4 Stimulating Play Ideas For Babies -(From Early Years Experts)

Looking for ideas on how you can make stimulating play for babies at home?

Babies and young children learn through play, and each new stimulus that babies encounter creates new pathways in their brains. You as parents and main caregivers are the most important people in your children’s lives. How you respond to your baby has a significant impact on their brain development.

In the first year of life, the brain doubles in size. And by the time your child turns one, their brain is two-thirds the size of an adult brain. In fact, at times during the first year of life, over a million connections are forming every second in your baby’s brain! So what happens to your baby shapes their brain. And the most important thing that happens to your baby is you! 

​Everything you do when you are with your baby sparks connections in their brain, creating pathways that the child can use again, and this helps them grow and develop.​ Young babies take in information through their senses, and research has shown that involving babies in sensory experiences from birth helps to boost their brain structure.

We’re joined by Julie Pearson, an early years development manager at the Early Years Alliance, who is here to offer expert tips and ideas.

Here are some easy and low-cost sensory activities that you can try at home with your baby:

(NB: Remember, these activities are to be carried out under close adult supervision. Never leave your baby alone with the resources and activities suggested below.)  

Use Their Sense Of Touch

stimulating play ideas babies - image shows a mum and a baby playing

For babies not yet able to reach or hold their head up, you could try putting a cushion or box in reach of their bare feet and cover with different types of material, such as different fabrics, tissue paper or bubble wrap. Alternatively, you could hold different materials such as scarves, ribbons and tissue paper over your baby and gently move them up and down your baby’s bare body from head to toe.  You could also try blowing gently or blowing raspberries on their skin. Or you can start singing songs that involve touch. Such as ‘round and round the garden’, tracing around your baby’s hand or tummy with your hand or fingers as you sing the rhyme. 

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When your baby is beginning to be able to lift their head up for a few seconds and can reach a little with their arms, either on the floor or with their chest supported by a nursing pillow or a rolled blanket, you could try having materials such as fabrics and foil blankets in front of them within reach so they can touch and explore them. You could also try a shallow tray of water with some items floating in it. Try a ball or rubber duck, so they can splash and explore with their hands.

For older babies, if you would like to try something messy, why not explore some ‘Gloop’? It’s easy to make, created by mixing cornflour and water to make a paste. You can then allow your baby to explore with their hands and feet. Remember to supervise your baby closely and never leave them unattended when exploring water or other messy play activities. 

Colours And Light – Stimulating Play Ideas For Babies

stimulating play ideas babies - image shows smiling and being surrounded by bubbles

As babies explore sight through colours and light, try playing with different types of light – for example, dimming the lights in the evening and moving fairy lights, glow sticks or torchlights around your baby (never directly in their eyes). Alternatively, you could wave a scarf around in front of their face for them to follow the movement, maybe swaying it slowly from side to side for them to follow with their eyes. 

Why not try blowing bubbles? They can be picked up at a low cost and your baby will be intrigued by bubbles as they watch them float through the air – this offers opportunities for children to track the bubbles with their eyes – then pop and disappear.

Investigating Sounds

stimulating play ideas babies - image shows a baby using a wooden spoon to tap on a tin pot

Your baby will be learning about sound by moving and banging objects. They will also be strengthening their fine and gross motor skills through grasping and squeezing). You could introduce your baby to new sounds by pouring water from one container to another at bath time, ripping paper, exploring a foil blanket.

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Or you could make your own sensory bottles by filling empty bottles with dry rice or pasta for you to gently shake (as your baby gets older, they will be able to explore and shake these themselves). 

Don’t forget about singing songs and rhymes too, as they are a great way to support babies’ brain development 

Exploring The Outdoors – Stimulating Play Ideas For Babies

image shows a baby being kissed by their mother.

And finally – go outside! Get up close and show your baby leaves moving in the breeze, the shadow and light of the sun through branches. Allow your baby to put their bare feet on the grass. Or just stand holding your baby under an umbrella and listen to the pattering of the rain!

Nature itself provides so many sensory activities that change every day. So why not have a sensory walk and explore nature’s natural wonders?

Most importantly, have fun together! Remember that each new sensory experience builds different connections in a baby’s developing brain and helps lay those important foundations for their later learning.  

Early Years Alliance

For more FREE information, advice and tips on supporting your child’s early learning and development, visit the Early Years Alliance’s Family corner website. Family Corner is the family arm of the Early Years Alliance, offering expert articles, activity ideas and online learning sessions on key areas of child development such as learning through play, communication, behaviour, health, nutrition and wellbeing.

Want To Get Out And About, Have Fun With Your Baby Or Toddler, And Meet Other Parents?

Search Happity to find everything that’s happening for the under-5’s in your local area – from music and singing classes, to messy play, arts and crafts, baby massage, gymnastics and more. Simply enter your postcode and child’s age to search, and then book your spot in a few taps. Enjoy dedicated fun time with your little one, watch their skills develop, and make friends at the same time. Mums, dads, grandparents and carers will all find something to love!

Find a class today!

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