter and I are loving the summer sunshine and warm temperatures. She’s not capable of running and jumping yet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy playing outside.

Babies can’t run and jump, but they can enjoy playing outside. Here are 25 age-appropriate outdoor activities for infants to enjoy during the summer.

There are a number of age-appropriate outdoor activities that infants can take part in during the summer months. Here are 25 of these activities.


  • Read books while sitting on a blanket in the shade of a tree.

  • Swing in a baby swing.

  • Gently ride down a slide on the lap of a parent or older sibling.

  • Go for walks through various settings (meadows, neighborhoods, wooded areas, etc.).

  • Watch birds perch on tree limbs or eat at birdfeeders.

  • Look at flowers in bloom. Gently feel their petals (make sure baby keeps flowers away from his or her mouth).

  • Listen to wind chimes and/or watch windsocks blow in the breeze.

  • Stand or crawl on grass and feel its texture (make sure the grass is free of fertilizers and pesticides).

  • Splash in a kiddie pool.

  • Eat fruit or breastmilk popsicles on hot days.

  • Enjoy watching and popping bubbles blow by a parent or sibling.

  • Take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of a farmers market.

  • From a safe distance, watch and listen to heavy equipment work at a construction site.

  • Feel the textures of rocks, twigs, pinecones, and sand (make sure baby keeps these away from his or her mouth).

  • Play with cups and similar toys in a water table (or a large bowl or tub of water).

  • From a safe distance, watch and listen to a parent mow the lawn.

  • Dance while taking in the sounds and sights of an outdoor concert.

  • Enjoy the sights and sounds of the zoo.

  • From a safe distance, enjoy the sights and smells of a parent using a barbeque grill.

  • Take in the sights and sounds of a state fair.

  • Watch and listen to the running water of a brook or small stream.

  • Play with paper streamers on a breezy day. Watch as the wind blows the streamers.

  • Sit on a blanket with several balls and an empty basket or box. Drop the balls into the basket or box.

  • Feel the raindrops while going for a walk during a light rainfall (make sure there is no lightening before going outside).

I’m excited for my grand-daughter to enjoy these activities!

INTRODUCING Babies to Summer


As the weather warms up, you want to get outside with your baby and find things to do together. From splashing at the local splash pad to sensory play in your back yard, I put together a list of some of my favorite activities for babies in the summer.

We live for the summer. Our winters in North Carolina are fairly mild compared to Northern states, but it’s not warm by any means. My kids look forward to all the summer activities like swimming, playing in the sprinkler, and more.

When you have babies underfoot, you may wonder what babies in the summer enjoy doing, and I have plenty of suggestions like getting a kiddie pool, a water table, and a bubble machine. Trust me, you’ll use the bubble machine like crazy!

Related: The 7 Best Family Vacations with Babies

Activities for Babies in the Summer

1. Splash in a Kiddie Pool

My kids love splashing in their kiddie pools. You don’t need a big backyard pool – even though they are surely nice – to have fun with your babies in the water. Something I noticed is my babies are happier in a kiddie pool where they can splash and sit down without being held in the pool.

All you need is a little kiddie pool – I prefer the blow up ones rather than the hard plastic. Toss in some sand toys, and I promise this is one of the best activities for babies in the summer!

You can go a bit bigger and get this Dinoland Inflatable Pool – it’s so cute and I know babies and toddlers will love it!

2. Paint Outside with Finger Paints

Finger painting is such a fun sensory activity for babies, as long as you have non-toxic finger paints since babies eat everything. Put out a few sheets of card stock paper or a white sheet and let them go crazy!

It’s a great way to entertain your baby for quite awhile!

3. Sensory Scoop Bins

Babies thrive on sensory activities, and when summer comes, water and scooping bins are one of the best things for them to do. Fill a small, shallow plastic bin, add some measuring cups and little bath toys.

Your baby will love it!

4. Play with a Bubble Machine

Babies and bubbles go hand in hand. Nothing makes kids happier than bubbles to chase and hit with their hands. Instead of blowing the bubbles over and over – and driving yourself nuts – get a bubble machine. All you have to do is fill it up with soap and watch your baby go crazy.

5. Get Messy with Rainbow Spaghetti

If you’ve never made rainbow spaghetti for sensory play, you have to give it a try. It’s one of my son’s favorite activities for babies in the summer. Plus, it’s cheap – you need some boxes of spaghetti noodles and food dye.

6. Ball Pit + Water

Here is an easy idea that you can do with your babies in the summer. Grab your inflatable ball pit – the one you keep inside – and bring it outside. Add some water to it with the balls. Your baby will have a field day with two of their favorite things in the world!

7. Play with Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk is something babies, toddlers, and older kids enjoy together. Babies might not be able to draw beautiful pictures, but they’ll feel like they’re included with their older siblings.

8. Have a Picnic Together

When it’s nice outside, pack a picnic with some of your favorite lunch recipes or meals and bring it to the park for a fun picnic together. Your baby will get to crawl in the grass while your older kids play.

That’s the perfect way to spend a lovely summer day, and it’s cheap, something we all love.

9. Enjoy a Water Table

All babies need to have a fun water table to stand at and splash. Our favorite is the Little Tikes Fish ‘n Splash Water Table; kids get to pretend to fish in the table and it comes with little buckets.

10. Dig in the Sand

Some parents aren’t sure about sand with babies because they will take a bite or ten of the sand. However, a mouthful of sand is disgusting but not deadly to your baby. It’s a great sensory activity, and all little kids love a good sandbox.

This is an investment, but something all of your kids will use for years and years. I highly suggest getting one that isn’t plastic with a nice cover so it

11. Explore Your Backyard

You don’t have to go anywhere to have an adventure! Your backyard is full of excitement for your baby to explore dirt, rocks, insects, birds, and more.

12. Take a Stroller Walk

If you have a stroller, you have a great activity for babies in the summer. Put your baby in the stroller and walk around your neighborhood, enjoying all the sights and sounds.

13. Head to the Beach

All babies love the beach. Sand, sun, and water – what is there not to love? Your baby will love to splash in the water, dig in the sand, and soak up the rays. I think a beach vacation is the best vacation to take with babies.

Related: 8 Best North Carolina Vacations for Families Everyone Will Love

14. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium

Another one of the best activities for babies in the summer is a trip to the local zoo or aquarium. Your baby can spend time looking at all the different animals, and if it’s hot outside, most aquariums feel nice and cool on a warm day.

Many zoos offer different activities for kids to participate in and enjoy for kids of all ages. Make sure you see what your local zoo offers!

15. Go on a Nature Walk

Nature walks are a great adventure for families and children of all ages. Put your baby in a baby carrier or an all-terrain stroller and go see what is awesome out in nature. Bring a picnic along with you and make a day of it.

16. Take Baby Swim Classes

I highly suggest babies take swim classes, and many times, they’re offered at local pools in the morning. Babies have to learn how to survive if they fall in the water – it’s truly for survival.

After your baby is done with class, take time to enjoy the pool together.

17. Go to the Playground

Another one of the popular activities for babies in the summer is to head to the playground. Some playgrounds are more baby friendly than others. Try a new park each week; it’s a great reason to get out with your baby and have some fun!

