Why Sensory Toys Matter for Babies and Toddlers

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about sensory toys and how we can use them to help our children develop their senses. Sensory toys are all toys that stimulate any of the five senses: smell, touch, vision, hearing and taste. That means that these toys are often made with bright contrasting colors, make sounds, and have different and specific textures. 

We know that parents already have homes full of various toys, so there's no need to buy new ones to develop your child's sensory skills. Remember, any toy can be stimulating for your child's specific sensory needs. In this blog, we'll guide you through different types of sensory toys and activities to help nurture your child's senses.

Why Sensory Toys Are Important

Stimulating your child’s senses is important for their development. Here’s why: 

  • Spatial Awareness: Sensory toys can help our children become more aware of their bodies, their surroundings, and how their actions affect both.
  • Problem-solving Skills: These skills become more developed when children interact with different materials and open-ended, interactive toys.  
  • Brain Development for Learning: Sensory play helps children strengthen their learning and memorizing abilities. Besides memory and learning, it can also improve focus and concentration, as it can be relaxing and calming.  
  • Creativity: Exploring textures and toys in new imaginative ways promotes creativity in a baby’s and child’s development.  
  • Motor Skills: As children use their hands to grasp and interact with toys, sensory play can promote and develop their motor skills and more.

Sensory Toys for Newborns

Introducing sensory toys to newborns is a great way to develop their senses from birth. However, there are some specifics to keep in mind when incorporating sensory play into their routine. During the first month of life, your baby will mostly be in a constant cycle of feeding and sleeping and won't be able to play by themselves yet. But when they are awake and alert, there are a few activities you can do to support their sensory development:

  • At this young age, your baby can focus on slow movements and red, white and black objects. You can hang a high-contrast toy above their head, and see if they can follow it. 
  • Another sense you can help them start developing this soon in their life journey is touch. You can do so by introducing them to different textures. Place them on soft blankets, offer them soft toys during tummy time and offer them wooden baby toys and soft toys for them to touch and discover. 
  • When they’re not sleeping or feeding, also try to take the time to smile and look at your baby. Newborns love looking at human faces - especially open eyes and smiling faces of their parents. See what your newborn enjoys and follow the cues.
  • Whether you want to share your childhood-favorite nursery rhyme with your baby, or you prefer telling them a good bedtime story, as long as your baby loves it and you make sure to be speaking in a clear and concise manner - carry on! This will help them with developing their language skills further on in life. This could also be a good opportunity to start introducing high contrast colorful books into their evening sleep routine, which is a great way to create a strong baby-parent bond.

Visual Sensory Toys for Newborns

  • Hanging Toys and Mobiles: For newborns and infants hanging mobiles in their cribs are safe and stimulating to improve their visual skills. Their slow and subtle movements can help with your baby’s visual tracking and eye coordination. For babies up to 3 months we recommend choosing a toy with a lot of blacks, reds and whites, as those are the only shades they can see in that time period. For older infants choose colorful and bold colors, to hold their attention for longer.
  • Visual Stimulation Mats: You can help your baby stay on their tummy during tummy time for longer by engaging them with visual sensory mats. Bright colors and patterns will stimulate their visual senses, while the different textures of the mats will also stimulate their touch.
  • Ceiling Projection Toys: Light is another element that can make for a great and stimulating visual sensory toy. That’s where light up and projection toys come in handy. Set up a projector to display images or patterns on walls or ceilings. You can use the projecting toy as a sensory tool for newborns by projecting patterns or slow moving images while they’re in the crib but you can also reuse them later on, for creating a soothing atmosphere as a part of their bedtime routine.

Tactile Sensory Toys for Newborns

  • Soft Fabric Toys: For newborns plush toys and knit rattles are a great sensory toy. Besides promoting their tactile senses, it also promotes their grasp and squeezing abilities. Opt for different textures and fabrics, such as cotton, fleece and velvet for them to explore. Also look for silent, cloth books that have different textures - showing and interpreting those to your newborn will also promote their visual and auditory senses.
  • Activity Mats: We already mentioned Visual Sensory Mats, but this one can also act as the tactile element your baby’s developing senses want to discover!
  • Squeezy Toys: Choose light and squeezable toys or balls with textures. These will promote fine motor skills, as the babies learn to grasp and squeeze.
a baby holding the Organic Elephant Rattle in Oatmeal

Auditory Sensory Toys for Newborns

  • Rattles: Just like we have already mentioned besides stimulating your baby’s auditory senses, rattles also promote grasping and act like a tactile sensory toy. You can also opt for rattles with chimes or bells, and have your little one discover different sounds and have them entertained for hours. Since the rattles make sound upon baby’s action, they’re also great for developing spatial awareness.
  • Musical Toys and Mobiles: We’ve already mentioned mobiles in the visual sensory toys for newborns section, but we think it’s worth mentioning that mobiles also come with sound and music options, making them even more stimulating. Musical toys, such as plush toys and music boxes with built in melodies will also prove super interesting to the little ones and engage their curiosity.
  • White Noise Machine: Set the mood for and create the perfect bedtime environment with white noise, rain sounds or heart beat sounds to help a newborn baby catch the z’s.

Engaging the Senses: Beyond the Newborn Phase

Introducing new and different sensory toys and activities for your one year old should be an exciting time for you and your little one! By that age, your baby is going to be more engaged in their surroundings and active, which will make sensory play a fun and exciting activity - as well as it will even further promote their sensory development. Toys that provide exploration and early learning are the way to go!

