With all children, and especially with infants, it’s important to stimulate their senses with play, to encourage bonding, development, and learning. It’s important to choose toys and activities that will challenge your baby (although you should still pay close attention to age guides to avoid any choking hazards).
Although babies are too small for most outdoor play equipment, as soon as they can sit or walk, they will benefit from sensory play. These are some of our favourite garden toys to encourage development in children.
Using sand and water play
The best developmental toys for babies aren’t always the most expensive. Small children and toddlers will love to dig their hands deep into a sandpit, or experiment with how water splashes and flows.
This Picnic Table Sandpit is ideal for encouraging sand and water play. When they’re small, sit on the side of the bench with your child on your knee, gently splashing them with water or showing them how the sand can be moulded.
Otherwise, this Wooden Sand Pit with a sun cover is a great way to introduce youngsters to sand. Suitable for children over 18 months, it’s also a covered and cool place for babies to lie on a play mat (to turn it into somewhere clean and safe). Remember to always supervise children so they don’t end up eating too much sand!
Swinging stimulates our bodies’ sensory systems. The ear canal responds to movement and acceleration which directly stimulates our sense of balance.
As soon as your child can sit up unaided, they might enjoy sitting in a bucket-style swing that supports their back. A lot of baby class routines include a swinging motion, as it’s comforting to kids and has the added benefit of sensory stimulation.
Whilst they’re still young, only allow your kids to swing for short periods of time to prevent possible motion sickness. Slow movements have been proven to be more stimulating than fast ones – so it really is quality over quantity.
Swings like this TP Toys Forest Growable Acorn Swing with Quad Pod are great for younger children, and the swing will grow as they do! The Quad Pod seat adjusts with your baby’s development: so, you can start them off in it when they’re 6 months old. Starting with a cocoon-style seat with a moulded headrest, and then evolving into a bucket seat with a T-bar for 1-year olds, which will then turn into a normal swing seat as your child grows.
Nest swings are also a good idea as their design allows babies to lie down whilst being swung around, mimicking sensations experienced in the womb. This Premium Nest Swing with Mister is a great option as it is easy to get into and will keep you cool in summer, allowing babies to experience swinging before they can sit up – rock them gently and slowly forwards and backwards, or hold them in your arms as you swing yourself.
Outdoor play kitchen
Finally, for slightly older kids, a messy play outdoor kitchen is a great choice for a creative, fun, and stimulating play time. With all the features to make mud pies and more, an outdoor play kitchen is open-ended play equipment that can inspire your children to experiment with the natural materials around them. While it’s likely to result in a mess, at least it’ll be outside and not in your home!
An outdoor kitchen also has the added benefit of directly emulating an adult activity (real cooking), which will delight young kids of all ages and bring them back for more again and again.