It’s not too early to try toddler science activities with your little one! Don’t think of it as education. Instead, think of it as new ideas for having fun. You’ll be teaching new words and showing off neat experiments. Have fun with your child even if they don’t seem to get it. They are soaking in information all the time. All of these activities can be done with everyday items and they are quick to setup, making it easy to whip out some toddler science activities any time you’re looking for fun things to do with your kid.
“No, stop! No! I don’t want to! Help!”
How often do I hear those words at the pool or the lake? Sadly, way too often as parents force their terrified children to float, swim, or be alone in the water.
Another parent once commented to me how comfortable Dylan is in the water. We were 15 feet out in a lake and Dylan was up to his chin in the water.
I said loving the water was important to me and so I’d taken him to pools, lakes, rivers, and the ocean since he was a baby.
She gestured to her son, who was sitting on the bank afraid to venture in alone, “I see. We’ve never pushed him like that.”
What? No, no, no. What a misunderstanding!
Most of the kids I see in the water are pushed and pressured in some way. They take swimming lessons as young as toddlers. They wear arm floaties, and their parents let go of them in the water even when they’re scared. Their parents coax them to come in, coax them to jump, coax them to come deeper.
I personally love the water. I love pools, lakes, streams, rivers, the Gulf, the Atlantic, the Pacific, baths, showers, the rain, you name it. I love the water so much I chose the word Waters as my last name.
It is incredibly important to me that my kid love the water, too. If it turns out that he doesn’t, I’ll get over it. But I am determined to do my part to help him love the water.
Notice that I said “love the water” and not “be an expert swimmer before age 5”. People who love the water will learn to swim. But some people who learn to swim hate the water. Maybe it’s all that fear, pressure, and coercion.
“We’ve never pushed him like that.”
I have never, ever, ever pushed, pressured, coaxed, or encouraged Dylan to do any particular thing in the water.
I have only brought him to the water.
I have only been together with him with the water.
Sometimes it’s a lake and he sits in just a few inches in while I go out and swim.
Once we got in a canoe, and he said he was scared, so we got right back out.
Sometimes it’s been the ocean and I didn’t act like he was weird if he just played in the sand all day.
He’s never worn a floatation device except when it was required by law. I’ve only ever wanted him to go as far into the water as he was comfortable, with his own body.
As all of this is going on I can see him learning to swim. It’s slow, yes. It’s a years-long process instead of 8 sessions of swim lessons that leave some kids in tears.
It’s a gentle process, unfolding before my eyes. The way he moves in the water changes every year as he experiments with arm and leg movements, floating, and his face in the water. Someday he’ll be able to swim as easily as I do, a dance between himself and the water.
For now, my desire to help him love the water has already succeeded. This summer he has requested that we go to the pool every single day. Yes! This is a life goal I can get behind!
Welcome to the water, kid.
You’re home with your baby and wondering how to best enjoy your time. Never fear! How about these baby sensory activities? They don’t require a lot of setup, and you’re both going to have fun!
- Mirror – Looking into a large mirror is an awesome activity with a baby. Dylan loved to play with the baby in the mirror! The motions and expressions would catch his eye and hold his interest. If you have a small wall mirror that comes off the wall, you can bring it down to baby’s level. Otherwise, set your baby up on the counter (keep a hold on your baby!) and play in the mirror together.
- Play in the Grass – Sometimes the easiest thing is to just set your baby down in a fun new environment. And so much of the world is new! When Dylan was a baby, I coudl set him down in the grass and he’d enjoy himself for the longest time. If I set Dylan down in the grass, he enjoys himself greatly with no further input from me for awhile. Watch out for choking hazards, but otherwise let your baby explore by feeling and tasting whatever’s available.
- Other ground textures – Remember, it’s all new! Snow, a sidewalk, dirt, a pile of leaves. There are so many ways to let baby have a sensory experience with the environment that’s all around us.
I’ve added some Amazon links to this in case you need to pick up some baby sensory activities supplies. They’re affiliate links so I get a little commission at no extra charge to you!
- Bubbles – I have never met a baby who didn’t like bubbles! And to be honest, I love blowing bubbles myself. It’s always a relaxing activity. Whether they like to try to catch the bubbles or just sit and watch, all babies love bubbles. Most of the time it’s a really soothing activity, making it perfect for the afternoon or early evening that is often marked by crankiness.
- Bath – When Dylan was a tiny baby he loved baths so much! I’d sit with him on my lap, and let the water fill up around us. He enjoyed the sound of the rushing water, and he settled into a very peaceful state when the water started to get higher. Then they get older and discover splashing, and then the real fun begins!
- Food – Has your baby started solid food at this point? Remember that until age one, food is just for fun. Help your baby try foods with different tastes and textures, and have fun exploring alongside. Does your baby likes sticky stuff or squishy stuff or leafy stuff? What about sweet things or sour things?
- Fabric Dancing – Gather up a bunch of different fabrics – scarves, socks, ribbon, etc – of different lengths, textures, and colors, and then lay your baby on a soft floor in an open area. Play music and move around tossing the fabrics in the air, brushing them past your baby’s skin, touching his face with the fabric, and letting him touch them. Try it with quick movements or moving super-slow.