Visual Sensory Toys for One Year Olds

  • Puzzles with large and colorful pieces: Start practicing your little one’s hand-eye coordination with puzzles! Find foam or wooden ones, with large pieces to keep it age-appropriate for one year olds. That way they get to engage with visual images while stimulating and flexing their “brain muscle” as well.
  • Building and blocks: Stacking boldly colored blocks does not only promote their motor and awareness skills, but it’s also a fun and challenging activity that will leave them with a great sense of achievement. Include different shapes as well, to introduce the concept of shapes.
  • Art supplies: Finger painting, markers and crayons will prove to be extra visually stimulating. Plus, color mixing will entertain for hours.

Tactile Sensory Toys for One Year Olds

  • Sensory Blocks: We already mentioned stacking blocks, but having them be in different materials and textures is just another step you can take! This will make stacking and exploring shapes also great for tactile stimulation.
  • Activity Boards with Textured Surfaces: The differing textures engage children's curiosity, offer sensory feedback, and help the brain process and integrate sensory information.
  • Ziplock Bags with Water and Figurines: Pour colored water into a plastic ziplock bag, alongside glitter, round rocks and figurines of choice. Your child will love exploring how their touch affects the water’s movement.

Auditory Sensory Toys for One Year Olds

  • Talking Plush Toys: Plush toys (or just any toys) that talk, make animal sounds or sing when hugging or pressing provide just the right amount of stimulation during nap or play time. Besides, they have many benefits for their ever-learning brain, including social interaction through pretend play, they provide emotional comfort and help with language development.
  • Musical Instrument Sets: For the little musicians! If your child is showing interest in making rhythmic noise, singing and dancing, you should encourage them even further to explore their love for music. Get them a musical instrument set for their winter holiday or birthday gift, and watch them fall in love with sounds they create. Music has a variety of great effects on a little one’s development, including learning skills, auditory development and emotional regulation.

Sensory toys that rattle or chime are always a great option, when it comes to auditory skills and development. These also come hand in hand with spatial awareness development as well, as little one’s also learn how their actions affect their surroundings. 

Exploring the World: Sensory Toys for Two Year Olds

At around two years old, you will probably notice that your toddler is engaging with their toys more and more. This is a great age to start encouraging and introducing imaginative play, problem solving and fine motor skills development to their play time.

Visual Sensory Toys for Two Year Olds


  • Magnatiles: Magnetic building tiles will engage your 2-year-old like nothing before. Watch them while they explore geometry, symmetry and construction.
  • Sensory Balls and Balloons: Stimulate your little one with colorful balls and balloons they can toss and catch - which will also promote their motor skills and spatial awareness.
  • Shape Sorters: These will help them differentiate different shapes and sizes, while promoting their hand-eye coordination.

Tactile Sensory Toys for Two Year Olds

  • Playdough: The perfect toy for promoting creativity and imagination, while they fold and shape the playdough into anything they can imagine. Also great for visual stimulation, since they can mix and match different colors.
  • Sand Tables: Prepare a tray with kinetic sand, some scoops and molds to provide your 2 year old a sensory and tactile experience.
  • Little Artist: Get your hands on colored paper, markers, child-safe scissors and paint, and take some time of your week to create together. You can create holiday decorations, or just something to make your place a little bit brighter and colorful. This is also great for enhancing your child-parent bond.

Auditory Sensory Toys for Two Year Olds

  • Rain Sticks: Tubes filled with pellets or balls will create subtle, rain-like sound with tilting and shaking. 
  • Singing and dancing: Engage your child's auditory senses with music and movement, promoting rhythm awareness and coordination.

Growing Minds: Sensory Toys for Three Year Olds

At Three years old, you might notice that your child desires more complex play and even more sensory stimulation.

Visual Sensory Toys for Three Year Olds

  • Building Kits: Challenge your three year old’s problem solving skills with building kits. This can be a great activity for individuals or co-play.
  • Crafting Kits: Another fun and bonding sensory activity you can do together with your three year old is crafting kits. The type of kit to go for depends on your little one’s interest - you can decide to make some jewelry together, make pom-pom or macaroni art, or make costumes for Halloween at home. There’s so many more craft ideas you can do together for a fun time and a bonding experience.
  • Kaleidoscopes: Kaleidoscopes are, obviously, extremely visually stimulative, but they also require some focus or attention, as children have to concentrate to observe the shapes and colors it creates.
  • Tactile Sensory Toys for Three Year Olds

  • Playdough: Creativity and tactile stimulation! That’s why so many parents love playdough as a toy for their little ones. Watch them create shapes and mold objects, and get better at it every time. Besides, it is also a super calming activity, so use it as a toy for quiet time as well!
  • Quiet Books: Besides being a great tactile sensory toy for three year olds, quiet books will also promote their visual stimulation. Choose books with motives that your child will find entertaining and interesting. Also great for car rides.
  • sensory kit contents

    Auditory Sensory Toys for Three Year Olds


    • Interactive Learning Tablets: Expand their worlds with their first Learning tablet. These can include content from alphabet learning, to animals, as well as sing-along videos with cute interactive characters. Learning tablets will teach them social skills and they’ll love it!
    • Sing-along karaoke machines: Karaoke and microphone devices for toddlers are a fun way to learn more songs and improve their motor skills as they dance. Put on a song they love or learn a new one together, while jumping around and dancing!

    All of the sensory toys and activities we listed can be used for years! Of course, if you see your little one isn’t as interested in a toy as they used to be, think of an idea to make it more challenging and fun again! While some toys are meant to be challenging to their little minds, keep in mind that some of the toys are also meant to be loved and comforting to our babies. 

    We hope you learned something new about sensory toys, and why they are important, as well as got some new ideas on how to keep your little ones’ senses stimulated and happy. When choosing a sensory toy for your little one, whether it’s just a newborn, or a three year old, be observant of things and activities that they enjoy or are really good at, and be nurturing and supportive of those things the most.