Early exploration – babies and sensory development

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Each of us is sensory processing from the moment we are born, but this is something that we take for granted day–to-day. For a baby, the world around them is new and exciting -they are naturally curious and attentive to their environment and from birth their senses are used constantly as they learn, develop and explore.

How babies learn

Even before birth, a baby can be receptive to sounds, such as the mother’s voice, from inside the womb. Research shows that a baby can distinguish between its mother’s milk and that of another through smell. When babies are born the first thing you are encouraged to do is have skin to skin contact, which for both baby and mother is an exhilarating sensory moment. If a baby is continually deprived of sensory stimulation, they cannot develop normally, because this is how they learn.

Sensory processing

Sensory processing is the term used to describe how a baby takes information in through their senses and how they use it to develop. For instance, a baby whose toy rattles will keep shaking it to hear the sound. This becomes cause and effect learning. Eventually, babies learn to connect what they see with what they hear or feel or what they smell with what they taste.

Children do differ in their ability to process information and some need more stimulation than others. It is important not to over stimulate a child at a young age, as attention spans are short. Peekaboo games or hiding a ball in a cup are enough to stimulate and intrigue. As a baby grows, it will learn to self-regulate the information processed which in turn leads to decision making and builds confidence. The anticipation of the peekaboo game will lead to excitement as the baby knows what will happen.

Keep it simple

For babies that are immobile: playing music, singing, talking, cuddling, offering different textured toys, mobile decorations or a walk are simple ways to stimulate senses. Once they are able to grasp, shake, bash, push and throw, life becomes a whole lot more exciting! Treasure baskets of random items, bags of unusual shapes/textures or sensory bins such as dried pasta with scoops are a great way for young children to explore objects, develop their motor skills and use their imagination. As babies are inclined to put everything to their mouth, however, it is important to choose objects for their stage of development.

Offer objects that are different textures, different sizes, make different sounds and are different colours. One new item can be a number of things to a baby – its sound, shape, texture, taste, colour and use (in conjunction with other items) is endless, until they process how it should be used.

Connecting sensory experiences

Memories and associations are formed from experiencing sensory stimulation. As a child’s world and learning expands to books, play and words – the importance of sensory stimulation becomes even more apparent as they learn how to roll the ball, stroke the cat, hold the cup, blow the bubbles, clap hands to the music and shake that noisy toy! Unlimited imagination is one of the fascinating traits of a child, so keep providing sensory play for their learning and development.

About the author

Lisa LaneLisa Lane launched Sensory Scenes in 2014 with the aim to provide themed bags of fun for play, exploring and learning. With three boys of her own, she is passionate about children being able to manipulate, explore and use their imagination. Sensory Scenes’ themed bags are perfect for individual play, sensory tray play and themed subject planning.

Follow Sensory Scenes on Facebook, on Twitter @sensoryscenes, visit the website  or email lisa@sensoryscenes.co.uk


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