Montessori at home: 8 great sensory experiences for babies + toddlers

Most babies and toddlers do not need much encouragement to explore the world, but as parents we can provide objects and experiences that inspire them to use their senses in a different way.

These eight ideas are simple and fun, and will ignite curiosity in babies and young toddlers alike:

1. Treasure basket

A treasure basket is simply a collection of interesting items, from your home or nature, gathered together in a basket to encourage your baby to explore.

Treasure baskets are especially great for non-mobile babies who are so eager to explore, but unable to reach new objects on their own. Older babies and even toddlers love treasure baskets too though, as long as the objects catch their interest.


The items should be large enough and safe enough that baby can explore on his own without adult interference.

Some ideas for sensory treasure baskets include a basket of different types of brushes, a basket of fall leaves, a basket of different blue household items, a basket of non-breakable Christmas ornaments or holiday ribbons and bows, and a basket of interesting kitchen utensils.

2. Easy homemade shakers

You can certainly use store bought shakers and rattles to let baby explore sound, but making your own is so easy and it allows you to easily switch out the contents to change the sound when baby is bored. All you need is a few spice jars (I just save my clear glass Penzeys jars when they’re empty) and something to fill them with. Some options are grains, beans, corn kernels, and jingle bells.

Another great thing about making your own shakers is that they have a uniform look, which helps to isolate the differences in sound as the focus of the toy.

3. Food exploration

Eating is definitely a sensory experience for little ones. You can take it a step further though by making sensory bins with edible contents. If you have a baby who puts everything in his mouth (?‍), this is a great way to make sensory exploration safe.

Fill a bin with flour and let your baby explore its funny texture and see how it floats through the air. Let her feel how it changes if you add some water.

Fill a bin with cooked spaghetti and watch your little one squish it around. This is a good activity to do in the backyard, for obvious reasons.

4. Finger painting

Another messy, but fun sensory experience is finger painting. With washable, non-toxic paints, a baby could explore finger painting as soon as she’s sitting up, though she might enjoy it more when she’s a bit older.

5. Kinetic sand

Have you played with kinetic sand? Like its playground counterpart, but moldable, it can be pretty mesmerizing, even for adults. It turns out you can make a homemade version that is entirely edible, just in case baby wants to explore it with all five senses.

6. Clay

Play-Doh is great, but clay is even better. Clay is excellent for the development of the hand muscles because it is harder to squish and shape. It is also much more interesting to the senses as it has a unique smell and is cool to the touch.

Play-Doh can be great for young toddlers, but when their little hands are strong enough, give natural clay a try!

7. Herb smelling + tasting

Many babies and toddlers want to taste the leaves they find outside, so why not give them a chance? Gather 3-5 different types of herbs on a small tray and silently model how to smell and taste the leaves. Then let your baby explore! If you do this regularly, it can be fun to point out which herbs are in the food your baby is eating too.

8. Experiencing the seasons

The best sensorial experience for children is simply spending time outside. The sounds of nature and the feeling of the wind on their faces simply cannot be replicated. While winter months may mean shorter outdoor playtimes, try to let your child experience all of nature’s seasons.

Let him play in the rain. Let him smell the pine trees in the cold winter air. His senses, and his curiosity, will come alive.

For babies and toddlers, almost everything is a sensory experience. They explore the world by touch (and taste!) and are constantly fascinated by new sights, sounds and smells. These eight activities are just an entertaining and easy way to give them something new to explore and join in on the fun.

In This Article

    The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

    And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

    Gracious Gobbler

    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

    But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

    I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

    Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

    Keep reading Show less

    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

    One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

    If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

    Stylish storage cabinet

    Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

    White board calendar + bulletin board

    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

    From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

    Bamboo storage drawers

    The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.


    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

    Work + Money

    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

    Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

    Keep reading Show less
    Learn + Play