Jul 19, 2023

Baby Sensory Time

Hello everyone! I'm Melissa, a Children's Librarian at GMPL. I've been a librarian since 2015, but I've only worked at GMPL since November. I wanted to share a program I hosted recently: Baby Sensory Time!

This program was designed for our youngest patrons: babies aged 0-18 months. Babies and parents explored several stations throughout the room with different sensory activities. All of them would be very simple to do at home. 

Here is the layout of the room:

Everyone was able to move freely between the stations. Most of the babies and parents seemed to have a favorite station that they wanted to return to multiple times. Let me give you more information about each station:

Pouring Station
This was a plastic container of water with various cups, spoons and measuring cups. Babies enjoyed scooping up water and watching it pour back into the container. If you wanted, you could add some food coloring to make the water brighter and easier to see. If I were going to repeat this activity, I would have used a shallower container. Some babies had trouble reaching the cups in the water. This didn't seem to deter them from trying! I would also recommend putting down towels or a tarp, and having extra towels handy. 

Jello Play Dough
I made Jello play dough using the recipe found here a few days before the program. I stored it wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge until the morning of the program. This play dough is completely edible (the flour is even cooked to make it safe to eat), but it includes a lot of salt. I tried it myself; it tastes like very salty Jello. Not very pleasant to eat, but completely safe. It has a wonderful, soft texture and smells heavenly, too! Unfortunately I didn't managed to take a photo of the babies playing with it, but some of the parents asked for the recipe so they could make it themselves at home.

Rubber Band Toy Grab
This one is super simple: a bin with small toys inside, with rubber bands stretched around it. This made getting at the toys difficult, so babies really had to think to figure out how to get to the fun toys inside. Putting the toys back inside was also a fun challenge. 

Water Exploration
Another incredibly simple setup: baking sheets with water, placed on top of some towels to absorb any splashes. This is especially great for babies doing tummy time and working on developing back muscles. Babies had fun splashing the water and observing how the water moved around the pans. You will definitely want to have an extra towel handy for this activity.

Whisk Activity
I gathered some pompoms of various sizes together in trays with silicone whisks. The babies explored putting the pompoms between the wires and pulling them out again. This is a great activity for working on fine motor skills. You could use a metal whisk if that's what you have at home. I happened to have silicone whisks. Any small container would work for containing the pompoms. You could even do this while your baby is sitting in their high chair.

Sponge & Water Play
Another great water activity. I cut up new sponges into strips for easy gripping and put them in a shallow container of water. Babies loved feeling the textures of the wet sponges and squeezing out the water. Several babies wanted to put the sponges in their mouths, so definitely don't use dirty sponges for this activity. If you can, I would recommend using multiple colors of sponges. I was limited by what was available at the store that day. Also make sure to have towels nearby!

This last activity was definitely the favorite with both babies and parents:

Rainbow Spaghetti
I followed the instructions I found in the book Exciting Sensory Bins for Curious Kids by Mandisa Watts to make the rainbow spaghetti. The basic instructions are: 

1. Boil the spaghetti as if you were preparing it to eat, but drain it a few minutes early. You want the spaghetti to be soft and pliable, but not mushy. 

2. Rinse the spaghetti with cold water. This stops the cooking and removes the starch so the spaghetti won't stick together so much.

3. Place the spaghetti in a gallon sized plastic bag with several drops of food coloring. I used gel food coloring, but regular will also work. Close the bag well and shake/massage the bag to help distribute the color. I had to reopen the bag to add more color a few times. Take it slow so you don't add too much. 

4. Once the spaghetti is the desired color, spread it out on a tray or baking sheet to dry for at least an hour. This helps the color adhere to the spaghetti, so it won't end up on your hands later. 

5. Once your spaghetti has dried, you can store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3-5 days. I made mine 3 days in advance and added it to a shallow bin the morning of the program.

Babies really liked grabbing the noodles out of the bin and feeling the texture in their hands. Parents loved putting the noodles on the babies' heads like hair! The spaghetti was surprisingly easy to clean up (it did end up all over the room!) and would be even easier once it dried, but I would definitely recommend having a tarp or hard floor underneath.

I hope this inspires you to try some fun sensory activities with your own little ones at home!