Mar 31 , 2023
Children's Sensory Development: What Parents Should Know
How does sensory growth work?
The two less well-known senses, vestibular and proprioception, as well as the five most well-known senses—touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste—begin to grow during the period of sensory development.
A child's brain tries to interpret the sensation when they use their senses. The inputs help the brain develop and become stronger. The stronger a child's brain develops, the more they use their senses.
Parents can help in this situation. The more sensory experiences an infant has, whether through playing with sensory toys, taking walks outside, or trying new foods, the more their brain will develop, preparing them for everything life has to offer.
When does sensory growth become most crucial?
When a baby is still in the womb, sensory development starts, reaching its peak in the first two years of existence. While stimulating a child's senses is still essential as they grow, most kids' senses are fully developed by the time they turn two, with each sense developing on its own timetable.
Knowing the timeline of when a parent should concentrate on a particular sense is the best way to optimize sensory development in children because each sense is distinct and serves its own purpose.
Beginning at around eight weeks in the womb, touch is the very first sensation to develop. According to experts, babies can begin feeling touch-related sensations like heat, cold, pressure, and discomfort as early as the third trimester. However, when they are born, the true learning process begins.
A newborn baby starts learning through touch as soon as they are delivered. They begin planning how to stay warm because, for instance, they can sense the temperature changes on their skin right away. This is significant because, in contrast to an adult, they are still learning the best ways to control their body temperature. That's why you frequently see infants wrapped up tightly!
The baby's ability to distinguish between variations in temperature aids in stimulating the other senses. For instance, they are able to feed by positioning their mouth on their mother's nipple.
Babies are extremely delicate to touch when they are young, so cuddling and skin-to-skin contact are crucial for helping them become accustomed to their surroundings. They need touch to learn about their bodies and how much room they occupy in the environment.
The development of the eyeballs begins around week 33 of pregnancy. The human body's most evolved sense is sight. Seeking our bearings in the world, forming relationships and interests through recognition, and ensuring our safety are all facilitated by seeing. Babies can initially only concentrate up close. In their first few weeks of life, they start to "track" objects with their eyes after spending a significant amount of their early days staring straight at those who are feeding them. Around the age of two, their eyesight "normalizes."
Early and frequently visual stimulation is important for babies, but fortunately, it's simple for a newborn! All you have to do is give them chances to experience novel activities. That could be as easy as going for a stroll around the area or to the store.
There are devices that are age-appropriately made just for assisting infants in using their vision. For the earliest stages, when an infant can only see in black and white, high contrast patterns are essential. To develop their cognitive and gross motor skills, it's crucial to stimulate your eyesight and assist them in identifying shapes.
Even though a fetus can only hear muffles while in the womb, hearing is frequently the sensation that is most developed.
Starting in the 22nd week of pregnancy, communicating with your unborn child or listening to your favorite music can be advantageous and pleasant for both of you. According to research, learning begins even before a baby is born, and by that time, they can even distinguish between various languages.
A newborn frequently exhibits a preference for the sound of their mother or other comforting, maternal voices. This is probably because, while inside their mother, they hear their mother so much.
When they are born, babies also tend to appreciate rhythmic sounds. This can involve whispering or even devices that simulate a heartbeat, which they listened to throughout the second part of pregnancy. These noises can teach newborns how to relax or calm themselves when they're feeling anxious.
They clearly and instantly favor sweet things, which explains why they adore breast milk and formula. They will quickly learn that acidic and sour flavors are not particularly enjoyable.
They will begin to acquire a liking for salt at around four months. Many babies begin to consume and enjoy solid foods at this point, and parents can start experimenting with new tastes and textures. By six months, when the majority of infants are regularly consuming solid foods, they really start to use their senses of taste, smell, and touch to learn about the enjoyment of food.
According to studies, the flavors that babies experience from the time they are in the womb until they are young children can influence their food preferences in the future. Research even demonstrates that eating more strongly flavored foods during pregnancy, such as garlic and anise, will help your infant acquire a stronger palate.
A baby's sense of smell is highly developed at birth, and it only gets better over the course of the first eight years of existence.
A infant relies heavily on smell in the early days to identify people (like their parents), locations (like their crib or vehicle), and objects because they are born without a strong sense of sight. (like their favorite toys or blankets). A infant may be crying because they don't like their scent if they cry when a new person holds them or after you wash their favorite toy.
The placenta provides all the nutrients needed for a baby to develop inside the womb. However, after birth, they spend the first month of existence beginning to differentiate between a variety of tastes.
They are able to scent their mother's milk as soon as they are born. Her bodily odor also allows them to identify her. This is because an infant breathes in amniotic fluid, which sometimes smells like its mother, while still inside the womb.
The development of other senses, particularly taste and vision, depends on the ability to smell. It is strongly related to recollection.
The first sensory system to form in the womb, the vestibular system has a significant influence on how we move, rest, play, and learn. It maintains the equilibrium of our bodies.
Once a baby is born, every time they shift or change positions, their vestibular system is activated. It's important to rock and swing your infant and to encourage rolling, crawling, walking, and sprinting as these activities all contribute to the vestibular system's development. This is why practicing on the stomach from a young age is so important!
A infant will probably begin to walk once they feel stable enough. The vestibular system is entirely to blame for this. A baby learns when and how to use their body by using this sensation. It plays a significant role in building muscular tone.
It can be challenging to determine the optimal timeline for involving the proprioception sense in early childhood, in contrast to many of the other senses. However, doing it right away is simple (and crucial).
The sensation of proprioception allows us to move our bodies naturally. This sense is used in a variety of contexts, including writing, performing sports, holding objects, and brushing one's hair.
One method to activate proprioception in a baby at a young age is to swaddle them. Stretching, ascending, lifting, and reaching for a toy are all good exercises.