“Sensory play is any activity that allows babies to safely explore using any combination of their senses in creative and spontaneous ways. By providing a variety of baby-friendly, open-ended, every-day materials, infants and young toddlers have the opportunity to discover how their senses work through imagination-based play and experimentation. Sensory experiences can be great, messy fun and the possibilities are endless!” writes BellyBliss.org
Sensory play doesn’t even have to wait until baby’s outside of the womb either. Babies start learning while they are still in their Mama’s belly. Before and immediately after birth, there are a ton of learning activities that new parents can begin implementing to ensure their little one is off to a great start in learning about the wonderful world around them. The foggy days of new parenthood might seem like an endless cycle of feed the baby, change the baby, get the baby to nap; over and over again. Adding something new to this routine daily is healthy for both parents and the baby. Sensory activities are a great way to change up the daily routine and have a little bit of fun!
From tummy-time exercises to dance parties, there are a ton of quick, easy and fun learning experiences widely available on the internet. A quick search will present a wide array of ideas. Below, read the importance of 15 things Moms can start teaching baby from the moment they are born, and five things to start before baby even arrives.
20 Textures Are So Easy (And Cute) To Introduce
It’s never too early to start learning about different textures. Newborns will be especially fascinated by all the different feelings of objects around them in this new environment! Of course, there most favorite texture will the feeling of Mom or Dad close by! Try something fun like the DIY hula hoop pictured above, or as one Pinterest user suggests, make a texture sensory board using free carpet and tile samples, paint chips, ribbons and more. Other items you could use for texture include buttons, noodles, beads, cardboard, feathers and pom-poms. The options are endless for this easy craft and activity in one, so have some fun with it.
19 Shapes (Using Black & White Pictures) To Develop Their Retinas
“At birth, a baby’s retina is not fully developed. The retina is the back layer of the eye that detects light. An adult retina can distinguish many different shades of light and color, but a newborn retina can only detect large contrasts between light and dark, or black and white. So while an adult can appreciate various shades of pastel colors on the wall of baby’s nursery, a newborn may only see them as one shade all blurred together,” explains DrSears.com.
Make some black and white flashcards and show baby the different shapes. Explain to your baby the difference in the colors and explain the shapes you are showing him/her. Not a crafty mom? No big deal, you can easily order some newborn flashcards off of Amazon.
18 Movement: Tummy-Time On An Exercise Ball
Tummy-time for newborns is a no-brainer! “Tummy time — placing a baby on his or her stomach only while awake and supervised — can help your baby develop strong neck and shoulder muscles and promote motor skills. Tummy time can also prevent the back of your baby's head from developing flat spots…” explains MayoClinic.org.
Adding a little bit of movement to your baby’s tummy time is a great way to let your newborn experience something new and fun. Try resting them on top of an exercise ball and sway them back and forth, gently of course! You can also bicycle your babies legs or exercise their arms. All of the above are great options for introducing your little one to the idea of movement!
17 They Don't Have Motor Skills Yet, But You Can Show Them How It's Done
“In the first few months of life, as the nervous system and muscle control start getting in sync, your baby's movements transition from quick and jerky to smoother and more intentional. Gross motor skill improvement involves the large groups of muscles used to sit, stand, walk, run, keep balance, or change positions. Fine motor skills include using hands to eat, draw, play, or pick up small items. You can help strengthen your baby's muscle development and motor skills with simple activities and practice,” shares Similac.com.
Your baby won’t be able to actual practice motor skills for a few months, but you can start introducing them to your baby right away. Try holding a rattle and showing baby how you shake it.
16 Emotional Bonding: They Have To Learn To Trust
Perhaps the most important thing you can start teaching your baby from day one is the importance of emotional bonding. This is critical in the newborn stage for both parents and baby. “Bonding plays a critical role in your baby’s emotional development, which in turn is the basis for all future relationships. One cannot underestimate the importance of attachment and bonding.
Bonding is more than a warm fuzzy feeling – it is a critical, deep emotional involvement with and trust in another person. It is a journey of getting to know, trust and rely on another person.There is a misconception that bonding occurs like ‘love at first sight’. The reality is that it is a process that develops over time. Bonding may begin in pregnancy or even before conception; it may occur like a flash at birth or may in fact take months to develop,” reports MegFaure.com. So snuggle that baby, hold them close, rock them to sleep and sing them a story. You’re doing so much more good than you realize.
15 How To Play! It Helps Their Vision And Motor Skills
Play all day, it is the only job of a baby, and it is never too early to start. “In the first few weeks you may want to introduce some simple, age-appropriate toys that appeal to the senses of sight, hearing, and touch, such as: rattles, textured toys, musical toys, unbreakable crib mirrors. Try toys and mobiles with contrasting colors and patterns. Strong contrasts (such as red, white, and black), curves, and symmetry stimulate an infant's developing vision. As vision improves and babies gain more control over their movements, they'll interact more and more with their environment,” suggests KidsHealth.org.
