Fun ideas to improve your baby’s sensory development.
From the first day of their lives, babies try to interact with their tiny world. They use all their senses to try and learn as much as they can from everything around them.
Baby sensory development starts as early as when they’re still in the womb. They keep developing their senses and pay extra attention to new stimuli.
Understanding how and when babies react to things can help us to make the learning process easier for them. Today, I’ll provide you with a complete guide of everything you need to know about their baby sensory development and how you can help your baby to get an early start.
Additionally, I’ll provide you with some cool toys, activities, and other things that can boost their developmental process. Let’s dive in...
What are the senses?
We all know the 5 basic senses, right?
Pretty simple stuff. But there are a couple of senses that you might not be so familiar with. These secondary senses are called vestibular and proprioception. But more on this later.
Babies’ sensory organs are constantly ready to take in huge amounts of information. Then, their brains use that information to build a clearer image of the world around them.
What is baby sensory development?
Baby sensory development is the process in which your child starts to gain full control over their senses. They become able to respond adequately to any stimulus that signals their senses.
At that point, your baby will become more aware of their surroundings through their basic senses.
After some time, baby sensory development advances to motor development. This stage signals the start of coordination between their different senses. For example, they become aware that they can touch the same thing they see.
Babies start coordinating between different senses with time. You can help them to speed up this development process through sensory play.
How do senses develop after birth?
Learning about how these senses develop in babies is essential to help us to help them enhance this process.
You’ll be able to fulfill their developmental needs and supply them with rich sensory experience. Let’s have a quick look at each one of these senses.
Sight is the least mature sense at birth. Although babies are able to see, they don’t have the full ability to use their eyesight. Instead, they need to learn how to develop these abilities with time.
For example, newborns have relatively limited eyesight of about 8 to 10 inches from their faces. Additionally, they don’t have the ability to focus on objects. Their eyesight improves significantly through the first months of birth.
Hearing skills are extremely crucial at an early age, as they have strong bonds with learning other skills.
Sound is processed inside the ear when the auditory receptors pick up vibrations in the air. The auditory system, in general, is more developed at birth when compared to the visual system.
That’s why they can identify the voices of their mothers early on in their lives. Babies love the sound of their mothers, as they link it to warmth, food, and love.
Through their olfactory senses, babies can learn to distinguish between various smells. They can also differentiate between pleasant and unpleasant ones.
There are about 10 million olfactory receptors in their nose! These receptors pick up the tiniest chemicals in the air and translate them into smells in the brain.
Similar to hearing, the sense of smell starts even before birth. In fact, the receptors needed for the olfactory sense are fully formed at 10 to 14 weeks of gestation. That’s why newborns can identify their mothers through smell even though they have a poor sense of sight.
Despite being fully-functional at birth, the sense of smell needs to be stimulated with different smells to improve it.
According to many studies, babies can smell pheromones emitted during stress. In other words, babies can be alerted to danger through odors.
The first sense that develops in babies is the sense of touch. That’s why babies are able to react to different tactile stimuli from the day they’re born.
Babies link their sense of touch with emotional development. That’s why it’s important for mothers to maintain skin-to-skin contact with their baby on a regular basis. Not only does it soothe them, but it was also found to have a wide variety of health benefits.
The sense of taste develops early in the womb. Babies are born with taste buds. However, it takes a couple of years for these buds to fully develop and taste different kinds of food.
Babies love to put anything they can hold in their mouth. That’s why sensory development toys that include taste are important to speed up this process. They serve as a safe way to prevent choking hazards.
The vestibular system is responsible for balance. It’s located in the inner ear and works by sensing the changes in the baby’s position.
It develops at about 5 months after gestation. According to medical research, the lack of vestibular information can reduce cognitive performance.
In other words, parents should be aware of the importance of exploring the sense of balance in their toddlers as early as they can.
Proprioception (Body Awareness)
Finally, the sense of proprioception, which is linked to the vestibular system too. It enables children to have awareness of their bodies. This translates to the development of their motor skills and linking it with other senses.
Why is baby sensory play important?
So you might be wondering why sensory play is essential for babies. Incorporating different senses in playtimes, such as sight, touch, and others, has a wide range of benefits on your babies.
Sensory play for babies is simple. Even watching tiny bubbles flying and floating on their skin count as sensory play.
Also, watching coloured objects with different noises can work too. Let’s have a look at some of the advantages that these technologies have.
1. Support early development
Sensory play is one of the best ways to enhance brain development from an early age. According to a study by a German University, it helps children to acquire essential skills quicker.
