WRITTEN BY SALLY HILLS-DAVIS CHILDREN'S OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
As an occupational therapist, I work with children of all ages to help them develop the skills they need to thrive in their daily lives. One of the key areas of development that I focus on is sensory processing, which involves the way that the brain receives and responds to information from the senses.
For newborn babies, sensory experiences are particularly important, as they lay the foundation for all future learning and development.
In this blog, I'll be discussing the importance of sensory experiences for newborn babies, and how you can create a stimulating and nurturing environment at home to support your baby's sensory development.
The Five Senses
When we think of sensory experiences, we typically think of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Each of these senses plays an important role in a baby's development, and can help to stimulate their brain and support their learning. Here's a closer look at each of the senses and how you can support your baby's development through sensory experiences:
Sight: Newborn babies are born with limited vision, but their ability to see develops quickly in the first few months of life. You can support your baby's visual development by providing high-contrast visuals, such as black and white patterns, and by using toys and objects with bright colors and interesting shapes. Mobiles and crib toys can also provide visual stimulation as your baby develops and can encourage eye-tracking and visual tracking skills.
.Sound: Newborn babies are particularly sensitive to sound, and can be easily overstimulated by loud or sudden noises. You can support your baby's auditory development by providing gentle and calming sounds, such as soft music or nature sounds. You can also talk or sing to your baby to help them learn to recognise your voice and develop language skills.
Touch: Touch is a vital sense for newborn babies, as it helps them to feel safe, secure, and connected to their caregivers. You can support your baby's tactile development by providing a variety of textures and surfaces to explore, such as soft blankets, textured toys, and different fabrics. Skin-to-skin contact is also important for promoting bonding and attachment, and can help to regulate your baby's nervous system.
Taste: If breast fed newborn babies milk alters depending on what the mother is eating, so having lots of healthy different tasting food can give your baby a variety of food tastes. Did you know that even before your baby was born their taste buds where awoken by what you ate?
Smell: Newborn babies have a well-developed sense of smell, and can recognise their caregiver's scent from birth. You can support your baby's olfactory development by providing a variety of scents to explore.
Proprioception and Vestibular System
In addition to the five senses, there are two other sensory systems that are important for newborn babies: proprioception and the vestibular system. Proprioception refers to the sense of body position and movement, while the vestibular system refers to the sense of balance and spatial orientation. Both of these sensory systems are important for motor development, and can be supported through sensory experiences. You can support your baby's proprioception development by providing opportunities for them to move and explore their environment, The vestibular system can be supported through movement and play, such as gentle rocking.
In conclusion, sensory experiences are vital for newborn babies, as they lay the foundation for all future learning and development. As a children's occupational therapist, I encourage parents to provide a variety of sensory experiences for their baby, including visual, auditory, tactile, taste, and smell experiences, as well as opportunities for movement and play. By creating a stimulating and nurturing environment at home, parents can support their baby's sensory needs.