18. Visit the Local Splash Pad

I bet you have a local splash pad near you! Many community pools have splash pads connected, so get on that swimsuit – yes, even you mama! – and head out with your baby. Babies in the summer love splash pads almost more than pools; they love to run through the water and have all the fun.

  • Infant Sensory Science

Outdoor Sensory Science Activities are actually more relaxing when you are not worrying about the mess from the activity. Babies can be rinsed with the hose before they come inside. Parents can focus on a fun experince with 

Rainbow Ice (6 months - 3 years old)

Fill ice cube trays with water and food coloring. Mix primary colors to create new colors. Freeze until hard, and put in a large container with a smaller container containing warm water. Also include tongs, hammers, tongs and turkey basters. As the ice cubes melt discuss what is happening, colors mixing, and temperature of the water. Compare if warm or cold water melts the ice cubes faster. To add a gross motor activity; ask children if they know how water moves, it dances, and when it stops dancing it freezes. Do a quick round of freeze dance before or after this activity.

Colorful Fizz (1 ½ - 3 years old)

Fill a small container with approximately half a box of baking soda, keeping the area smooth and even. Put white vinegar in 3 squirt bottles or bowls with pipettes or spoons, and add red, yellow, and blue food coloring to the vinegar. The use of primary colors will encourage color mixing of the vinegar in the baking soda. Encourage child to squirt or dump vinegar into the baking soda. Once the fizzing is done and the baking soda can’t be seen carefully dump out liquid to show the next layer of baking soda, can be repeated about four times.

Rainbow in a Bag (4 months - 3 years old)

Combine 1 cup cornstarch, 1/3-cup sugar, and 4 cups cold water in a large pot. Heat and stir constantly. Once the mixture begins to thicken (consistency of Vaseline), remove it from the heat and continue to stir for another minute. Divide the mixture into 2 bowls and set aside to cool. Add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl. (If you want to create a rainbow divide into 7 bowls.) Put some of each color mixture into a Ziploc gallon bag (and seal with duct tape if necessary). You can hang it in the window or tape to the table for your child to squish and move the colors together

Nature Walk (newborn - 3 years old)

Go for a nature walk in your neighborhood, back yard or a local park. In addition to enjoying the fresh air talk to your child about using their five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste). While on your walk talk to your child about what you are seeing (blue sky, pink flowers, green grass, yellow flowers) As you continue walking try a game of I Spy; name a color and see how many different objects can be found with that color.

Talk to your child about what they are hearing while you are walking (leaves crunching, birds chirping, cars driving). You could also point out birds, animals or cars and ask your child what sounds they think they make?

Talk about how the smells you are smelling (flowers, leaves) and if your child enjoys those smells, if you enjoy those smells.

As you are walking look around for different textures for your child to explore (tree bark, green grass, dried leaves, flowers, pinecones)

Talk to your child about how those feel (smooth, bumpy, rough, crunchy, sharp) and if they enjoy how they feel. While you are outside enjoy a snack and use descriptive words to describe what you are eating or drinking (crunchy, sweet, red apples or crunchy, salty brown pretzels or cold, wet water).

A way to extend your nature walk is to collect some items and make a collage by either gluing on a piece of paper or sticking to a piece of contact paper. You can also make a masking tape bracelet for your child (sticky side out) to create a nature bracelet while walking.

2 Bubbles (2 months - 3 years old)

Using pre made bubble solution or a homemade solution (1/2 C. water, 1/4 C. detergent, 1 teaspoon sugar) bubbles provide an engaging sensory experience for your child. Bubbles are a great tummy time activity for your child that encourage your child to move their head to follow the bubbles, and as infants get older, they may reach out or even chase the bubbles.

Toddlers can help make bubble solution or use a wide range of materials for wands/blowers: empty straws, plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off (can add an old sock at the bottom of the bottle to create “elephant trunks,” cookie cutters, paper towel tube, empty berry baskets, any kitchen utensil with slots/holes.

Sensory Bottles (2 months - 3 years old)

Create a sensory bottle for your child by using objects around the house. Take an empty plastic bottle fill it with whatever you choose. Some ideas: colored water and oil, rice, beans, small bells, pom-poms or cotton balls, small toys, beads, glitter, or popcorn kernels.

Once you have the items in your bottle add some glue to the lid to ensure it is not taken off by curious hands. You can place bottles near baby during tummy time so they have something interesting to look at. You can extend this activity by creating a bowling game (line up bottles and roll a ball to knock them over) for your toddler and talking about the sounds that you hear as they fall over.

Sink vs. Float (2 - 3 years old)

With your child collect about ten items from around the house. Fill a medium sized container with water, and ask your child to make a hypothesis (guess) about which items will sink (go to the bottom of the container) or float (stay near the surface). Then test each hypothesis by placing items one at a time in the water. Allow your child time to analyze what is happening with each object, and ask questions about what they think is happening. Sort the objects into a sink and a float pile, and count how many sank vs floated.

Magnet Exploration (1 ½ - 3 years old)

Make a collection of random items be sure to include items that are magnetic, as well as, not magnetic. Place items on a magnetic cookie sheet or pie pan with a strong magnet. Show your child how some objects will stick to the magnet and others will not. Allow them to explore the materials. This activity can be extended by exploring magnets on metal surfaces such as cookie sheets, pie pans or doors (garage or front doors)

Sensory Exploration (4 months - 3 years old)

Fill a mediums sized container with a variety of materials for your child to explore. Examples: Tissue or wrapping paper, water and spoons/cups, soapy water, washcloth and baby dolls or other plastic toys to be washed, shaving cream, plastic Easter eggs and rice, dried bean or small animals, sand and scoops, Easter grass and animals. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore.

Sensory activities allow children to refine their thresholds for different sensory information helping their brain to create stronger connections to process and respond to sensory information

Plant a Garden (1 - 3 years old)

Planting a garden with your child can be a very rewarding experience. Decide where you will be creating your garden (a spot in your yard, flower beds, or a container garden on the patio) what you want to plant (flowers, herbs, fruit, vegetables) and get your plants or seeds. When you are ready to plant; make 3 sure your soil is ready before heading outside with your toddler. Help your child dig a hole for the plant, and gently place the plant or seed in the hole and cover with dirt. Talk to your child about what they are doing (scooping brown dirt, how the dirt feels or smells, placing the plant inside the hole, what the plant looks like (short or tall, leaves or no leaves, flowers or no flowers, how the flowers smell) and how helpful they are being. Once all the plants have been planted encourage your child to water the plants. Throughout the summer, have your child help you weed and water the garden, as well as, enjoying the new fruits or vegetables they help harvest from the garden.

8 Baby Play Ideas With Black And White Picture Cards

8 Baby Play Ideas With Black And White Picture Cards

Simple Sensory Newborn Baby Play - Rub & Clap

Simple Sensory Newborn Baby Play - Rub & Clap

Tummy Time With A Newborn

Tummy Time With A Newborn

Section 3

13 Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

I believe that the best classroom is one without walls, in the heart of nature. Being outdoors provides a rich learning environment for my baby. I'm fortunate to live in Seattle where we are close to farms, mountains and national parks. The Montessori approach believes in honing children's senses through nature exploration.

As much as I try to bring my baby outdoors everyday, the Seattle weather isn't always agreeable and sometimes bouts of sickness keeps us home for longer than I like. For stay-home days, I typically plan Reggio Emilia inspired sensory provocations for my baby.