These skills include:
The study found that using educational games that utilize sensory play showed a positive impact on brain health.
It also found that it helps children to develop a motor skill that requires coordination between muscles easier. For example, scooping, molding, and shaping things.
The early development also includes their ability to understand more words. Also, it helps them to communicate with the world around them easier.
2. Helps in building nerve connections and pathways in the brain
Babies’ brains start to form while they’re in the womb. Throughout the course of pregnancy, the brain builds new neurons at a rate of 250,000 neurons per minute.
The brain builds new pathways for every new sense or signal it receives. It continues to do so until it builds a network of about 100 trillion neurons.
As children grow older the rate of growth decreases until it eventually stops. However, if you want to make the most out of that period, Sensory play through different activities, toys, and more is your way to go.
While babies are enjoying the world around them they can also build more nerve connections and pathways.
3. Improves the acceptance of healthy food later on
Fruits and vegetables go hand in hand with the healthy development of your babies. However, some toddlers have problems accepting some of these vegetables and fruits.
The study shows that including sensory play and storytelling helps babies to accept new vegetables.
Moreover, another study by an English University confirms the result. They found that children’s sensory play also increases their acceptance of new fruits.
4. Help children to participate in various activities
Also, other studies show that children without Autism enhance their social skills through sensory play.
Toys to Boost Your Baby’s Sensory Development
As you already know, babies are always ready to take in huge amounts of information from their surroundings. That’s why it’s a great idea to enhance their sensory play experience through their toys.
Unlike regular toys, sensory toys utilize the different senses mentioned above in a way that your baby understands. For example, they’re colourful and make crackling sounds. They also have different pleasant aromas and are able to spawn curiosity while staying safe for babies.
The following list includes some of the best sensory toys that you can use to boost your baby’s sensory development.
These balls have different patterns and textures that your baby can explore with their hands. They’re colourful and easy to grasp with tiny hands.
A good example of such a toy is Sassy Developmental Bumpy Ball. This toy offers chunky-sized bumps that make rattling sounds while being brightly coloured. It helps babies of 6 months up to explore their sense of sight, hearing, and touch in a great way.
Besides being great for teething babies, they can also serve as wonderful sensory toys. Take Manhattan Toy Atom Rattle & Teether for an example.
While in use, the toy explores different senses that help in developing your babies’ cognitive functions.
The vibrant multi-coloured toy boosts the sense of vision by stimulating the babies’ eyes in an awesome way. They also have rattling sounds for stimulating your baby’s hearing.
It’s also made of BPA-free materials, which makes it safe for your child. Moreover, the toys passed various safety tests, so you don’t have to worry about its safety. The toy is also easy to wash after use.
If you’re concerned about plastics in the toy, you can go for a wooden teether alternative. In that case, Mamimami Home Baby Wooden Teether is your way to go.
A book that incorporates multiple senses is a great method to help your baby explore the world in a way that they may not do otherwise. That’s exactly what sensory books offer!
These amazing books help your baby to use a different set of senses together at an early age. These senses include vision, touching, and even smelling!
See, Touch, Feel: A First Sensory Book is a great book to achieve this. The author designed the books to stimulate the sense of curiosity within your babies to explore the book through their senses.
There are tons of skills that your child can acquire by trying sensory play with books. These include language, emotional, social, and problem-solving skills as well! You can also try animals exploring books, such as Baby Touch and Feel: Animals.
There are also sensory books that keep your child engaged by the sense of hearing too. For example, the Noisy Farm by Tiger Tales.
The brain is divided into two sides. They’re both connected by a part called “Corpus Callosum”. Music is one of the activities that help in stimulating both sides at the same time.
By exposing your babies to music at an early age, you help them to develop this bridge between the two sides. Not only does this enhance their sense of hearing, but it also helps them adapt to any function that requires a healthy corpus callosum.
Music boxes are great toys to achieve that. Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy comes with over 10 different melodies that your baby can play. The toy is also colourful and tactile to stimulate the sense of sight and touch too.
You can also incorporate symphony toys in your sensory play sessions to advance their love for music. The best thing is that you can use these toys from as young as 3 months old!
The sense of balance is one of the secondary senses that not many sensory toys focus on. However, wobble balances can give you just that!
The toys stimulate the vestibular system and help in developing a sense of proprioception. The VISTANIA Children's Wooden Balance Board is a great addition to your sensory play session.
