My top tips for a great ‘sensory lesson’…
Most of us have probably heard of sensory classes for babies, maybe you’ve been to a class or have friends who go, or maybe you, like many other parents up and down the country, are on a waiting list for one locally. But sensory play doesn’t have to be restricted to classes once a week, there are plenty of ways to get the same levels of stimulation and fun at home and on the move.
As a Mum who has been to sensory classes and who has built a business around sensory toys for babies at home, I’m always looking for new ideas for sensory play at home, particularly homemade activities or ones that my little boy has never tried before (Pinterest is my go-to resource!).
It’s easy to forget that during sensory play with your child, you’re providing a learning experience for them, in a fun and engaging way. It’s as fun for you as it is for them – you get to see them experience things in a new way, or engage with items in a different way from one play time to the next!
So, what makes a great sensory lesson for your child?
Respond to your child and what they like – if their bottom lip starts to wobble when they see bubbles, or when they see the flashing lights of a spinning torch; put the item to the side for another day. They may not be particularly receptive to that item for some reason, so don’t try and force it! This can literally change day by day and can be dependent on mood, so do try again.
Try not to overwhelm them. A lot of classes try and cram as much as they can in as you’re paying for the time and they know you’ll want your money’s worth. However, it’s important that your child remains comfortable in their home environment. You may already know your child’s ‘tell’ for feeling overwhelmed, for Joey it’s holding his fists in the air! So keep an eye out for their signs whilst you play. A good way to make sure they don’t feel too overwhelmed is to start and end the play session in the same way each time – for example start and end with specific songs so they can ‘get in the mood’. You can always couple your ‘lesson’ with baby massage at the end for example, or by having a snack afterwards.
Keep smiling! As their play partner, you can help build that positive play environment with your child and help shape their love of certain activities. So keep those smiles nice and big and give plenty of positive affirmations along the way. That ‘baby’ voice you’ve been perfecting since your little one’s arrival? Keep using it! Clap and cheer when they do something new or well! By creating a safe and positive environment, your child will explore the world that little bit more and push boundaries more.
Use music. Provide an exciting musical backdrop for your sensory exploration. This will not only provide an extra element of fun, but your child will begin to associate music with play time! So, pick some up-tempo music that you enjoy too – your enthusiasm will be infectious. A lot of sensory toys can be used in conjunction with music – so shake those rattles to the beat of your favourite tunes and discover what music your little one likes too. (For us, it’s The Greatest Showman soundtrack!).
Mix it up! Do you always do your ‘sensory lessons’ in the lounge? Move around your home so your baby gets to know the other areas in your home. And if the weather is nice, why not venture outside? It’s a great way to introduce other sights and sounds to your little one so they feel confident all around your home. Remember, keep an eye out for those tells that they are feeling overwhelmed, and if so, revert back to your ‘usual’ play space. I found that Joey took a while to warm up to playing in the garden, but using music he was used to, and shorter play sessions, helped build up his confidence.