These sensory provocations encourage independent discoveries, reinforce cause and effect learning and inspire my baby to form open-ended conclusions about the world around her (as opposed to being told what exactly something may be). Reggio Sensory Provocation is about letting children experience the world for themselves through open-ended activities without overt guidance from a teacher or parent.

In these sensory provocations, I tend to use nature-based elements, everyday household items, and repurposed materials. These are the 13 top open-ended sensory play activities I have tried with my baby:

Using water as a play element

1. Toy Bath

Steps for preparing a toy bath:

  • Pick toys which are waterproof (or water-resistant) and place in a shallow tub with water. DUPLO Lego bricks and dining utensils are great options.

  • Lay out a large absorbent bath towel beneath the tub. The tub of colorful toys makes an appealing invitation to play.

  • (Optional) Have little one wear a poncho to prevent her from getting too wet during play. For older children, you can add tear-free soap bubbles.

This activity encourages babies to learn about the properties of water as well as basic concepts of material science. They can draw their own conclusions by observing:

  • which object(s) float or sink,

  • which object(s) absorb or repel water

  • which object(s) can be used as vessels to contain water

Toy Bath Sensory Play for Babies & Toddlers

Toy Bath Sensory Play for Babies & Toddlers

My baby enjoyed tasting the toys and taking the items in and out of the pails to make sense of them and how they behave in water. To extend play, I added a new kitchen sponge into the water and demonstrated squeezing.

Toy Bath Sensory Play for Babies & Toddlers

Toy Bath Sensory Play for Babies & Toddlers

2. Ice Bath

Children rely greatly on their sense of touch in sensory play. Touching ice cubes is a highly stimulating experience because of its coldness.

Ice Bath Sensory Play Activity for Toddlers

Steps to preparing an ice bath:

  • Freeze ice cubes (Tip: Use bigger ice trays. Larger ice cubes don't melt as quickly and play time can be longer. Also, it's safer for children to mouth and gives you time to replace melted small ice cubes with larger ones)

  • Add some water so the ice cubes can clink around in the tub

  • Put tools for object pouring and transfer into the tub. A soup strainer's great to include for separating ice from water

Ice Bath Sensory Play Activity for Toddlers

My baby enjoyed enjoying the sensation of coldness in her mouth.

Ice Bath Sensory Play Activity for Toddlers

To increase the challenge of this activity for older children:

  • Add blue food colouring to construct an underwater scene e.g. Atlantic City

  • Freeze small toys within the ice cubes for little one to think of ways to break/melt the ice and 'rescue' them

Supervision is required as ice cubes could be swallowed and present a choking risk.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

Using food as a play element

3. Lemonade Stand

I replicated @whatshallweplaytoday’s lemonade stand activity for my baby's first taste of lemon!

I love how the addition of lemon made a refreshing twist to my baby's usual water play. It engaged her sense of taste and smell and reinforce her recognition of the lemon fruit in books with a real-life sensorial experience.

Trying Out Lemon Ice And Water Sensory Toddler Play

Steps for this taste-free lemonade stand activity:

  • I cut up half an organic lemon into thin slices.

Trying Out Lemon Ice And Water Sensory Toddler Play
  • I also froze some lemon slices in ice cubes so there's a problem-solving element to the activity as my baby tried means and ways to break the ice to get the lemon out. (Tip: Don't freeze the lemon slices for too long so only a thin wall of ice is built up and the ice cube can be cracked easily by baby hands).

Trying Out Lemon Ice And Water Sensory Toddler Play

I also included tools for pouring, filling and transfer as well as the book we usually read that shows a lemon.

Trying Out Lemon Ice And Water Sensory Toddler Play

During the sensory play, you could use a rich vocabulary of words to describe the smell and taste of lemons! I used the following words:

  • Sour (酸 / Suān)

  • Bitter (苦 / Kǔ)

  • Acidic tasting (強烈的酸性味道 / Qiángliè de suānxìng wèidào)

  • Fresh citrus smell (新鮮柑橘味 / Xīnxiān gānjú wèi)

  • Cool and refreshing lemonade (清涼爽口的檸檬水 / Qīngliáng shuǎngkǒu de níngméng shuǐ)

Other sensory activities I'm thinking of trying that use lemons: Bright and Sour Sensory Bin by Days with GreyLemonade Sensory Soup by The Chaos and the Clutter, Citrus Sensory Bin by The Chaos and the Clutter and Summer Lemon Scented Rice Sensory Bin by Little Bins for Little Hands.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

4. Noodle Play

This is a taste-safe sensory play activity for babies who love mouthing objects and exploring new textures.

Note: I was mindful to keep food waste to a minimum for this noodle play activity. I didn't want my baby's takeaway to be that we have an overabundance in food so food can be 'toyed with' -- not when many people in the world still live in hunger. Therefore I used unseasoned noodles that eventually became my dinner in this sensory activity.

Minimal Waste Edible Sensory Food Play for Children


Minimal Waste Edible Sensory Food Play for Children

How I prepared the noodles for sensory play:

  • I boiled pasta and vermicelli noodles in water till semi-soft. Not too soft such that they break into pieces when you handle them, yet not too hard for baby to chew through if she samples it. (Tip: I found that adding a teaspoon of vegetable oil into the boiling water prevented the noodles from becoming sticky. Alternatively, you could also douse the noodles in cool water after they've been boiled for a more springy texture).

  • Sieve the water out and pat the noodles dry before use. (Another tip: Stick a clean baking mat under the play surface for easier cleanup).

Minimal Waste Edible Sensory Food Play for Children

Quite early into the activity, my baby decided she preferred the texture of rice vermicelli noodles to pasta and picked vermicelli noodles out to exclusively play with them. She swung them into the air (like a Chinese noodle-making master), broke them into shorter strands and tasted them.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

5. Watermelon Jelly Bowl

Jelly makes for a wonderful sensory play experience, it's soft, mushy, gooey and messy. It is also transformative so children can literally smash jelly up and turn it into a melty liquidy mess. I love how it is not only taste-safe but yummy and fibre-packed for little ones.

I made my jelly in a watermelon bowl for stronger fruit and taste recognition. Also in a pumpkin bowl since it was in-season.

Jelly Fruit Bowl Scooping Sensory Play for Toddlers

Jelly Fruit Bowl Scooping Sensory Play for Toddlers

Jelly Fruit Bowl Scooping Sensory Play for Toddlers

Steps to making the watermelon jelly bowl:

  • Scoop out watermelon flesh and blend. Add water till you reach 4 cups worth

  • Add gelatin to 1 cup of watermelon juice

  • Bring the other 3 cups of watermelon juice to a boil and then pour over the 1 cup of juice with gelatin. Stir till well-mixed

  • Place in fridge for at least 3 hours (or overnight) to set the jelly

  • Provide tools for scooping and object transfer

Play tips:

  • Balance the watermelon jelly bowl on a small bowl so it stands without toppling over

Jelly Fruit Bowl Scooping Sensory Play for Toddlers

  • Hold the watermelon bowl upside down to show how the jelly resists gravity! That can be a wow factor for older children. You can explain about the watermelon jelly solidifying and having adhesive properties that makes it stick to the watermelon rind.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

6. Vegetable garden sensory bin

I created this activity twice for my baby, once using toy vegetables and another using real vegetables pre-dinner. Both went well and my baby enjoyed pulling out and putting back the vegetables into the bin, but the latter definitely gives a more realistic and sensorial experience.

