We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Bath time is an amazing opportunity for learning- and a great way to develop new skills using sensory play. Your baby learns so much just through exploring different toys, sensations, tastes and textures. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 sensory play ideas to get the ball rolling.
What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play refers to literally any activity that your baby engages in that stimulates their senses. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on specialised toys for activities that take a long time to set up either- lots of babies are more than happy with a wooden spoon and a saucepan lid to bash it on- as you’ve probably already discovered!
Sensory play is an amazing way for your baby to explore the world around them, and bathtime is one of the best opportunities for it too. Your baby will actually use 7 senses during sensory play: smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing, movement & balance and body awareness.
The last two senses are probably a little unfamiliar- movement & balance refers to the sense of where our body is in space and it’s an important sense that helps us to walk, sit and stand without falling over. Body awareness is the sense of where our body parts are in relation to each other, and it helps us to be aware of how to use the different parts effectively in different activities.
Sensory play sessions can help your baby to learn by incorporating each of the seven senses in fun activities.
Benefits of sensory play
So why is sensory play so important? The benefits are huge. Sensory play will help your baby to connect and interact with the world around them and is vital for motor skills, speech development, cognitive skills, learning skills, social skills, attention span and behaviour development. It can aid in developing vocabulary, memory and problem solving skills. It can calm and soothe frustrations or anxiety. It can build trust and understanding. So pretty important, don’t you agree?!
Bathtime Activities to try with your baby
And now on to the really fun part: bathtime! There are so many ways that you can make every single dip and splash a chance to learn and grow, even if it’s just a tub of plain water. Here are just five really simple and easy ideas to get you started.
This one takes just a little prep, but it’s a great one to get ready the night before. You only need a small amount of food colouring, added to water in the ice cube tray. The potential for play here is fantastic:
- Let your baby investigate how the ice melts
- Learn the names of colours
- Use fishing nets to try and catch the ice before it melts
- Use a jug to melt two different colours together to see what the result is
- Let your baby explore the sensations of the ice
Pouring and sprinkling
Another really simply activity, and one that can be adapted night after night for different activities. Just bring a variety of different pots, jugs and other utensils into the bath and let your child explore!
- Practise pouring and transferring from one container to another
- Sprinkle water onto your baby from a sieve
- Investigate which container holds the most water
- See how thee different items make different sounds under the water
- See which items float or sink
Pots and pans
Again, this one requires some bits from the kitchen cupboard, but it’s another great one for bathtime.
- Use pots and a spoon to make some bathtime music
- Transfer and pour water
- Scoop up toys
- Create a pretend kitchen- make a bubble pie!
This is a good one if you need to wash your little one’s hair. You can sculpt your child’s hair into some crazy shapes, and use a baby safe mirror to show them the result. Or bring dolls into the bath so your child can practise washing their hair too.
Another really quick activity that can be prepared in advance. Baby safe bath paints can be bought online, but you can make your own too. All you need is mild baby shampoo, cornflour, food colouring and plastic pots and spoons. Mix two parts soap to one part cornflour, then add the colouring and stir well. That’s it! Use the bath paints to:
- Practise mark making on the side of the tub
- Explore colours
- Explore shapes
- Explore the smell and texture of the paint
- Talk about colour mixing
Of course, lots of sensory play ideas can be done in an empty tub too, and bath paints are great for this. Plus, the bonus is that they’re already in the tub ready to be washed down afterwards!