Digging into Pumpkins: Sensory Activities for Infants Build Their Brains
By Rachel Ward
Cute gurgles, heart-melting smiles, and…gooey, messy hands and fingers. Sensory activities are all part and parcel of being a baby just discovering what the world has to offer (but even with the goo and the mess, who doesn’t love seeing their baby discover the wonders of soft fruits or oatmeal for the first time? #pricelessparentingmoments)
That first year is full of amazing firsts as infants discover not only the wonders of their own bodies (“I have feet?!”), but those in their environment as well—starting with the intriguing textures available to those little hands (and, more often than not, mouths).
But why is touch the primary sense that babies use in the first year of life?
“Even in the womb, embryos develop their sense of touch; in fact, it’s the first sense to develop, starting at eight weeks after conception,” says Sue-Ann Lively from KinderCare’s Education team. “Since touch is so integral at such an early stage before birth, it’s the natural way that babies begin exploring and learning about the world around them.”
That’s why a crucial part of our infant curriculum includes plenty of opportunities to feel, grab, and smush all kinds of fun new textures. And this month, we’re pulling out an October classic: pumpkins!
What’s in a Pumpkin? Touch-Based Activities for Babies Offer Lots of Benefits
This wet and messy activity lets infants get up close and personal with stringy, goopy pumpkin guts (no worries, parents, we’re supervising closely the whole time) for a whole new texture experience.
“As infants touch and squeeze different items, they’re developing their motor skills, which they’ll need as they start working toward taking those first few steps on their own,” explains Lively.
In addition, as infants work with new textures and our teachers describe their actions and the sensations they’re experiencing, babies are introduced to new descriptor words, from “wet” and “mushy” to “cold” or “warm”—and that lays the foundation for learning language skills later down the road.
We’re introducing infants to new and exciting objects and textures all the time at KinderCare, but there are some easy ways you can do the same at home! Try some of our tips below.
What Else Is out There? Exploring Textures at Home with Your Baby
1. Get jiggly with gelatin
Wiggly, jiggly gelatin is a child-favorite! Its unique texture, shape, and colors can entrance babies for hours and give them plenty of practice at using their little fingers to poke, prod, squeeze, and pull (not to mention, the sugar-free kind makes for a tasty snack afterward).
2. Explore bubbles at bath time
Those effervescent, rainbow-hued soap bubbles can awe and amaze infants—especially when they pop with the slightest touch! A whole bathtub full of them provides a fun, fizzy experience that babies might not have experienced before (grab your phone so you can record those adorable baby giggles).
3. Dig those little piggies in the dirt
A handful of soil gives babies a completely new texture to explore, whether it’s nitty and gritty or fine and smooth. If you’re able to go outside, even better—not only is your baby learning that dirt is naturally found on the ground, but they can also explore the textures of the grass!
4. Noodle around with noodles
Making spaghetti for your family? Take a few spare strands of noodles and let your baby experience their slimy, sticky feeling! (Tip: Leave the sauce for older family members. Your baby may discover the joy of flinging noodles off the high chair—and you probably don’t want to undergo the task of cleaning tomato sauce off your white couch.)