14 Days Are For Being Active, Nights Are For Resting
You will want to teach your baby the difference between night and day as soon as you can. You will obviously still need to be waking with baby every few hours at night to feed and change them as needed, but you can still start establishing the difference between daytime and nighttime. The sooner you start this, the sooner you will be getting more rest at night.
Try to get across the idea that daytime (even daytime nap-time) is about light and (gentle) noise. When your baby is awake, spend as much time as you can outside in the sunshine (or at least outside if there’s no sun). Sunshine, or light, helps set our internal body clocks (don’t let your baby get sunburned, though)....Similarly, you can try doing the opposite at night. Establish a bedtime routine as early as possible. Prepare your baby for her long night-time sleep with a bedtime milk feed, a nice bath, a cuddle, a change of clothes, a lullaby and story. Put her into her cot with a night light so everything is much darker than her daytime nap,” suggests Tesco-Baby.com.
13 Yoga Is A Fun Way To Bond And Play
“Whether you're new to yoga or were a committed participant before you had your child, baby yoga is an excellent way to get you on a structured postnatal wellness path. "We recommend baby yoga for anyone who is looking for a healthy, playful bonding activity to do with a new baby," says Lauren Chaitoff, co-owner of New York City children's yoga studio Yogi Beans and contributor to Yoga Dork,” states Care.com.
Yoga is a great way for both you and baby to relax while having a little fun. There are a lot of free options on YouTube. Make it a morning habit to do a little Yoga together!
12 Teach Language With Focused Talking
It’s never too early to start teaching your baby language skills. First things first, it’s important to note that it’s so, so important for your baby to learn to speak by hearing you talk to them. They will not gain the same skills by watching television shows.
WebMD.com recommends the following tips for speaking to your baby, “Talk with her often. Talkative parents tend to have talkative children. Get some alone time with your infant. Baby talk is most beneficial when it's one-on-one between parent and child, with no other adults or children around. When your baby tries to talk back to you, don't interrupt or look away. She needs to know you care about listening to her. Look your child in the eyes. She'll respond better to speech when she's looking right at you. Limit how much TV she sees and hears. Too much can stunt language growth. Besides, you’re more fun than the voice on the screen, right? Throw in some grown-up speak, too. Your baby needs to hear how words sound in everyday conversation.
11 And Sign Language, Too!
“Babies understand words long before they can start to utter them. "Kids are beginning to connect the sound of words with what they mean by around 6 to 8 months," says Gerald W. McRoberts, Ph.D., a scientist at Haskins Laboratories, a speech-and-language research institute. Around the same time, your child is learning how to use gestures to tell you something. He might hold out his arms when he wants to be picked up or point to an object that interests him. These motions show that he's eager to communicate any way he can. While it's never too early to introduce signs, your child is likely ready to start using them when you see him paying attention to his hands (or yours)—playing with them, bringing them to his mouth, or using them to pick up his toys,” suggests Parents.com.
Even though your baby might not be ready to start learning sign language for a few months, it’s definitely not too early to start practicing. It’s probably likely that you yourself don’t know much sign language so you can brush up on your skills and get your baby started on the right path all at once.
10 The Importance Of Routine
“Routines help infants and toddlers feel safe and secure in their environment. Young children gain an understanding of everyday events and procedures and learn what is expected of them as routines make their environment more predictable,” shares Kaplanco.com. You can start implementing a routine right away, even by following the above suggestion about establishing the difference between night and day. Just like adults, babies thrive when on a routine. With a newborn, start by introducing the difference between night and day, add in a bathtime before bed and you are off to a great start in establishing a routine!
9 The Alphabet: Flash Cards And Repetition Will Help Them Along
Newborns love to hear their Mom and Dad’s voice, so this is the perfect opportunity to start teaching them while you soothe them. Trying singing the ABC’s next time you’re lulling them to sleep. “Language is in itself musical, and when you sing and speak, your baby learns about words, language, and communication. Through your singing, baby’s language comprehension begins,” shares NAEYC.org. This simple activity can get your baby to sleep, and teach him or her something at the same time. You can also introduce the alphabet through flashcards, stick to black and white and describe everything on the flashcard to your little one.
8 Sense Of Smell: Let Them Get To Know Your Natural Scent
“Steer clear of artificially fragranced perfumes, deodorants and moisturisers and let your baby get to know your unique scent. The act of cuddling your baby boosts both your and your baby’s levels of a hormone called oxytocin – commonly known as the ‘love’ hormone that helps create strong bonds between the two of you,” shares Bounty.com. Your baby loves the scent of you, and you can use some of your clothing items to soothe baby for moments you can’t be near them. Try using one of your shirts or pillowcases near your baby while you fold a load of laundry, you might be surprised at what you can get done!
