Sensory development is the growing and developing of the five senses which consist of hearing, smell, taste, sight and touch. Young children learn through the sensory exploration of their environment, which exploration contributes to much of their brain development. There are critical periods when a child’s brain is especially adaptable to sensory experiences, such as taking in new sounds, tastes, textures, sights, and smells. It is during the period between 4 and 8 months when a child’s brain is developing very quickly and is particularly “gooey” and “moldable,” as so aptly described in Sensory Development – What Every Parent Needs to Know , that it is especially important to expose your child to a wide range of sensory experiences.
One of the biggest frustrations expressed by parents is that their babies put everything into their mouths. This is a huge part of the sensory experiences through which babies learn. Until about seven months old, babies cannot really use their hands and fingers to explore objects. Although they can grip objects with their hands, they do not have the ability to stroke, poke, or prod with their fingers. Babies can, however, can control their lips and tongue and have more nerve endings per square millimeter in their mouths than any other part of their body. So, if babies really want to find out what something feels like, they put it in their mouths. Although this behavior may be aggravating at times, it is important to remember that sensory experiences significantly impacting their brain development.
For a broader overview of sensory development and its importance, please read Sensory Development – What Every Parent Needs to Know. This article includes advice on how to select toys which provide a variety of sensory experiences and lists homemade toys among their favorites. At Excellence Baby Academy (EBA), we teach parents how to make sensory toys, some of which include sensory bottles, touch and feel books, sock puppets, and bean bags which hold such scented and textural items as cinnamon sticks and lavender leaves. Many suggestions of and instructions for sensory toys can be found on Pinterest.