Sensory bags: why they’re good for babies
A sensory bag is a bag full of everyday objects and materials that your baby can explore.
Babies explore all the time and in many different ways. It’s how they learn.
For example, babies often put things in their mouths. This isn’t just to learn what something tastes like. It helps babies understand an object’s texture and shape too.
Babies also explore by banging and shaking things to see what happens. They stare closely at whatever is in their hands, and they might try to grab anything that catches their interest.
A sensory bag gives your baby plenty of safe and interesting things to look at, taste, touch and so on.
What you need to make a sensory bag for babies
You need a soft cloth bag. Choose a bag that doesn’t have anything that could be a choking or strangulation risk, like ribbons, buttons, beads or stickers.
You also need a collection of interesting things that are safe for your baby to hold and put into their mouth.
Here are some things that could go into your baby’s sensory bag:
- pieces of fabric of different sizes, colours and textures – try smooth cotton, rough wool or fuzzy velvet
- small baby toys that make sounds, like ones that squeak or jingle bells
- baby rattles
- knobbly plastic teething rings
- small plastic cups, bowls and lids
- spoons of different sizes – try wooden spoons, teaspoons or measuring spoons
- rice, colourful beads or buttons in tightly sealed plastic containers that rattle when shaken
- balls of different textures and sizes.
Avoid items that are breakable, sharp or small enough for your baby to swallow. These aren’t safe for your baby.
How to play with a sensory bag
- Show your baby the sensory bag. Let your baby take items out to explore. You could do this when your baby is playing on the floor, or when your baby is in a high chair. You could also have a few objects next to the change mat to keep your baby busy while you’re changing nappies.
- Talk to your baby as they explore the objects. Describe what your baby is feeling and ask questions even though your baby can’t answer you. For example, ‘That’s a bumpy ball, isn’t it? Is it rough or smooth? That’s right, it’s rough. Is it hard or soft? Yes, it’s hard’.
- Use the sensory bag as often as your baby wants to. It doesn’t matter if your baby has seen the contents before. You could take some objects out of the bag and add new ones to surprise your baby.
Adapting sensory bags for babies at different stages
Babies can explore with their senses from birth, but young babies won’t be able to take items out of the bag or hold them without your help. You can help your young baby explore different objects by:
- stroking your baby’s cheek with something soft
- gently moving something bumpy over your baby’s feet or hands
- using words to describe what you’re doing.
Older babies start to link words with their meanings. You could use sensory bag play to practise this. For example, if your child is interested in a rattle, you could say ‘Shake the rattle. That’s a loud noise’.