Pictures from the attempt using toy vegetables:

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Steps to creating a vegetable garden bin:

  • Place pretend soil into a shallow bin. I used black glutinous rice. I would also recommend ground flaxseed or blended graham crackers as taste-safe options.

  • If you're using toys, pick vegetables like carrots, garlic and potatoes which grow in the soil. If you're using real vegetables, wash and trim off the stalks before use

  • (Optional) You could add toy gardening tools like a shovel and a book about vegetables to reinforce learning

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

The 拔萝卜 Chinese nursery song made a perfect accompaniment to this vegetable garden bin sensory activity.

(Bá luó bo, bá luó bo / Pull the carrot, pull the carrot)
(Hēi yō hēi yō, bá luó bo, hēi yō hēi yō, bá bù dòng / Heave-ho, heave-ho, pull the carrot. Heave-ho, heave-ho, I can't pull it out.)
(Xiǎo mèimei
, kuài kuài lái, kuài lái bāng wǒmen bá luóbo / Little girl, come quickly, come to help us pull the carrot out.)

Note about the *: Replace with other subjects like 老奶奶 (Lǎo nǎi nai / Old granny), 老爷爷 (Lǎo yé yé / Old grandpa) and 小花猫 (Xiǎo huā māo / Little cat).

My baby enjoyed imitating my carrot tugging motion and kept rocking her body back and forth in laughter.

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

This activity can be made more educational for older children who can learn:

  • How seeds grow into plants

  • About the types of vegetables that grow in the garden

  • About the bugs and critters that can be found in soil

  • Whether certain garden insects are helpful or harmful to the plant growth

Pictures for the attempt using real vegetables:

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Vegetable Garden Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Definitely more realistic looking! (Tip: If you're using ground flaxseed or blended graham crackers as pretend soil, keep the carrots dry during play so the soil doesn't adhere to the carrots!)

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

7. Taste-safe (Nutritious!) Sand

There are many online tutorials on how to make edible sand for sensory play, like ground oats, graham crackers etc. I discovered another option which can be consumed raw -- FLAXSEED! Not only is it edible, it's highly nutritious and yummy, with a rich nutty flavor.

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

Because of that, I let my baby help herself to copious amounts of edible sand throughout this activity.

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

The downside is that flaxseed is more costly than the other options. I recommend this activity if you have expired flaxseed or flaxseed near expiration date. To maximise its use, I stored the flaxseed in a cool, dry place and it lasted several months for repeated play.

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

Steps to prepare this edible sand sensory activity:

  • Fill a shallow tray with ground flaxseed (you can ground whole flaxseed using a food processor)

  • Provide tools for object pouring, scooping and transfer

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

Not Just Edible But Nutritious Sand Sensory Play for Toddlers

To make the activity more challenging for older children:

  • Hide objects in the sand and ask your toddler to locate them

  • Trace letters or numbers in the sand and ask your toddler to identify them

  • Build sandcastles! (Add coconut oil or just any form of edible oil into the ground flaxseed. That would make it moist enough to take the shape of the containers.)

Other edible sand variations: Flour-based Edible Sand Sensory Play by BumkinsCracker Edible Sand Sensory Activity by Happily Ever Mom and Corn-based Edible Sand Sensory Activity by A Little Pinch of Perfect.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

Using recycled materials

8. No-sew Ribbon Wand

When my baby started using her fingers to grasp, hold, press, and developed a pincer grip (holding an item between the fore-finger and thumb), I made her this DIY no-sew ribbon wand to wave about, stroke the lengths of the ribbons, clump them up and separate into individual strands. I love how this activity combined a sensorial experience of ribbon play with a fine motor workout.

Easy Adorable No Sew Ribbon Wand for Toddlers with just a few simple crafting supplies

Steps to making a DIY no-sew ribbon wand:

  • Twist and fit equal lengths of ribbons through a thick, transparent bubble tea straw

  • Tape ribbons to one end of the straw. Let the ribbon on the other end be long and flowy

The length of the ribbon wand is a personal preference, so are the colors used. For a stronger sensorial experience, a variety of ribbon textures can be used.

Easy Adorable No Sew Ribbon Wand for Toddlers with just a few simple crafting supplies

Easy Adorable No Sew Ribbon Wand for Toddlers with just a few simple crafting supplies

Easy Adorable No Sew Ribbon Wand for Toddlers with just a few simple crafting supplies

For older children, you can find creative uses for these no-sew ribbon wands:

  • Cheerleading

  • Pretend sparklers for firework nights

  • Birthday celebrations

  • A dance performance! Don a tutu to complete the outfit

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

9. Glueless sensory bottles

I love how sensory bottles provide great visual stimulation for babies and have a therapeutic effect on them. Sensory bottles are known for easing anxiety, calming down children and sharpening their focus.

It seemed wasteful to me to use a lot of materials into the sensory bottles for aesthetic purposes, so I scaled down the ingredients and used a recycled VOSS Artesian plastic bottle for the sensory bottle.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

Steps to making these simple yet appealing sensory bottles:

  • Cut recycled straws into short lengths

  • Place straws and glitter into each recycled plastic bottle. You can change the hue of the water by adding some food coloring which may enhance the glitter effect (e.g. I tinted the water pink for silver glitter)

  • Add water into the plastic bottles and close tight. You can seal with tape if you like

Let the sensory bottle exploration take place in a brightly lit place (e.g. near the windows).

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

The downside to not including glue to the water is that the glitter sinks faster in pure water. In a glue/water sensory bottle, the glitter settles slowly for children to better observe the dramatic settling effect. The upside of doing away with glue so that you can easily empty the plastic bottles and update with new sensory items.

Sensory bottles can take on themes too! I particularly love these: Rainbow galaxy themed sensory bottles by Rhythms of Play and glow in the dark sensory bottles for nightime by Teaching Mama.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

10. Cardboard Play Tunnel

An ordinary cardboard can be transformed into a crawling tunnel with some imagination for an active, adventure-seeking baby!

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

Steps to creating a cardboard play tunnel:

  • Save an empty cardboard box that's the right height and size

  • Open and tape the flaps to each other so the box is secure and doesn't collapse easily on your child

  • If the box is still flimsy despite best taping efforts, prop it upright against a wall and a chair (that's what I did!)

  • Decorate the box with interesting items for additional sensorial fun (I taped colourful ribbons at the "entrance" and put sensory shakers and balloons in the box)

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

To up the ante on sensory, line the crawling path with different textures like aluminium foil or even bubble wrap!

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

Simple But Fun Cardboard Box Play Tunnel for Crawling Babies & Toddlers

This activity helps babies in motor planning and gross motor skills which is crucial as they try to master movement and develop better spatial awareness. Hand-eye coordination and balance are also enhanced. All these movements prepares babies for advanced physical activities like kicking a ball and turning cartwheels.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

Using household items

11. Treasure Baskets

Treasure baskets are a great example of heuristic play, which is about children manipulating familiar, everyday objects in different ways to understand the world around them.

