Tag Archives: sensory play

Baby Play: Sensory Boards

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Sensory boards are not new. Babies love to explore different textures, some of which they may be experiencing for the first time. Sensory boards allow little ones to explore textures in a controlled environment, including small materials that would be choking hazards if loose but are interesting to explore when secured to a flat surface. Boards can lay flat on the floor, be propped against a wall, or can be free standing depending on what they are made out of.

I have a made a few sensory boards over the last few years, with my favorite versions visible in the pictures. Some of my personal tips:

  • I like using trifold boards, as these can stand up on their own in the middle of a room. Cutting them in half horizontally makes them more accessible for the smallest babies and make them more durable.
  • Colored trifold boards were a game changer for me. Having a colored background makes the textured materials on these boards that much more appealing to small hands and eyes.
  • Always, always check everything on your board before giving it to little ones. Babies have the strongest fingernails and are determined to tear everything off of your sensory boards. Hot glue can only do so much. Keep an eye on these during play too, especially if you have anything on the board that would be a choking hazard if removed.

I also have a second style of board that I made recently for a science/stem-focused baby play program, a textured shape board. While I wish this was a colored background, the white was what I had available at the time. It focuses on shape-based exploration, especially for toddlers and older babies.

How to Make

Materials: colored trifold board, hot glue, various textured surfaces

Steps:

  • Cut colored trifold board in half horizontally, so each piece can stand on its own.
  • Use a hot glue gun to attach pieces of various textured elements. Consider cutting textured pieces into shapes.

Cost: $5+

  • Colored Trifold Board
  • Various textured surfaces:
    • Pipe Cleaners
    • Pom Poms
    • Bottle Caps
    • Felt
    • Fur
    • Foam
    • Carpet
    • Styrofoam
    • Popsicle sticks
    • Bubble wrap
    • Glitter Paper
    • Pool Noodle Pieces
    • Foil
    • Lace
    • Tulle
    • Wood Shapes
    • Ribbon

Time to Make: 15 minutes

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Which texture is the softest?
  • Which texture is the roughest?
  • What color is that texture?
  • How does that texture feel?
  • What is this texture?
  • Which textures make a noise when you touch them?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Bumpy
Coarse
Delicate
Dry
Fine
Firm

Fuzzy
Itchy
Jagged
Light
Loose
Reflective

Rough
Sandy
Silky
Smooth
Soft
Spongy

Baby Play: Water Painting

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Babies LOVE playing in water, and I love to provide opportunities for them to do so! However, it gets cold in Ohio and not every parent is thrilled about their little one potentially getting soaked after storytime.

Water painting creates the best of both worlds: babies get to play with water while staying dry (and practicing fine motor skills).

Each little one gets a hard surface (trays work well), a piece of construction paper, and a paint brush. Adults get a cup filled about one-third with water. Kids can dip the paintbrush in the water and paint squiggles on the paper (or whatever other surface is nearby).

How to Make

Materials: hard surface, construction paper, paintbrushes (that are only used for water play–babies will put these in their mouths), reusable cups, bucket for clean water, bucket for dirty water, paper towels

Steps:

  • Setup station with materials listed above.
  • Put construction paper on a tray.
  • Adult fills reusable cup with clean water.
  • Child “paints” as long as they like.

Cost: < $10

  • Paintbrushes (Dollar Tree)
  • Construction Paper Pack

Time to Setup: < 5 minutes

Pro-Tip: The water shows up better on lighter colored construction paper.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What does the water feel like?
  • What can you draw?
  • What happens to the paper when you put water on it?
  • Can you draw a circle?
  • What happens if you use less water?
  • How does the paper feel before and after you paint with water?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Damp
Dip
Draw
Drenched
Dripping
Dry

Little
Miniscule
Plain
Pour
Saturated
Soaked

Sodden
Soggy
Sopping
Textured
Torn
Wet