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.