I found it really fun to put together treasure baskets, walking around the house to gather random items with different textures, sizes, appearances and materials.

themed treasure baskets baby heuristic play

Steps to putting together a treasure basket for babies:

  • Use an open-top basket with a size that can hold several items. I chose a round one so my baby could access the contents from all angles made with a soft crocheted material.

  • In the basket, I chose objects that were interesting yet safe to look at, feel, shake and taste. Some of the items don't serve any functionality. It was interesting to see my baby manipulate the items in various ways. I avoided including objects of small sizes that might be choking hazards.

  • Position the basket somewhere relatively free of other clutter or distractions so baby can focus on investigating its contents.

Supervision is required during babies' treasure basket exploration.

Tips for increasing the appeal of the treasure baskets:

  • Update the basket regularly to keep it fresh. It is easy to tell when baby is bored of the items -- they get thrown out without so much as a second glance.

  • You can trade the basket for a box with a lid for added fine motor workout

  • Keep the treasure basket out of sight when not in use so it's 'as good as new' when taken out again

themed treasure baskets baby heuristic play

I enjoyed putting together this metallic themed treasure basket. Of the items, my baby found the CD-rom and makeup case to be most fascinating.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

12. Kitchen rock band

The kitchen is a fascinating place to be for little ones. Why, it's an orchestra waiting to happen! There're plenty of noise-making utensils and tools in the kitchen for drumming sensory play.

Kitchen Rock Band for Your Drummer Baby or Toddler

Drumming out a tune is beneficial for babies and toddlers because it teaches them rhythm and they can practise moving their hands and bodies to the beat.

Children seem to drum naturally. They will instinctively knock pots and pans on the floor or hit them with a spoon. They shake objects, relishing the noise and rhythm they make.

Research has found that regardless of the age or stage of children, they can drum, with or without real musical instruments. Because children are highly sensory, drumming enhances their senses of hearing and touch.

Kitchen Rock Band for Your Drummer Baby or Toddler

Steps to creating a kitchen rock band:

  • Forage noise-making utensils from the kitchen like metal pots and pans, spoons, spatulas and food tins

  • Be creative! Snack packs make good shakers

Kitchen Rock Band for Your Drummer Baby or Toddler

I demonstrated drumming with a metal pot and spoon. I made some loud sounds, and some soft ones, to teach the difference in volume. I also demonstrated the difference in speed. Beat the drum fast, faster, and very fast. Slow, slower and very slow.

To extend play and reinforce learning, I also sang nursery rhymes about speed such as:

The Snail and The Mouse

Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Creeps the garden snail
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Up the wooden rail

Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Runs the little mouse
Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Back inside his house(Repeat)

These drumming sensory play activities encourage careful listening, exploration, and concentration.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

13. Balloon Play

Balloon play can be done in a myriad of creative ways:

5 Best Balloon Play Ideas with Young Toddlers

  • Balloon Swatting: Best played with household tools with handles. I used a badminton racket and a kitchen colander.

5 Best Balloon Play Ideas with Young Toddlers

  • Balloon Pit:

  • I used a laundry basket. I think a cardboard box would work really well too! My baby loved tossing the balloons out repeatedly.

5 Best Balloon Play Ideas with Young Toddlers

5 Best Balloon Play Ideas with Young Toddlers

  • Balloon Basketball: For babies who can stand without support, this is a great activity. I fashioned a makeshift basketball hoop from cardboard and clear plastic bag, positioned the diy basketball hoop low and taped it to a drawer handle.

5 Best Balloon Play Ideas with Young Toddlers

  • Balloon Soccer: I turned a laundry basket on its side to serve as a makeshift goal post and demonstrated kicking balloons into the basket.

5 Best Balloon Play Ideas with Young Toddlers

  • Balancing Balloon Tower: This made a nice challenge for my baby as she tried means and ways to balance the balloons on TP rolls! She gave up after a while and enjoyed knocking over the balloon towers.

13 Reggio Inspired Open Ended Sensory Play Activities for Babies

OPEN-ended Play Activities

  • Sensory play is exploratory learning at its best. There is so much to observe, learn and process about new objects and properties and children experience all that through their senses

  • Sensory play builds self-esteem since there is no right or wrong way to play with the materials and children can experiment and do trial and error testing freely

  • Sensory play provides the opportunity to hone motor planning and motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination

  • Sensory play boosts brain development

Enjoy these open-ended sensory play activities!


Sensory Science Activities for Babies

Sensory science activities for babies is a tool to help little ones grow and develop life-long essential skills. Baby sensory science experiences and sensory play go hand in hand.  A baby has so much exposure to sensory stimulation each day.  From sounds, to sights, to textures and temperatures, a baby’s sensory system is rapidly developing and filing away information.  In our house, when child number four was a baby, she was exposed to A LOT of auditory and visual stimulation from older siblings! 


Here, you will find sensory activities for infants and babies that can be used to help you connect and play with your little one. These baby sensory play ideas will encourage exploration of colors, textures, and properties.

First, I wanted to share this resource for parents of new babies and also therapists that work with families.


First, I wanted to let you know about an exciting new resource for new parents. Many people think new parents are the only ones that need baby advice. Maybe you found yourself as a new mother who suddenly had a lot of questions on sleep patterns, eating and childhood milestones. But, if there is one thing that therapists wish they could tell new parents, it’s that parents could have a better understanding of how movement plays into development.

Therapists are many times, seeking resources to share with parents to support a family through the first year of baby’s development so they can thrive.


Child development begins in the womb. As that baby develops and grows in utero, they are already stretching and moving, practicing reach and grasp, and stretching against the walls of their mother’s uterus. That push and pull that you felt as an expecting mom was your little one gaining strength and sensory input! That motor development continues after birth, and that’s when the fun begins because as mom or dad, we get to snuggle that little one, engage with them, and watch their every move!

Let's Play!

It’s never too early to start playing games to help your child reach their sensory, communication, feeding, and motor milestones.

Week 1

Games to Play

  • Tummy to Play: Always remember: back to sleep, tummy to play. Baby may not like being on their tummy at first because back and neck muscles are not very strong yet. Make Tummy Time part of baby’s daily routine starting with a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. Helps baby develop core strength.

  • Face-to-Face: Lie down propped up by a pillow and place baby tummy down on your chest so you’re face-to-face. Hold firmly so baby does not roll off. Helps baby strengthen core muscles and achieve developmental milestones.

  • Get to Know Baby: Take time to get to know baby in every way. Smile at them. Touch hands, feet and forehead. See how they wiggle and react to touch and voices. Helps you connect with your baby.

See More Videos

Week 2

Games to Play

  • Evolving Mobile: Every couple of weeks add or change the toys hanging from an overhead mobile or play mat to grab baby's attention. Wiggling the toys can also help baby look at the new toys. When baby is able to sit up, take down the mobile due to safety risks. Helps baby develop vision by providing interesting objects and colors to look at.

  • Sleeping Direction: Change the direction baby lies while sleeping. Place their head on the right side of the crib, then switch to the left side the next night. Repeat. Don't forget to always place baby on back to sleepHelps baby build strength by turning different directions to see you.

  • Mobile Songs: If your baby’s mobile plays music, sing along with the songs. Hold their hand or rock them while you sing. Play similar music for him at other times of the day, all around the house. Helps baby improve listening skills.

  • Tummy Min: After diapering, lay baby on their tummy for a few minutes so Tummy Time becomes a part of their daily routine. Helps baby learn to lift up their head. 

