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When your baby enters the world, they’re immediately greeted by countless stimuli for their senses. Everything is new, which is why helping them explore by using their five senses — sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch — is crucial to their development and growth. To do this, you can engage them in what’s known as “sensory play,” which involves games and activities to test their senses and expose them to new things.

By engaging in sensory play, your baby becomes more accustomed with how their own body works and how they interact with the world around them. Babies start to learn their limits by experimenting and trying new things. They begin to learn what noises are out there and will use them to begin talking eventually. They will also start identifying people, objects and colors to help them navigate their world, build their vocabulary and become more independent.

Sensory play allows you to give your child the tools they need to better describe and interact with their world whether they’re at home, at school, at the park or anywhere else and it’s never too early to start. When they’re very young, you can start engaging their senses by simply walking them around your house and talking to them as you show them new things. For example, pick up a stuffed animal and explain, “This is a dog. Dogs have fur. Fur is soft. Dogs go ‘ruff!’” Rub fabrics of different textures on their cheeks and point out different colors. Talking to your baby is so important for their vocabulary. See our previous blog post on Building Your Baby’s Vocabulary  Playing music or singing songs is another wonderful way to do this.

As they get older, the toys you choose can engage their senses with different shapes, colors, textures and sounds they can learn to describe and they don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Different types of blocks or clay can be excellent tools. You can also put paint of different colors into plastic bags and let them press on the sealed bags to see how the colors combine and change. There’s also a multitude of sensory learning to be done outside the house. Take them outside and put their feet in the sandbox or let them splash in buckets of water. Have them crunch dried leaves or touch the brick on the side of your house.

Once they move onto solid foods, their ability to recognize and describe different tastes like salty, sweet or sour can develop as you let them try new things — this is how they’ll learn what they like and don’t like. Let them smells spices and herbs or fresh produce as you cut it up for them.

Engaging in regular sensory play can help your child develop their motor skills, build their vocabulary, calm them and spark their creativity as they learn to make decisions and solve problems. Who knows where these seemingly simple activities could lead to as they grow up? Interacting with your child is the best way for them to grow and learn while spending some quality time bonding as well.

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