When you’re new to the world, everything is amazing. Every touch, sound and smell is a wonderful sensory experience. Babies constantly learn about their environment through exploration, using all of their senses to begin to build up an understanding of the world in which they live.

There are many cheap, easy and creative ways to help your little one discover and enjoy new things, stimulating their senses and, at the same time, encouraging bonding with some special one-to-one time.

There are countless things you can do, using just the materials around you at home. Try blowing and popping bubbles, making and shaking sensory bottles (empty plastic drinks bottles part-filled with buttons, rice, pasta, or anything else that will make a sound), splashing around in water or coloured water, playing in piles of leaves outside, letting baby get their hands stuck in to a bowlful of jelly, dried rice or cooked spaghetti, or making shadows using a torch…the possibilities are endless. Your little one will have a whale of a time exploring the feel of the various textures, the new and unusual sounds, bright colours, lights and shadows. There are some great ideas for fun, safe sensory play for babies here: http://theimaginationtree.com/2012/06/baby-play-ideas-and-activities-6-18.html

As the months go by and baby’s co-ordination improves, their ability grows along with their curiosity, and they begin to be able to understand and participate in more structured activities. They gain pleasure and enjoyment from the creative process and as well as pride in the end result: “Look what I’ve made!” From play-doh to junk modelling, finger painting to drawing, colouring, or even baking, your toddler can develop their creativity, producing some amazing pieces along the way that you’ll no doubt treasure for years to come (ok, there’ll be a few that you sneak into the recycling when they’re not looking, but you can’t keep them all!). There are 1000s of ideas out there for things you can make or do with your little one – check out https://uk.pinterest.com for inspiration but remember that it’s as much about the process as the end result. Who cares if your little one’s egg box elephant looks more like a block of flats if they’ve enjoyed making it! It’s a great time of year to get creative too, with Christmas coming up friends and relatives can enjoy the ‘personal’ touch with home-made cards and decorations that really mean something.

If the idea of getting the paints, glitter and glue out at home fills you with dread, don’t worry – you’re not alone and it DOESN’T make you a bad parent! Many people find the setting up and clearing away takes longer than the activity itself and are daunted at the prospect letting a toddler get creative so close to carpets and furniture! There are many groups and classes that offer parents and toddlers the opportunity for messy play and creative activities in a structured environment with aprons, floor coverings and handwash aplenty! National group The Creation Station (http://www.thecreationstation.co.uk) has franchises all over the country, or many smaller independent groups run in local areas – try searching http://www.netmums.com for what’s on in your local area.

Do you have any great ideas for messy or creative play? Or any experiences you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

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