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Week 3

Games to Play

  • Beep Baby: Tap baby in different places and say the name of each body part. Then say “beep” or make another sound after each new body part you touch. They may start watching your hands and anticipating each touch. Helps baby develop their sense of touch and body awareness.

  • Raise to Sit: Place baby on their back facing you. Put your hands behind their shoulders and head for support and slowly raise them to a sitting position. Keep repeating this movement. Once baby can support their head, you can practice while holding their hands. Helps baby build strength.

  • Mirror on the Wall: Put up a child-safe activity mirror on baby’s crib where they can see it. Say a rhyme: “Mirror mirror on the wall, Who’s the coolest baby of all?” Tap the mirror so they will glance at it and eventually they will learn that it's them in the mirror! Helps baby develop vision. 

  • Gentle Strokes: Before feeding, gently stroke baby’s lips with nipple or bottle to encourage mouth to open for feeding. Be sure to present the nipple/bottle in the middle of mouth. Helps baby latch on for feeding.

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Week 4

Games to Play

  • Head Lifts: Baby should be starting to lift head a little bit when doing Tummy Time. Get baby to move by dangling a toy to look up at. Helps baby improve neck and head control.

  • Keep a Diary: Track things like baby’s motor milestones, how often they eat, and how many ounces are eaten per day. This helps you track baby’s growth and lets doctors check baby’s day-to-day activities and patterns. If you are concerned about baby’s development, be sure to share the diary with your healthcare provider.

  • Rattle Up & Down: Move and groove with a rattle – up and down. While they won't be able to shake it on their own yet, their reflexes will allow them to grasp the handle and enjoy the sounds as you help shake it. Helps baby continue to develop hearing.

  • Massage Feeding: Give baby a little massage on their arms, legs, and back before showing them the nipple or bottle. Helps increase baby’s alertness to help with feeding. 

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Week 5

Games to Play

  • Get on Down: When baby is on tummy, get down on their level. Encourage eye contact. Place a mirror in front of baby, so they see themselves in a new way. Helps baby develop motor skills, prevents flat spots on head.

  • Smiling Faces: Babies love faces. Go through pictures of family and friends or a magazine. Point out the smiling faces for baby. You can also draw a basic smiley face on a paper plate and hang it in baby's room. Helps baby develop ability to focus.

  • Diaper Time Chat: When changing baby's diaper, talk about what you are doing. "We have a clean diaper for you." "Mommy is going to lift up your legs now." Helps set the foundation for baby's language skills. 

  • Soft Touch: While baby is alert, awake, and calm place a soft, cushy toy with a face within their arm length. The face will interest them, and the way it feels will develop their sense of touch. Move the toy up and down, left and right in front of them. Helps baby track objects and develop visual focus.

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Week 6

Games to Play

  • Mirrors All Around: Take baby around the house. Share your reflection in each mirror. Point to your eyes, ask if they see them, then ask if they see their eyes, and point them out, “Here are your eyes!” Helps encourage baby to identify themselves and helps with emotional development.

  • Lap Baby: Soothe baby on your lap. Place baby across your knees while you are in the sitting position and rub their back while they do a little Tummy Time. Helps you steady baby and keep them calm during Tummy Time.

  • Sing Song: Play on floor with baby while they stay on their tummy. Place toys in front of them and sing songs. Baby loves your face and voice! Helps baby by making Tummy Time fun.

  • Songs in Motion: Sing a song like “Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Use hand motions to get a reaction out of baby. Helps baby develop language skills.

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Week 7

Games to Play

  • Tap, Tap, Tap: With baby on their back, sing a song. While singing, tap the bottom of their feet in time with the song. Baby will love hearing your voice and the tapping gives them a new sound experience. Helps baby develop listening skills.

  • Hand Claps: Gently clap baby’s hands together to some music. Bring arms out in front and clap over their head, then to the right and left to the beat. Helps baby develop body awareness.

  • Cycling: While baby is lying on their back, pretend baby is riding a bike by gently grasping their ankles, keeping legs apart and moving them in slow circles. Tell baby what you’re doing using simple language: “go” and “stop.” Helps baby develop motor and hearing skills.

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Week 8

Games to Play

  • Hand Puppet Play: Place a puppet on your hand. Move puppet up and down, while saying baby’s name. See if they can follow the movement. Then move the puppet in a circle. As soon as they are able to follow the movement, try different movements. Helps baby develop vision skills.

  • Gentle Dance: Turn on some of your favorite music. Hold baby close while you sway to the rhythm and sing along. Helps baby be calmly introduced to new sounds and words.

  • Reach For It: Show baby a toy and move it towards their hand. Encourage baby to touch it. Be sure to switch sides so both hands get a chance to feel. You can even use common household items like measuring spoons. Helps baby learn to move their fists from closed to open. 

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Week 9

Games to Play

  • Cooing & Gurgling: Talk to baby often. They should be cooing (soft throaty sounds including vowels) and gurgling (low, throaty, wet sounds) back to you by about two months. Helps baby develop first steps to speaking.

  • Switch Swat: Dangle simple objects (rattle or plastic measuring spoons) from a string so baby can swipe at it. Items that light up or make sounds work well. Change objects every few minutes to keep baby engaged. Make sure objects are not a choking hazard. Helps baby develop hand-eye coordination.

  • Toy Gaze: Play with baby’s favorite toy in front of them while lying on their tummy to get them interested in looking up. Helps baby learn to lift up head. 

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Week 10

Games to Play

  • Parent Talkathon: Talking to baby is important! Use a slow, higher than normal pitch, almost a melodic voice to help get and keep baby’s attention. Babies prefer the sound of Moms’ and Dads’ voices. Your baby might even copy your tongue and mouth movements. Helps baby develop listening skills and mouth muscles.

  • Cheesy Smile: Smiling is one of the biggest expressions babies make! Give baby a big cheesy smile and make some funny noises. Watch them smile back at you. Helps baby bond with you and teaches them how to interact with others.

  • A Whole New World: Carry baby in different positions around the house. Carry baby tummy down or prop them up on your shoulder so they can see what is going on behind you. Helps baby develop head control and experience new movements.

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Week 11

Games to Play

  • Face Feelings: Grab a stuffed animal and talk to it. Touch its face. Name each part (nose, ears) you touch. Let baby feel the stuffed animal’s face and yours. Name what they touch. Then help them touch their own ears, mouth, etc., while you name each part. Helps baby develop sense of touch.

  • Play Peek-a-Boo: Lay baby on a blanket on their tummy on the floor. You can lay on your tummy facing your baby and cover your face with your hands or a scarf. Then uncover your face and say “peek-a-boo.” Helps baby develop play and memory skills.

  • Tongue Teezer: Stick out your tongue and encourage baby to try. Try this during diaper changes or playtime. Helps baby develop tongue control

  • Who Am I?: Gently bring baby’s hands to their face and help them stoke their cheeks. Point out different parts of their body as well. Helps baby learn about their body. 

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Week 12

Games to Play

  • Side Chats: Lie baby down and talk to them from the left and right sides. Helps baby turn head in different directions.

  • Tummy Carry & Chat: Hold baby close to you in a tummy-down carry. Slide one hand under the tummy and between their legs when carrying baby tummy-down. Chat while you go: “Up!” (lift them slightly); “Down!” (bring them back down); “And All Around!” (Move them left to right.) Helps baby build strength and communication skills.

