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4 Play Activities to Promote Baby’s Sensory Motor Skills

Oct 17th, 2022 | by Georgia Berbert MSOT, OTR/L

Georgia Berbert MSOT, OTR/L

October 17th, 2022

What is the Sensorimotor Stage?

The Sensorimotor stage is the first stage of your child’s life and lasts up until around age 2. During the sensorimotor stage, children are learning about and exploring their environment through their senses in order to better understand the world around them. As your baby becomes more aware of their environment, they will begin to use their senses to explore and react.

What are Primary Circular Reactions?

During typical development, infants begin to display what is called primary circular reactions between 2 and 4 months of age. That is, they do something once like put their hands in their mouth and then they will repeat the action later if they find it to be enjoyable. This is when babies begin to learn about the world and what their sensory preferences are!

What are Secondary Circular Reactions?

As this skill develops, infants will begin displaying secondary circular reactions which are very similar, but baby is now learning to affect the environment around them. For example, they may reach for a musical toy to make it play a noise they like. Adding sensory components to simple motor play helps enrich the experience for your child and enhance sensorimotor development.

Read on for four simple ideas to enrich your infant’s sensorimotor intelligence.

4 Sensorimotor Play Activities to Help Develop Sensory Motor Skills

1. Offer Sensory Opportunities During Tummy Time

Offering sensory opportunities during tummy time is a great way to promote sensory motor skills during your baby's sensorimotor stage. Learn more in this blog!

Simple toys like an Oball stuffed with mylar paper or tissue paper offers a visually appealing, easy to grab item that offers auditory and tactile feedback as it’s engaged with. Another fun option is filling a gallon resealable plastic bag with water or hair gel and pom poms and placing it on the ground in front of your child (make sure the bag is fully sealed and maybe taped shut too). This provides opportunities for tactile and visual engagement while practicing skills like targeted reaching.

2. Create Sensory Feedback for Body Movements

For a sensorimotor activity, provide your child with sensory feedback for body movements. Learn more in this blog!

Most infants move a lot, but it’s not always with a purpose. Giving sensory feedback with movement can help improve your child’s body awareness and understanding of their environment.

You can do this by placing a soft cause-and-effect toy like this under baby’s feet while they are lying on their back so it is activated when they kick, or by simply tying small jingle bells to their socks! Similarly, toys can be placed to the side so that they are triggered by random arm movements. Metallic tissue paper is another great low-cost option for this as well.

3. Offer Lots of Opportunities to Mouth Items

Offering your baby with safe items to mouth during sensorimotor stage is a simple sensorimotor play activity. Learn more in this blog!

Providing infants with toys that are safe to mouth is a great way to encourage them to explore their environment. An infant’s vision is still underdeveloped during this sensorimotor stage and thus they explore many things with their mouths instead. Offering textured teethers, rattles, and other safe-to-mouth toys is a great way to encourage your little one’s curiosity.

4. Offer Books With Textures

Sensorimotor play can include reading a book with your child to help develop their sensorimotor intelligence.

Reading books to your child is not only a great way to bond but also a way to provide a sensory-rich experience for both of you. Board books with 3D textures are great for this as they encourage tactile exploration along with visual and auditory inputs.

You can always adapt your favorite board book for this kind of sensory play by using a hot glue gun to glue small pieces of soft fabric, bubble wrap, mylar paper, tin foil, ribbon, or even sandpaper onto different elements of the illustrations. Read the book aloud to your infant as you help them reach for and feel the different textures.

Find Additional Resources and Inspiration in the NAPA Blog:

About the Author

Georgia has had a lifelong desire to work with children which began in first grade and continues to this day! She loves nothing more than helping a kiddo achieve something awesome. Hiking, climbing, skiing, board games, consuming large amounts of coffee, what doesn’t Georgia do? Spot her easily in her bright colors!

About NAPA Center

NAPA Center is a world-renowned pediatric therapy clinic, offering pediatric therapy for babies, toddlers, and children in traditional or intensive settings. With multiple clinic locations and intensive therapy pop-up sessions worldwide, NAPA is committed to helping children lead their happiest, healthiest lives. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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