Staying at home with your baby on a daily basis can often be fulfilling. Some days you’re both kept busy with new toys, books, the occasional viewing of Mr Tumble and then other days seem to drag; making you feel utterly useless or a failure at stimulating your little professor in the making. There are websites awash with suggestions for occupying slighter older children, but what to do with those who eat anything put in front of them? Sensory play, that’s what! And here’s some cheap and cheerful ways to do it. By Susie Verrill.

  • If you’ve got some plastic balls laying around from the good ol’ days when you thought an at-home ball pit was a fantastic idea, grab a cake tin from the cupboard and get your little one to place each ball in the segments where the cases ordinarily go. You can teach counting and organising of colours.
  • Put some rice in a tin, hide a few mini toys or inanimate objects and watch your baby enjoy the swishing sound as they move the rice about. PLUS, seeing as they put anything and everything in their mouths, this is safer than sand.
  • The treasure basket is something I made for my son on numerous occasions once he hit the 5/6 month mark. He was quite a clingy baby and needed constant entertaining and distractions so I was overjoyed when it worked. The treasure basket is essentially a box or indeed basket if you have one, of safe, household items your little one can pick up and play with. It’s best to include different textures and materials to keep them intrigued and it costs absolutely nothing because you can just wander round your house and grab things you think might be interesting. We used things like ladles, spatulas, pine cones, tin foil and plastic spoons. He was occupied for almost half an hour on his first try!
  • Create your own safe finger painting environment by mixing yogurt with a small amount of food colouring and away you go. It WILL be messy but as long as you’re prepared for that your baby (and you) will have an amazing time. And it’ll no doubt make for some good photos!
  • Buy yourself some freezer bags (pound shops do them for, well… a pound) and fill them with cheap, coloured shower gel. Throw in some glitter or sequins, place them on the floor in front of your baby and they can have fun squidging the particles around. Make sure you get sturdy bags though (and not sandwich bags) because once you get a tear you know about it (I say this from experience!)
  • Wet play is something every baby and toddler enjoys. We often put down towels in the living room, strip Milo down, fill a plastic tub or some mixing bowls up with water and just let him go wild. For some reason it’s a thousand times more exciting than the bath and in the summer months you take it outside and there’s no clearing up afterwards!
  • If you’ve got some left over Christmas lights or have some fairy lights to hand, pop them in a see through plastic bottle and let your little one play with it. Light shows like this can be really entertaining and if you turn off your main switches it can be really enjoyable to watch them mesmerised by these little bottle of beams.
  • My son loves door handles, locks and chains, so we had his grandad stick a load of different ones to a piece of plywood. If there’s a theme of object your child’s showing a keen interest in playing with (unless it’s something irresponsible like knives or fire, maybe don’t encourage that so much) then why not make an interactive board for them? You know all their favourite things are in one place and they won’t be wandering off trying to find something dangerous to yank or bothering the cat. Again.

@mushmums @susiejverrill