7 How To Dance
We already know that babies love music, why not take it a step further and have yourself a dance party? Show your baby your cool dance moves and sway his or her arms and legs for them so they can get in on the fun. Make it a habit and you will be amazed at how quickly your baby starts mimicking your movements whenever you put on music. “This month, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says what most parents have suspected since their kids were tiny: not only do they gravitate towards music, babies are born to dance. The study suggests that infants are programmed to move to the beat, and they prefer it over the sounds of simple speech,” reports Babble.com.
6 Difference Between Inside and Outside
Just as you will teach your baby the difference between day and night, you will also want to teach your baby the difference between inside and outside. Your baby will be mostly indoors, but you spending time outside with baby will be good for both of you. “ If your baby is still less than two months old, it might feel like any task outside of the house is too much. Challenge yourself to at least explore the backyard—check out those bushes you planted, pick up sticks—whatever it easiest for you to do. The fresh air itself will rejuvenate you,” suggests FitPregnancy.com.
5 Before Birth: Difference Between Light & Dark With A Flashlight To The Belly
Before your little one is even born, you can start playing games with them! “babies eyes are actually sealed shut until month seven of pregnancy, but after then, it's just too dark for them to see anything in the womb. Apparently, it's true that if you shine a bright light directly at your belly, the baby may turn away from it. But that doesn't mean they can really "see" anything in there; it just means they noticed a bright spot in the darkness,” shares Romper.com. You can start teaching your baby the difference simply by shining a light on your belly and saying the word, “light.”
4 Before Birth: Give The Belly A Massage To Help Sense Of Touch
“It’s a natural tendency for soon-to-be moms to rub their bellies, but sometimes you can intentionally do so and give your baby a bit of a massage. It’s a great way for you to relax, but more so, for Baby to feel your touch. Again, as you begin to feel Baby’s movements, you’ll notice that Baby responds to your touch,” states DisneyBaby.com. This can be a fun activity for your partner too, have your partner rub your belly and explain to your baby that the touch they are feeling is Daddy. This is a great way for both of you to start interacting with your little one before he or she is even born!
3 Before Birth: Teach Them Noises By Having A Noisy Pregnancy
Your baby will start to recognize common noises before they are even born. They will get to know your voice and your partners voice, but they will also start to recognize common sounds such as your vacuum cleaner or your dog barking. You can talk to your baby and explain the noises that he or she is hearing. This will help baby adjust once they make their arrival into the world.
“It may seem implausible that fetuses can listen to speech within the womb, but the sound-processing parts of their brain become active in the last trimester of pregnancy, and sound carries fairly well through the mother's abdomen. "If you put your hand over your mouth and speak, that's very similar to the situation the fetus is in," says cognitive neuroscientist Eino Partanen of the University of Helsinki. "You can hear the rhythm of speech, rhythm of music, and so on,” reports ScienceMag.org.
2 Before Birth: Read To Them
As we’ve just learned, baby’s can hear noise in the womb, so it is really never too early to start reading to them. This is also a great way to bond with your baby from the minute you find out your pregnant. Make it an evening routine to read a story to your belly, and get your partner involved too! “Many studies show that reading (particularly from the mother’s relaxing voice) causes a baby’s fetal heart rate to drop. Also, the bond that is experienced between parent and child later on can start to occur while Mama or Papa read to the baby prenatally. Participation in reading is also a great way for other family members to connect with the baby,” states GreenChildMagazine.com.
1 Before Birth: Play Music For Them
If you can’t get used to the idea of reading out loud to your belly, then let your baby listen to some music! The benefits are similar to that of reading to your baby. BabyMed.com recommends the following, “The best type of music to play for baby is classical music because it tends to offer a range of notes and tends to repeat, creating an almost lullaby style sound in utero. However, any musical selection will work as long as the music is not harsh.” You also don’t actually need to hold headphones up to your belly, just play some music at a normal volume, it will help you and baby relax!
References: www.babybliss.org, www.Pinterest.com, www.askdrsears.com, www.mayoclinic.org, www.similac.com, www.megfaure.com, www.kidshealth.org, www.tesco-baby.com, www.youtube.com, www.care.com, www.webmd.com, www.parents.com, www.kaplanco.com, www.naeyc.org, www.bounty.com, www.babble.com, www.fitpregnancy.com, www.romper.com, www.DisneyBaby.com, www.sciencemag.org, www.greenchildmagazine.com, www.babymed.com,