Infant Sensory Development Through Play
by Jeremy Johnson
Children have a remarkable ability for learning new things. Their still developing minds are capable of absorbing much information and then retain what was taught. But if a 2 or 3 year old possesses an enormous capacity for learning what about infants? Is a child from birth to 12 months also capable of this ability to learn rapidly? The three senses that will be discussed are auditory, touch and vision. The information presented will be aimed at helping parents and caregivers aid in development of these important biological functions in infants in their care.
Birth to Twelve Months
The first twelve months in a newborn’s life are an exciting and joyous time for the parents. There are many firsts in this very short time period. And it’s during this period that important senses begin to develop too.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) website babies begin to gain certain sense related functions. Below is their time frame. Keep in mind though that not all children are going to develop at the same rate and the ages given are only averages. Just because your baby doesn’t exhibit a given ability at that exact age is not necessarily a cause for alarm.
1 to 4 Weeks Old
Babies 1 to 4 weeks old begin to visually recognize their parents and respond to loud noise. One way to take advantage of these new abilities is to make eye contact with your baby as well as talk to them. These early interactions will only be reinforced as they mature.
4 to 6 Weeks Old
Once your child reaches 4 to 6 weeks they might begin to show facial expressions such as smiling. Which begs the question do we learn happiness? However, you can assist in this exciting time by continuing to talk and even play with your baby and their new found feature.
3 to 5 Months Old
At this time babies are usually starting to grasp and reach. This is a sign of their developing muscles and nervous system. There are many things that can be done to help their development along. Toys and soft pillows or stuffed animals are great for little hands to grab hold of. The Baby Einstein Take Along toy has a great grasping handle to it. Not only is it a smooth, solid object for holding onto it is also multicolored for visual stimulation.
Parents can offer a finger or two as they make sounds and eye contact. This is great for establishing that life-long connection with your baby. Letting your baby touch and grasp your face will assist in connecting with them as well.
4 to 6 Months Old
By the time your baby reaches the six month mark they will be making all sorts of goo-goo ga-ga noises. So brush up on your nursery rhymes and get ready to have fun making all those silly convoluted words!
And at the five month mark they’ll probably be able to hold their own bottle. At this point just be ready for them practicing their slider and fastball with bottles and the like. This is all part of their coordination development. NHS recommends giving them objects to pass from one hand to another and that is easy for them to pick up. Just be sure the object isn’t a safety hazard or creates potential for choking.
6 to 12 Months Old
Past research studies have indicated that the six to twelve month time period is a very critical time, in that, mother and child develop the bond we all have with our mothers. It’s a truly marvelous thing of nature we all go through.
Bromwich (1977) discusses two separate studies with amazing results related to the attachment an infant and mother have. In the first by Beckwith and Cohen (1975) reciprocity between mother and infant were key to the baby’s development and Bell (1970) found a correlation between an infant’s desire for attachment and the development of person permanence before object permanence.
Ways in which parents can foster an enriching environment for these important sensorimotor skills is through activities such as reading books and playing silly little game like “Peek-a-Boo” or “Patty Cake”. One great book available today that is an excellent bed time book is the “Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton.
In my Amazing Bean cartoon-comic I tried to use a variety of bright colors. My color choices could be a great visual stimulant for a developing set of eyes. Also, Amazing Bean could be used as a read along tool as well. Parent and baby could interact with the reading of different strips.
Giving your baby the best chances at a healthy development is the desire of every parent and caregiver. Discussed here are the stages an infant’s sensory development moves through and ways that this development can be encouraged in a healthful manner. After all we want the best for the little loved one in our lives and as adults that is our primary responsibility.
Free play is the key to your child’s sensorimotor skill development. Each act of a larger goal has been observed to be a result of your baby maturing, not learned. The learning is believed to come into play once a larger goal is sought. Such as picking up an object and playing with it. And researchers such as, Bruner, mentioned in the stimulation article by Rose (1977) have found that this free play early on is essential for later development of complex learning skills. And the Baby Einstein Take Along Musical Toy is a great object for the still developing infant sensory system. This wonderful and fun toy has plenty of music, colorful lights and smooth curvy surfaces for little grasping hands. Common, child-safe objects are great too. Keeping in mind that your baby most likely is going to attempt to devour it you can use many safe objects and toys to give your baby plenty of free play.
The healthy development of your baby is not just for them but for you too. Researchers also found that a parent or caregiver who was satisfied in their role experienced positive reinforcement in the job they were doing. So caring for your baby and feeling good about the job you’re doing is critical to your own self-esteem. And most importantly have fun doing it!
- NHS Choices. 2 Feb. 2018 NHS.UK/Tools/Documents/Birth%20to%205%20development%20timeline.htm
- Bromwich, Rose M. “Stimulation in the First Year of Life? A Perspective on Infant Development.” Young Children (1977): 71-82.