Learning to Sense

In today's #FreshFromTheLab we explore how your baby uses all their senses to explore the world around them, and what you can do to give them a helping hand!

Baby’s put things in their mouth. It’s their own little way of exploring the world. And despite the sticky, spitty, gloopy mess that follows, it’s actually a really intuitive way to understand the world. The mouth is one of your five main sensing organs and has the ability to not only provide you with the sense of taste, but also touch and temperature. In the five seconds before you’ve noticed, and swiftly removed the dog’s chew toy from your baby’s mouth (and from their incredibly strong grasp), they now know that it doesn’t taste great, its cold and a little bumpy (from the little doggy teeth marks, yuk!).

Infants can handle so much more than just one sensory experience at a time. From birth, infants are able to combine information from multiple sensory modalities to create one unified representation of the object/person/event in their mind. For example, in one study new-borns demonstrated the ability to combine visual information of non-human primates (e.g. the shapes and colours of the primate’s face) with auditory information (e.g the pitch and timbre of that primate’s vocalisation). Later when shown images of the primates alongside a series of vocalisation, the infants looked longer at the images that matched the vocalisation. This demonstrates a very early capability to integrate information from multiple sensory inputs, in this case vision and sound.

The ability to process multi-sensory information equips infants with tools to develop other behaviours such as speech, selective attention and social perception. Interestingly, the development of multisensory processing of touch with other sensory modalities such as sight, helps infants form an understanding of the differences between themselves and other people. As early as 4-month, infant’s brain activity in response to tactile stimuli on their hand is changes when the infants was watching a of another person’s hand being touched . This demonstrates a role of multisensory integration in shaping our understanding of the social world.

This ability to combine sensory information gradually develops throughout infancy, becoming equipped to handle more complex information. This development is dependent on experience. Infants who are born with congenital blindness or deafness, and do not receive corrective treatment for several month, are more likely to have difficulties integrating vision and sound all the way into adulthood. This highlights the importance of rich early sensory experiences very early on.

Often it is the case that infants will develop these abilities at their own speed. But you can encourage your baby’s development of multisensory integration by enriching their environment with toys and games that involve multiple senses – yes that does include that incredibly annoying spinning-flashing-singing-thingamajig-toy you regret buying. And with anything, the more diverse the better! But saying this, you don’t need to go down to your local high-street (now that we can #covid) and buy every toy in your infant’s age range. In fact, the brilliant thing about it is, you can use things you have about your home! Check out the list below favourite fun multi-sensory games and activities to play with your child!

Sensory Games for Toddler

Make sure you always keep an eye on your little on when trying out our suggestions!

1. Try these mess free sensory bags to get your little ones sight, touch and sound senses tingling!

2. Build a tug box for your little scientist to explore. Not only will they enage their touch and sight but also practice their fine motor pinching skills!

3. Before popping them in the recycling bin, try out these rainbow bottles. Try a range of colours to awaken the full spectrum of colours your baby can see – and maybe add some little pebbles for extra sound!

4. Sensory bins are brilliant for all ages, adding age appropriate objects as your child develops. Why not try out this sensory bin with extra-large pasta shells to safe for little mouth explorers.

5. Try out these bubble pools for some wet play! Why not try incorporating this into bath time?

Also try out our BabyBrain’s app for other activities tailored to your babies development.

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