The senses play a central role in our lives: they are the channels through which we take in information from our environment; absorbing sights, sounds, sensations, smells and tastes and assessing our position in space, balance and more. In the first few months, baby’s senses are not fully mature and pass on only partial info, but once baby turns 4 months old his senses are ready to pass on diverse rich data from the environment. Your baby’s senses mature in response to the stimulation she receives, as you share different sights, sounds, smells and sensations. In reaction to stimulation, your baby’s sensory receptors transmit and stimulate nerve activity in the relevant part of the brain. For example, when you show your baby a brightly colored, highly contrasted image, the nerves are triggered in the area of the brain that controls vision – supporting development and maturation of the retina, cornea and the muscles of the eye.
This process is gradual and moves from the specific to the comprehensive. As she gazes lovingly at your face, she will first focus on the main features, such as the eyes, mouth and nose. Later she will see other details, like the eyebrows and teeth. There is also a gradual transition from absorbing sharp contrasts to being able to absorb an entire range of hues and shades. For instance black and white are more readily processed, as opposed to similar colors like blue and green. Over time, your baby's abilities gradually improve and move from a more single sensory grasp of her surroundings to an inter-sensory perception of our entire world.
At any given moment, our senses are bombarded with a wide array of stimuli. Naturally, we are not able to process everything our senses pick up. This is where the process of sensory regulation steps in, helping us filter and moderate the data our senses receive on a day-to-day basis.
You can make interaction with your baby into a virtual explosion of mutual discovery and maturation. Rich, diversified sensory stimulation over a lifetime enhances enjoyment from the sights, smells, tastes and feelings of the world around us.
As you sing, or dance and speak with your baby and expose him to more sounds, you are contributing to a greater, richer sense of hearing. Consistent stimulation of this type will lead to finer auditory perception; such as the ability to not just recognize a tune or song, but perhaps also to distinguish between the accompanying instruments, or have a heightened appreciation for music.
While sensory stimulation is essential, it is also important to understand your baby's limits. Like everything else in life, the right time and the right dose are important, so expose your baby to the correct, age-appropriate stimuli.
How receptive are we when we are tired, hungry or distracted? A baby will be most receptive to learning and exploration when he is well rested, well fed and relaxed. Remember though that every baby, every person, is unique in his or her individual sensory make-up (i.e. the way baby absorbs the world around her and regulates the stimuli she encounters). If you feel that your baby is hypersensitive in one sense or hyposensitive in another, do not try to change this. A certain balance develops with maturity and as you get to know one another, you will adapt stimulation accordingly. Listen and observe. Your baby’s nature, behavior and reactions are your best guides.
Any advice and information provided in this website is given as suggestions only and should not be taken as a professional medical diagnosis or opinion. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent.