One of the greatest joys of being a parent is watching your baby discover the world around her. Your baby's senses will help her in this new adventure.
You can be so much more than a spectator by supporting her learning as her very first tour guide and teacher. Here are some suggested sensory development activities to help your baby learn.
Your Baby's Senses: Sight
Your baby can focus best on people and things that are close to her, such as your face as you feed her. You may notice her watching others who are nearby and tracking bright objects as they move. As she grows, her ability to focus on objects that are farther away will improve. Important nutrients like DHA and ARA, found in breast milk and most formula, help support visual development.
To help encourage your baby’s learning, you might try the following sensory development activities:
- Hold your baby so your face is about eight inches from hers, and talk to her gently. When you have her attention, slowly move your head from side to side so she can follow you with her eyes. She might not be able to track your face when it passes to the other side of her nose until she’s a bit older.
- Hold her in a sitting position while looking at her so she can make eye contact. Be sure the lights are not shining directly in her face, because bright lights can be irritating to babies.
- Show her simple black-and-white patterns during the first few weeks she’s home. At this stage, babies can see shapes and bold colors more clearly than subtle patterns or pastels. Books and cutouts with baby-friendly patterns are typically available at children’s bookshops and baby-supply stores.
- After a few weeks, show her bright, colorful toys or other objects. Move them slowly before her eyes so she can learn to follow them.
- Put her in front of a mirror and watch what happens. Babies are often interested in looking at their reflection.
Your Baby's Senses: Sound
Your baby is very aware of the sounds around her, and your voice is among her favorite things to hear.
To encourage your baby’s hearing development, you might take the following actions:
- Talk to her as much as possible in a soft, calm, cheerful voice. She may not understand what you say, but she'll respond to hearing your voice.
- Vary the sound of your voice by changing your tone and your volume.
- Sing or hum to her.
- Introduce her to new sounds like musical toys or rattles.
Your Baby's Senses: Touch
Your baby's sense of touch starts with her mouth and spreads to her whole body. This may explain her growing eagerness to put anything and everything into her mouth. With just the power of touch, you may be able to turn your fussy little one into a calm, content darling. Your slow, gentle touches help her feel secure and safe.
To encourage your baby’s sense of touch, you might try these sensory development activities:
- Hold her often. Don't worry about spoiling her during these early months—you won't. What you will do is make her feel secure.
- Watch for and respond to her signals. If she wants to be cuddled, she'll be relaxed and snuggly. If she seems upset, try holding her without moving, or lay her down. Some upset babies like it when you pick them up and move around slowly.
- Introduce her to lots of different textures: towels, diapers, stuffed animals, water and your skin.
Your Baby's Senses: Taste and Smell
All babies explore their world by putting things in their mouths. That’s because taste and smell help your baby learn about the physical world. Newborn babies can already pick out a variety of flavors, like sweet and sour. And they're all born with a taste for breast milk or formula.
To better understand your baby's senses, keep these facts in mind:
- Newborns recognize the taste and smell of their own mother's milk.
- Right now you don't have to go out of your way to stimulate these two senses. Your baby’s taste buds are keen at every feeding, and normal household aromas keep her sense of smell well stimulated.