Understanding our babies sensory development

There’s so much information out there to support us in helping our babies develop. From tummy time to touching, feeling and tasting everything they come into contact with, our babies learn so much and develop so quickly in such a fast period of time.

Sarah caught up with Becky Hughes from Baby Sensory Australia to find out about babies sensory development in utero and in their first 12-months of life.

Take a listen…


Episode notes and further information:

What is sensory play and why is it important for development? 

We all experience the world through our senses, sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing and stimulating babies senses helps them to develop their thinking and language skills, social skills, emotional and physical skills. Through sensory play kids get to naturally explore their environment, they use their senses to explore how things feel, taste, etc.

Every time a baby or child experiences a new sensation via their senses it starts to create new brain connections, all new brain connections over he first 3-5 years are a direct result of their sensory experiences. From birth to 12-months a babies brain doubles in volume as a result of all experiences and from birth to 3-years-old it actually triples. It’s a massive period of brain development.

At birth some of the senses are underdeveloped, so babies depend on experience to promote that development in the very first year, so giving the baby as many sensory experiences as possible is important. And, all kids learn best through play. It’s also a great way for us parents and carers to interact with our babies, helping with bonding, emotional development and baby’s and children feeling really attached to the caregivers in their life too. 

It’s such an amazing time filled with the wonder of development! I know at that young age everything seems to go in the mouth which is the development of their taste and how they explore. Do the senses develop differently at different times from birth?

Development of the senses doesn’t start at birth, it’s already happening in utero.

From 8-weeks in utero the sense of touch develops.

From 12-weeks taste and smell develop.

From 14-weeks babies are starting to learn about their movement and position in the womb (understanding where their body is in space and time).

From 21-25 weeks baby’s hearing is starting to develop.

From 26-weeks the vision starts to come on and baby will start to turn towards the light

At birth the sense touch very well developed. Vision is quite underdeveloped at birth and babies can only see a range of about 20cm, matching when being held and th general distance of our face.

Can you give us some tips to promote the stimulation of senses at home?

Avoid too much 2D vision like TV etc.

For a very little baby, find a red or brightly coloured object (babies see brighter bolder colours and contrasting colours best, they struggle with pastels), with baby laying on their back move the object slowly about 20 cm away from Left to Right and encourage baby, over time as they learn the skills, to follow it with their eyes, keeping it in their field of vision.

Over time they will slowly start to follow this. When baby’s are born their eyes don’t work well together, so its important for their eyes to develop working well together.

Moving it slowly Left to Right over time will also encourage baby’s to turn their heads to develop neck muscles.

Tummy Time for babies is kind of like us going to the gym. We may not like it but we have to do it. Tummy Time doesn’t mean bub has to go on their tummy for long periods of time. You can do it frequently for shorter periods of time. Using props and toys and getting down with your baby can help.

Use Black & White contrasts with your baby. Draw black on white paper and talk to your bub about it helping to develop language skills too.

For older babies, roll balls across the room, allowing them to learn depth perception, when the ball is far away and closer.

Get outside, seeing trees in wind is a great sensory experience for baby.

Lots of things we take for granted are great sensory experiences for your baby– raining noises on the roof, trees in the wind etc are all great sensory experiences for babies.

For hearing ideas, sensory bottles are great. Bottles filled with pasta, rice, etc (always making sure lids are glued down and safe) are great for teaching babies about sound and the different sounds that can be made.

Music with babies too is great. Babies can learn about cause and effect with making sounds too. ‘If I do this, this will happen’ i.e. if I tap this saucepan, it will make a sound.

Touch, many fabrics around the house are great to give to bub to hold and play with. Different fabrics in a treasure box for baby to play with and feel the differences, making sure they are safe and not too long as a choking hazards and not to small.

Smell, when shopping let your baby/child smell the fresh foods / herbs.

 What does attending a baby sensory class offer?

We provide lots and lots of sensory activities and experiences for babies to share that are designed to help promote baby development. Classes are not to create geniuses, but for baby’s to make those connections in their brains in their first years.

It’s a learning environment for both parents and babies. Parents get to learn about how certain actions help their bubs and it’s great for parents to socialise and get out of the house too….

Our baby sensory classes are for babies from birth to 13 months. Come as soon as you are ready to get out of the house come along.

We also have Toddler Sense for older children.

Tell us about the work you are doing with Miracle Babies.

Miracle Babies are our partner charity in Australia and we are looking forward to running superhero sensation in March, special classes that are superhero themed and we will be running raffles, donating class fees etc from these special classes to Miracle Babies.

Miracle Babies support families who are spending time, or have spent time in neonatal units, due to either being very premature or very sick babies. The experience of having a premmie or very sick baby is stressful and you just cant prepare for it. Miracle Babies provide information and support for those families who are in neonatal units .

OK, so where can people go to find out more about Baby Sensory?

Go to www.babysensory.com.au and www.toddlersense.com.au