It’s almost unbelievable how many developmental changes a baby goes through in the first year.  You may wonder how you can help them develop without spending thousands of dollars on the latest gadget. These simple and affordable infant activities will help them develop their motor, coordination, emotional, and sensory skills, utilizing readily available materials around the house.

0-6 Months Development

Even though newborns have limited abilities, they learn quickly. An infant creates over 1 million neural connections every second during the first year. Within three months, your baby will be able to bring his hands to his mouth, lift while on his stomach, follow sound and objects, as well as smile and make eye contact. By six months, your baby can use his hands to explore objects, roll, reach for toys while on his stomach, and play with his feet.

When trying these infant activities, remember that everyone develops at a different rate; if you are concerned contact your pediatrician.

Make An Aroma Jar

An aroma jar is an excellent way to work on multiple skills at the same time. This activity, for instance, will improve not only their motor skills and coordination but also their sense of smell.

For this activity you need a few empty seasoning jars, a few cotton balls, some water, and whatever sensory stimuli you’d like to use. If it has a scent, it will work! Perhaps you already have orange juice, coffee, cinnamon, or lemon in your kitchen. If using liquid, apply enough to the cotton ball so that it is wet enough to obtain a scent without dripping. If you are using items that will slip through the holes in the seasoning jars, such as r powders, allow them to soak in a little bit of water before applying it to the cotton ball. You can also put whole items in the jars, such as lilac, dill, or cinnamon sticks. Because infants use their mouths to explore the world around them, place the cotton ball in a sensory jar, fashioned out of an old seasoning jar. Label each one so that you don’t lose track of which is which. Now offer the aroma jar and  move it back and forth under their nose, while discussing the scent. As you move the scent, you may see them turn their heads to follow it. Give them the jars during tummy time and let them explore.

Make a Sensory Bag or Sensory Bottle

Despite the fact that tummy time is an essential activity for developing infants’ core and neck strength, many infants do not enjoy participating for long periods. You can make tummy time more enjoyable with sensory bags or sensory bottles. Sensory bags and bottles do not need to be complicated. Below are some suggestions of what to put in them.

To make a sensory bag, simply fill a gallon sized freezer, ziplock bag halfway. Freezer bags are thicker and better for kids who will try to chew on it. Close the bag and adhere duct tape along the top to ensure the bag remains closed. Finally, tape the bag to the floor along all four sides; you can use painters tape for this part. If your infant is still struggling with tummy time and not showing any interest in the bags. Try placing him in an assisted seat and helping him to explore the bags upright before slowly transitioning him to his stomach. 

In the bags you can include:

  • Water with green peas
  • Hair gel mixed with food coloring and cut up straws
  • Paint with dried beans
  • Water and oil mixed with food coloring and beads
  • Pompoms and feathers

To make a sensory bottle simply fill a plastic water bottle 1/6 with hair gel and 5/6 with water. Alternatively you can fill 1/3 with water and 2/3 with baby oil (or vegetable oil). Add two to three drops of food coloring, some glitter, beads, seashells, and/or plastic animals. Lastly, put super glue inside of the cover and then turn it tightly on the bottle. VOSS water bottles work really well for this project. All you will need to do is peel the label off and use rubbing alcohol to remove anything left behind.

Balloon Kicking

Balloon kicking is a great activity that you can do together or for some supervised independent play. This simple activity will help your baby develop eye coordination and gross motor skills, improve their concentration and introduce the concept of cause and effect.  

All you need for this activity is two helium filled balloons, one for you and one for baby. Your local dollar store will not only have balloons available for purchase, but they can also inflate them for you! Once you have inflated your balloon, the only thing left is to loosely tie a string around yours and your baby’s ankle. The string should still be able to slide up and down the leg. At first your baby may just stare at the balloon or move it with the natural movements of their body. However, as your baby grows he will begin to intentionally move and track the balloon. Get on the floor and play along; talk about what’s happening! Note that this activity must be supervised at all times due to the long ribbon within baby’s reach. 

As your infant grows, check out more activities you can do at home with 6-12 month olds! To learn more about how you can support your child as they grow, check out our online class, Caring For Young Children: Early Childhood Milestones.

About The Author

Nia Davidson has over 10 years of experience working with children in Boston and Virginia, as well as abroad. She studied human development and family studies at the University of Vermont. She is also trained as a birth and postpartum doula and works as a Newborn Care Expert with BBN&N. Growing up mostly abroad in Germany and Qatar, she has a unique understanding of different cultures and traditions. She understands that bringing a newborn home can be filled with wonder and excitement but also can be a time of stress. Nia’s calm demeanor, loving nature, and multicultural experiences abroad make her uniquely capable of supporting families through the newborn stages. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and practicing yoga.