- Flashlight – Sit your baby on your lap in a dark room and shine a flashlight slowly around the room so that your baby can follow the light around. Trace it along the walls, the ceiling, the floor. Flick it off and on slowly. Let your baby touch and play with the flashlight.
- Shakers – Find a small container that you can fill. Plastic Easter eggs work, or I use tiny plastic food storage containers. Fill them with a little bit of rice, beans, rocks, bells, buttons, or any other small items you can find so that they make interesting sounds when shaken. Make sure they are securely closed. Shake them with your baby. Play music or sing songs and shake to the beat. Shake them and dance! Try banging them on things, too.
- Textures Crawl – Arrange different textured large items on the floor together – use a bathmat, door mat, carpet, shower curtain, etc. Anything that has a different texture and takes up a bit of space. Then crawl around on the items and talk about the textures. “This one is smooth. Do you feel the bumps? Ooh, soft!” And so on.
- Playing in the Sink – I don’t know about you, but my kitchen is usually too messy to accommodate a baby up on the counter! But, on those rare days that there’s a clean sink, plop your baby up there for some fun. Dylan loved to pull on the hardware and feel the water on his toes. If you’re in the bathroom, the baby in the mirror is right there for extra fun, too!
- Sensory bags – Use a heavy duty Ziploc bag and start with a base of water or liquid soap. Add food coloring if you like. Then add interesting items to move around in the liquid, like small toys, glitter or confetti, or other small art supply objects. Foam shapes make a great addition! Seal the top with packing tape. This type of bag is easier to seal than the ones with the sliding lock.
- Box of Balls – Collect a box full of different sizes and textures of balls. Think little, big, medium, bouncy, squishy, knobbly, and lots of different colors. You can use a laundry basket or a box to collect them all and then situate your little one so they can slowly explore all the ball options. Balls are fun for kids of all ages, and it starts right now!
- Bowl of ice – A bowl of ice makes a great sensory toy. It makes an interesting noise at the cubes click together, they’re slippery to try to pick up, the temperature is a whole new sensation, and the consistency of the ice changes over time. And it’s practically free! Take this activity outside on a hot day for a fun way to cool down, or play in the bathtub if you’re worried about the mess.
- Potato flakes – There are so many fun sensory bin materials for toddlers, but you might be worried about what your baby will put in their mouth. Potato flakes are a great alternative for a completely baby safe sensory material. Pour them out in a bowl or bin and let your baby experience the fluffy, flakiness. Order some from Amazon or pick them up next time you go grocery shopping.
- Finger paint – You can get started with artistic fun with your baby, too. Simply add a little bit of food coloring to little bowls of potato flakes, and you have a baby safe finger paint. Use wax paper so that baby’s fingers can slide in the paint along the smooth surface.
- Box lights – Cardboard boxes are one of the greatest kid toys, and you can use one to make sensory environments for your baby, too. Find a box big enough for your baby to lay down inside it. Turn in on it’s side so that the opening is to the side and the top panel is smooth. Poke little holes all over the top and then push throught individual lights from a string of party lights. Lay your baby down inside the box for a fascinating glow show of light and color.
- Box lights – Use that same cardboard box to create a fabric dancing experience for your baby. Make the holes on top a little bigger and string through scarves or other long pieces of fabric so they will hang down at different lengths near your baby. Watch your little one wave their hands through the fabric, grab on, pull, and enjoy the movement of the scarves.
It’s so much fun to have new sensory experiences with your baby since everything is so new for them! What other baby sensory activities have you tried? What’s your favorite?
Want even MORE ideas? Here’s my list of 45 Things to Do With a 6 Month Old Baby!
You’ve got this baby… now what? Babies can be a lot of fun! But… sometimes if you’re stuck at home all day with a baby you can start to get a little bored! It’s okay! It happens to the best of us!
When you find yourself running out of ideas for what to do with your baby, here are 45 ideas to spark your imagination and help the two of you connect.
Glass exploded through my kitchen. That’s what happens when you throw a mason jar. I didn’t really throw it. But my hand holding the glass was in motion when it collided with the stone countertop, and the effect was the same: glass explosion.
My first thought was “How far away is he?” as I considered whether my child was safe and whether I needed to shout a warning not to move, to stay motionless like I was, barefoot in a sea of glass shards.
He was far enough away to be fine, but I was sure he was startled, perhaps alarmed. I was about to turn and face him and say… something.
What I wanted to do was scream. Cry. Lose it. Yell.
Exactly 5 minutes before, I’d found my pet rabbit dead in his cage. My kid didn’t know yet. I was trying to get through this meal, and then I’d tell him, but the simple act of filling a glass of water had exploded all around me.
Later, maybe, I’d cry with my son. We’d be sad about Hops, who was an awesome rabbit friend for a long time.
But right now, I was showing how to react to a broken dish. For a mama who has recurring depression, these moments are hard for me when I just want to fall apart. But for a kid who beats himself up about little mistakes sometimes, these moments and how I react are important.
So I turned and smiled and said something gentle about how hard the counter was, and then I got a broom and a dustpan and cleaned up the glass.
And that was that. Mere moments. But something crucial was contained there nonetheless.
I am sometimes surprised by the resilience I manage to find in myself, inspired by my desire to be a good example for little watching eyes. And I hope someday my kid is pleased to discover his own resilience, inspired by his mama who smiled even when things were broken.