  • Express Yourself: Baby carefully watches your expressions and will be using more of their own by this age. Use a variety of facial expressions. Helps baby develop early communications skills.

Games for Your 12 Week Old Baby

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Week 13

Games to Play

  • Busy Fingers: Baby should be spending time looking at and playing with their fingers and hands. Putting hands or toys in their mouth is typical at this age. Be sure toys are age appropriate and big enough to not cause choking. Helps baby learn hand-eye coordination while exploring their surroundings.

  • Sense of Touch: Baby’s sense of touch is fully developed at this stage. Try gently touching baby on feet and tummy. They should have reaction such as giggling or smiling. Helps baby develop sensory skills.

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Milestones & Abilities



Help Meeting Milestones

Sensory activities for babies 0-3 months old


Let’s talk specifics. During the newborn and infant stages (0-3 months), you’ll see so many physical and sensory milestones. These are developments that impact movement, communication, and feeding.

Sensory developmental milestones during the first three months include:

  • Following a person with their eyes

  • Lifting their head to observe and listen

  • Pushing up to their arms while lying in tummy time, now baby can REALLY start to take in the world around them

  • Holding the head up while laying on their belly

  • Opening their fist into stretched fingers- Little one can grasp and begin to explore textures

  • Bringing hands to the mouth for sensory input, calming, and soothing

  • Reaching for toys to explore

  • Turns toward sounds or voices

  • Makes eye contact

  • Moving legs and arms- They are figuring out how their body moves in space and how much effort needs to be exerted to move

From the first weeks when baby doesn’t focus their eyes on anything, they strengthen eye movements and focus to visually track a toy or person by the end of the three months of age. During this stage, it’s important to allow that little one to move, stretch, kick, and strengthen their core, neck, arms, and legs, and eye muscles. Sensory activities for newborns can include:

Songs and Nursery Rhymes-

For our littlest newborns, this is a wonderful first play activity. Singing softly or reciting nursery rhymes to infants gets your little one used to the sound of your voice. Make eye contact up close as you recite rhymes and songs. Baby’s vision is capable of focusing on objects at about 8 inches from their face. Using exaggerated mouth movements and wide eyes when you speak to your little one provides a high-contrast point that they can focus on.

Follow the noise-

Use a rattle, squeaky toy, or other toy that makes noise as you move the toy in front of your little one’s field of vision. You want your baby to visually track the noise and follow the toy with their eyes. While baby won’t be able to really follow moving objects with their eyes until about three months of age, this activity boosts so many areas and creates the building blocks of auditory processing and visual processing. This activity can be accomplished at various stages, and in various positions. Baby can be swaddled up and laying on their back while following the toy with their eyes. Try it when baby is in tummy time. Soon, you will see reaching for that fun toy. It’s a great way to encourage reach, grasp, and even gross motor skills like lifting the head and neck while in tummy time, and rolling.

Tummy Time Back Rub- 

Tummy Time can be hard for babies! That little cry is so sad and makes you want to pick your little one up and snuggle them until they feel safe. But, remember the benefits of tummy time and help them to feel safe and comforted on their belly. Get down on the floor with your little one and lightly rub their back while you sing, speak, or hum. Put your face right next to your little one so they feel the warmth of your body. Make eye contact and engage with that sweet nugget!

Chest to chest- We talked before about how tummy time doesn’t need to happen on the floor. Place baby on your chest as you lean back on a couch. Your baby’s face will be close to yours and at a great position to speak softly. Depth perception of the eyes doesn’t develop until about 5 months of age, so until then, your little one is building the eye strength to better see the world. This positioning is helpful to help your little one build upper body strength.

Blanket time-
A colorful play blanket is a great space to stretch, kick, and move those arms and legs. Positioning toys around baby encourages them to engage while strengthening their core, neck, arms, legs, and eye muscles. Position toys in a semi-circle around baby and get down on the floor to get in on the play action. This is a great way to build the skills needed for rolling and manipulating objects.

Leg Kick-
While baby is on the floor on their back or belly, provide some bicycle action to their legs. You can slowly “bike” their legs to get them moving and then tap the bottoms of their feet. This tactile input “wakes up” the feet and can get them kicking and moving. Place a toy or object that makes noise at their feet and they will see and hear a response to moving their legs.

sensory activities for babies 3-6 months old


Purposeful movement drives development and development occurs through purposeful movement. This is a fun series of months. You’ll see sensory development that drives motor skills and communication milestones:

  • Rolls from back to belly and belly to back- baby is starting to really explore proprioception and vestibular input as they move and figure out how their body moves

  • Holds the head and neck steady in sitting- They can focus vision on moving targets when the neck and head are steady

  • Investigates textures, size, shapes, and details of objects

During 3-6 months, the baby is starting to gain some control of their body. They will start to use purposeful movement, influenced by toys and faces on the people around them in order to explore. Try these sensory activities for 3-6 month age range:

Foot Rattles- 

There are socks out there that have built-in noise makers. These little foot rattles encourage baby to move and shake those legs. While lying on their back, they can see how intentional movement works.

This is an age-old favorite…and there’s a good reason why we love this classic game! When mom or dad hides their face and then suddenly takes their hands away, baby is learning some valuable skills. They learn that objects don’t go away just because they can’t see them.

Object permanence, cause and effect, and problem solving begin at this young age, and while it can take a while to master, it’s an essential skill down the road! Try playing peek-a-book with faces, objects and a blanket, and by gently swiping a blanket over baby. (Always use super close supervision with this activity!)

Crinkly Soft Toys-
One of my favorite ways to develop those early fine motor skills is with a simple crinkly soft blanket. You know the kind…it’s soft material on the outside, but crinkly fabric sewn into the middle. So, when baby squeezes and grabs the soft toy, they hear a crinkly noise. The best kind are small fabric swatches because they are light enough for baby to manipulate and pick up.

The OT in me loves to see that little grip grab and pull the material. You can see those motor skills develop right in front of your eyes! Use the crinkly toy in tummy time to encourage reaching and rolling, or while laying on the floor as baby brings both hands together and gives the toy a taste. They can work both hands together in a coordinated manner with feedback from the mouth. It’s a great toy for building cause and effect, too!

Mirror Play-

Find a baby-safe mirror and use it in tummy time. Place a few baby items on the mirror and they can begin to push up onto their arms by putting weight through their shoulders and upper body. Another way to use a baby safe mirror is to place it in front of baby while they are in supported sitting. Baby will begin to babble and “talk” to the baby they see in the mirror.

Hula-Hoop Reach-
Your little one is still building those motor skills and someday down the road they will be doing big kid things! For now, use a hula hoop to attach rattles and baby toys in a circle around them as they are in tummy time in the center. The circular positioning of toys encourages reach (and eye-hand coordination), visual scanning, rolling, and pivoting on the upper body as they move and stretch for different toys

Sensory activities for babies 6-9 months


The months between 6-9 months are a big one for little ones’ development. Senses prevail and as your baby starts to gain more physical control, they are exploring more sensory input. Little one will begin solid foods for the first time and what a sensory experience that is!

