31 January 2023
Babies learn about the world through all of their senses: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. There are many games and activities which can stimulate them and help them form connections in their developing brains from around 4 months. You can strengthen your baby's cognitive and motor skills by helping them focus on sensory activities. It's great for their mind and body. Stimulating one sense can lead to development in another, for example, touching different objects leads to looking, practising visual tracking, when babies learn to move their eyes without moving their heads.
Put together a basket of different everyday objects with different textures for Baby to explore. Feathers, beads, felt, silky cloth and crinkly tin foil from around the house all give a different feel. Sit Baby on your lap and let them explore what’s in the basket. Talk to them about the objects so they learn words like smooth, shiny, soft and hard. Is it heavy or light? What does it do? What colour is it? Handling objects of different shapes and weights improves hand muscles and teaches Baby how firmly to grasp things. It helps hand-eye coordination. Most of these objects will end up in their mouth so make sure they are not a choking hazard.
Time in the garden or at the park stimulates babies. The natural world is full of sights, sounds and smells. Light, shade and colour stimulate vision. If it's warm enough, let them roll around in grass and touch leaves and flowers. They can learn about mud, sand and water. Supervise closely so they don’t poke themselves with a stick or get into trouble in water.
Letting children explore a variety of foods through touch is really helpful with weaning. It will get messy so a sleeved bib and a plastic mat will help. Feeling liquid, slimy, and lumpy foods with their fingers helps children understand and accept before eating. Try hiding slices of cucumber, steamed carrot sticks, and blueberries in a tray of rice crispies for Baby to find. They may want to pull food apart, smash and smear it. Put bowls of water, pureed vegetables and chunks of fruit on their high chair tray and talk to them about the different feel of each. Do foods smell sweet, sour, savoury, yummy or delicious? Let them compare ice cubes to warm soup to learn about temperature. Sensory play develops positive pathways in the brain so a baby learns that it is safe to interact with this food. They are less likely to become fussy eaters.
Toys that crinkle, rattle, whistle and squeak all stimulate children to listen and make movements. They feel rewarded by producing a sound that gets a reaction from you.
Play all kinds of music to your baby. Let them move around to classical and jazz. Singing nursery rhymes is great fun for them. They love repetition and knowing what to expect from familiar ones. Many have movements to go with them. Babies will tune out if there’s music on all day so make it a particular activity.