It comes in a variety of sizes to accommodate toddlers of different sizes. They’re highly durable and fun to use. Moreover, it helps children to improve their muscular and motor functions.
Customizable LED Projector Lights
LED projectors are vibrant, energy-efficient, and fun to watch on their own. Imagine being able to make your own set of shapes and project them at night.
Star Night Light Projector Toys for Kids Toddlers is a great toy for visual sensory play. It comes with different pattern covers that you can use. Also, it rotates smoothly, which makes it ideal for learning about astronomy in a fun way.
Fun Activities to Boost Your Baby’s Sensory Development
The best thing about activities that include sensory play is full engagement. In a single sensory play session, your child can stimulate almost all of their senses.
Here are some fun ideas for a successful sensory play activity.
Playing with Mud Putty
One of the most kid-approved fun activities is playing with mud putty. There are multiple recipes online to make a DIY putty at home. However, you can buy putty sets that come in multiple colours directly.
The vibrant colours are great for boosting the sense of sight and touch. Additionally, it helps the children to explore different motor functions, such as squishing, shaping, and more. This makes them ideal for improving fine motor skills and dexterity in kids.
Their satisfying feel also makes them highly therapeutic for kids, as it can help in calming them down and engaging them in a fun way.
Making and Playing With Oobleck
Oobleck, also known as “sensory goop”, is one of the easiest and safest kinds of goop that you can make.
The fun thing about it is that it hardens instantly whenever you apply pressure to it. This can amaze your child and result in lots of laughs while playing.
You can make it at home by mixing water and cornstarch in specific ratios. This means it’s safe to play with! The sensory goop is a great way to introduce the non-newtonian fluid theory at an early age.
If you’re looking for a less messy activity, you can try sensory painting with your toddler. Sensory painting is great for your babies aged 18 months and up.
Painting with 3D Colours
There are a wide variety of paints that you can use. For example, you can try Magicfly 3D Paints Puffy Paints. With this 3D textured paint, your child can draw, mix, and layer colours!
The formula dries up quickly, so you won’t have to worry about the cleanup process. The colours are also made of non-toxic materials, which guarantees the safety of your children.
Kids will love to feel the 3D textures they’ve built after the paintings dry up. This is great for enhancing the sense of touch and vision. Moreover, it improves the dexterity and the fine-tuning of their motor skills.
Making Sand Artworks
There are a wide variety of ways that you can use sand in sensory play. You can try kinetic sand, which has a lot of visual and tactile sensory benefits. However, making sand art designs is one of the best for improving visual-motor coordination.
Creativity for Kids Rainbow Sandland is a great example of a sensory sand art tool. It comes with everything you’ll need, such as glue and fitting caps.
These help you eliminate the mess after your children are done playing. You can also use them to preserve their art for the future.
Making Colourful Water Beads
Water beads are fun toys to play with. However, making them is a great sensory play on its own. SUPERSUN Water Beads Rainbow Mix offers non-toxic water beads to ensure your babies’ safety.
Additionally, the brightly coloured beads are enticing to look at and fun to squish. Kids add them to water and they expand significantly in hours.
This gives the children a new experience that they might have seen before. Additionally, they’re soothing and satisfying to squish and play with.
Creating Colourful Spaghetti
Despite being messy, edible sensory play is one of the all-round perfect methods for sensory development. The reason behind that is that it stimulates all the different senses throughout the play session.
Colourful spaghetti is fun and easy to make. To prepare colourful spaghetti, you start with cooking a batch of spaghetti as usual.
Once you drain it and cool it down with cold water, add some vegetable oil to prevent the strands from sticking to each other.
Divide it into smaller patches and colour each one with its own food colouring. You can use the same patch for a couple of days. However, you need to cover it up once the session is over.
Awesome Videos to Boost Your Baby’s Sensory Development
Educational videos can be a great way to develop your baby’s senses too. Youtube baby sensory videos offer a free way to develop visual and auditory senses. And they give a much needed break to Mum and Dad!
Here are my top picks of the best sensory channels that offer sensory and eye-tracking videos:
As you can see, some of the basic senses start to develop even before your baby is born. These senses develop rapidly in their first years. That’s why it’s crucial to provide your kids with care and sensory play whenever you can.
So, there you have it. A complete guide with everything you need to know about baby sensory development.
By using some of these sensory ideas, you can make sure that your kids will develop as quickly as possible.
Not only that, but they’ll also have a lot of fun doing so. Don’t forget to share with us your best baby sensory ideas in the comment below!