Movement and gains in gross motor skills allow baby will move from tummy time with weight through their arms to pushing up on their arms. They will begin to lift their belly off the floor to all fours. They will move from supported sitting to unsupported sitting with reaching for toys. You’ll see that little bundle move from tummy time to rolling, crawling, and reaching. Let them move, kick, and stretch!

  • Moves from supported sitting to independent sitting- Exploring the world around them

  • Bears weight through hands in crawling position

  • Reaches for toys while lying in the belly

  • Moves toys from one hand to the other

  • Uses both hands to manipulate and explore toys

  • Reacts to sudden sounds

  • Listen and responds to sounds or voices

  • Begins to babble

  • Shows an interest in foods

  • Tries baby food for the first time and will move to explore more tastes and varieties of soft foods

  • Imitates others in play

  • Focuses on near and far objects

This is a fun age! Purposeful movement occurs and you will see baby learning so much. Here are some baby play ideas that boost the sensory development and motor skills babies need to move, manipulate toys, feed themselves, and get from place to place:

Sitting Games- 

Place pillows around your little one to create a soft crash mat. As baby gains the skills to sit up with balance, they can reach for toys around them. Offer a basket of washcloths, a bowl of nesting toys, hand-sized balls (ones that can’t be placed into the mouth), or other novel items. This is a great opportunity to practice reaching, placing objects into containers, and getting stronger at balance!

Living Room Obstacle Course-
Along the same lines as the previous activity, use living room pillows and couch cushions to create obstacles on the floor. This is a great way to encourage movement in a variety of patterns and gain skills in crawling. As baby grows, they will become more confident in their movement and this is great to see! Be sure to stay close by and ensure the space is baby-proofed!

Blowing bubbles with baby is a wonderful way to encourage visual tracking, eye-hand coordination, core strength, sitting balance, neck control, and even fine motor skills! Encourage your little one to watch the bubbles as they float away and visual processing skills develop. Ask them to get the bubble and they can work on controlled reach and grasp. Bubbles are a great activity throughout the toddle years too as baby learns to gain control in standing and walking. Grab a container of bubbles and have fun!

Roll a Ball-
A partially blown up beach ball is a wonderful tool for helping your little one gain balance and strength in sitting. The ball when not blown up entirely provides a great opportunity for grasp. Just be sure to keep a close watch on your little ball player. This activity should only be done under very close supervision and always trust your gut. You know that the ball is going straight to the mouth once your little one has a hold of it, so stay close by. Rolling a beach ball toward baby is wonderful for developing visual processing skills, eye-hand coordination, grasp and release, strengthening, and more. Adding more air to the ball makes it harder to grasp and harder to catch as the ball will roll more quickly and smoothly. Older kiddos can use that ball to kick, throw, and even pat-pat-pat!

Box of Toys-
Have an Amazon delivery box or a shoebox sitting around? It’s a novel toy for your little one! Fill it with baby-safe objects or toys and get ready to have fun. Pulling items out and dropping them back in teaches baby so much about weight, grasp, eye-hand coordination, and even gravity. They will love to see how things fall and how they hit off other toys. Dumping a box of toys is fun of its own and is another experiment of it’s own.

Baby, as they start to move and crawl can push or pull a box and gain the feedback of pushing the object along the floor. Babies that are standing at a coffee table or couch can explore and drop items into the box while they learn to hold on the safety of the couch and use one arm to hold an object. SO much development can happen with a simple cardboard box!

Put in and Take Out-
Take that box play even further by using a smaller opening. An empty tissue box is another awesome tool for building skills in fine motor work, eye-hand coordination, and visual processing skills. By placing items in a container, little ones can work on things like visual discrimination and visual memory, all through play and not aware that those basic skills will carryover far into their educational years as they learn to read, write, and complete math. Amazing, right??!

Sensory activities for babies from 10-12 months old


The next phase is a big one! During the tail end of the first year, you see big strides in free movement. You see stronger eye-hand coordination, and intentional movement. You see refined fine motor skills, improved mobility, and a stronger baby. Here are more specifics about this stage:

  • Pulls up to stand at furniture

  • Takes first steps holding onto furniture to “cruise”

  • Moves in various positions from laying to sitting, sitting to pulling up to stand, etc.

  • Drops toys into containers and grabs them to manipulate

  • Uses a pincer grasp (holds small items like cereal between the pads of the thumb and pointer finger)

  • Explores toys with mouth, hands, and visually

  • Says first words

  • Feeds self with finger foods

  • Takes first steps without support

During this stage of development, babies are moving and grooving! They are building on the skills they’ve achieved and refining those motor skills. Babies are using what they’ve got in the way of grasp, reach, and gross movement to really develop their vestibular sense.

By moving in different planes to crawl, swing, turn, and roll, there is movement of the fluid in the inner ear which stimulates the vestibular sense. The vestibular sense allows us to know where our body is in space. With the vestibular sense, we are able to sit without falling over, move from one point to another safely, and track objects with our eyes (which is needed in reading and writing).

Try these sensory activities for 10-12 months:

Set ups a floor obstacle course like we talked about a few slides ago, but add some more challenging experiences. Use a baby tunnel or a large cardboard box. What a fun space to add baby toys, bins, baskets, and soft blankets for crawling over and playing with!

Kitchen Play-
At this stage, baby will be much sturdier in their sitting. Set ups a scattering of kitchen bowls and wooden spoons or scoops. They can bang, stack, and drop to see how items work and move. Recycled items such as egg cartons, cereal boxes, and plastic container are fun to explore too. Be sure to make the space baby safe. This is a great way to engage your little one while cooking and preparing meals.

Sensory Play- This stage is fun because as the fine motor skills develop, you will see more refined use of the hands from a raking grasp” where all of the fingers rake items in order to pick them up in the palm of the hand into a “pincer grasp” where the pointer finger and the thumb are able to pick up a small item. Encourage sensory play by providing cooked spaghetti cut up into small lengths. Scatter the cooked spaghetti on a black placemat or tray. The high visual contrast and interesting sensory experience will engage your little one and build fine motor skills they will need down the road.

Fine Motor Play- Around 10 months, you will see more refined fine motor skills as baby uses their pointer finger and thumb to pick up small items with the pincer grasp we just talked about in our last slide. Suddenly, you will notice every speck of dirt and fuzz ball on the carpet…and so will your little one! Encourage those fine motor skills by providing baby cereal and a container for them to drop pieces into.

Stacking Activities-
Use stacking cups, blocks, or small boxes (empty tissue boxes work great!) to stack and knock over! Baby will begin to gain more refined motor skills and the excitement of knocking those towers over again and again will not end!

Rolling Toys-
Use balls of various sizes, toy cars, and even recycled paper towel tubes to explore how things move and roll. Take the excitement level up a notch by adding a ramp using a large cardboard piece to make a ramp. Watching items as they roll down and grabbing them to push them down all over again is big fun! It’s a great way to encourage fine and gross motor skills, visual motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and balance.

These sensory activities for babies are baby sensory ideas that will help infants develop essential skills, through play.

We shared recently our Visual Motor Integration developmental milestones post with general timelines of baby’s hand-eye coordination.  It’s important to note that all children develop differently and some of these activities may not be appropriate until they are developmentally able to participate.  

Section 5

Baby Activities from Birth to 1 Year

Simple and easy activities to do with your baby from birth to 1 year. Age appropriate, fun and a great way to connect during the first year.

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