Sensory Balloons: Sensory Play Craft for Babies and Toddlers

Wed, 01/09/2013 - 3:49pm -- Mel Gibb

During the last Intellidance Babies class of every session, we have a sensory day. There are finger paints, a ball pit, a sensory blanket, musical instruments, and an assortment of other sensory-related materials. As my fall session was coming to an end, I wanted to start to prepare for our sensory day. I thought it would be novel for the babies to have something they could hold in their hands that felt different. It needed to be about the same size as an egg shaker since that’s about all they can hold in their hands, and the sensory objects inside it needed to be protected from tiny mouths.

Eleanor and I decided to create sensory balloons. Now, I know that a balloon doesn’t exactly sound like the safest object to be giving a baby, but they aren’t inflated, so they can’t pop. And, they are also being supervised by their caregivers, so there is little risk of the babies injuring themselves. That being said, I would never leave a baby alone with one of these sensory balloons! Here’s how we went about creating them:

First, I decided which materials I would place in the balloons. I choose macaroni, dry oats, flour, coffee, and rice. I placed each of the materials into bowls to allow Eleanor an opportunity to explore them. She enjoyed touching the materials and running them through her fingers. At the same time, I mixed a little cornstarch and water together to make “goo”, so Eleanor could experience the unique texture of the substance. Like most toddlers, she also tasted some of them, though I wouldn’t say she enjoyed that part!

Next, I cut the tops off of half the balloons. By doing this, we had an easier time getting the materials into the balloons. I used a funnel to pour the materials into the balloons; however, I found I had to use my fingers to get the macaroni into the balloons as they would get stuck in the funnel. Perhaps, if I had a larger funnel, this wouldn’t have happened.

Then, I took a second balloon and cover the first balloon with it, so the opening was covered by the second balloon. This way the sensory balloons have a second layer to protect against ruptures. By cutting the top off of the first balloon, there are also no lumps under the second balloon, which makes the sensory balloon easier to hold and manipulate.

Finally, I allowed Eleanor to play with them; these have been great to have around the house.  We spent a lot of time talking about the similarities and differences, which has supported Eleanor’s language development. The flour and coffee have a similar feeling, but the flour is much denser. The rice and macaroni are also similar, though the macaroni is bulkier. The flour is soft, the macaroni is hard. I’ve placed the balloons on my kitchen island where I prepare all my meals. Eleanor enjoys playing with them while I get a few free moments to make supper. They also make great stress-balls, so I find myself grabbing them from time to time during stressful moment. And, if nothing else, the sensory balloons provided us with an afternoon activity during an otherwise snowy day. Many of the babies at my Intellidance Babies class enjoyed them as well. One baby, in particular, spent most of the session with a sensory balloon in her hands. All in all, a successful activity!