Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

You can help your baby's development from day one by stimulating her senses.

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  • Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

    All parents want to help their baby make the most of every moment. And the fact is that from the minute he is born, your baby is already soaking up experiences through all his senses.

    Here's how to help him get the most benefit from those early days of development - without overstimulating him.

  • Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

    TERRIFIC TOUCH

    Studies show that touch is vital for your baby's emotional, intellectual and physical development, so having a cuddle is not just nice but beneficial too.

    Touch is also how your baby learns about her body as she starts to become aware of herself and the world around her.

    Skin to skin contact is recommended from birth onwards, and both mums and dads should make a habit of it. Hold baby close to you at bath, bed and change time when you can both enjoy the calm, security and peace it brings.

    Baby massage is another wonderful experience, and can benefit your baby's IQ and emotional development.

    Expand her touch experiences too by letting her touch a variety of textures - soft, hard, rough and squashy materials. 

  • Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

    MAGICAL MOVEMENT

    Newborns love the sensation of movement: rhythmic and often vigorous motions such as being rocked, carried or bumped over cobblestones in the pram.

    The sense of movement is another way for your baby to start learning about his body and the world, as well as helpng build the foundations for his motor development and coordination.

    Carry your newborn in a babysling or pouch when he is awake and you need your hands free to do chores. Otherwise, the best place for him is to be wriggling or playing on the floor.

    Try not to use a car seat more than necessary. Baby seats do not encourage active movement and the development of muscles needed later for rolling and crawling. A pram or moses basket is better as there is more space for baby to move around.

    Movement toys such as swings and rockers can be useful later on to help stimulate or calm him down.

  • Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

    SOOTHING SMELLS

    As soon as she is born, your baby is immediately exposed to a whole new world of smells. Try and keep the scent sensations around your newborn as calm and familiar as possible in the early days.

    Baby will inevitably spend most of his first days and weeks close to mummy. He will quickly learn to recognise the smell of your skin and colustrum (early breast milk) - a calming stimulus.

    Avoid wearing perfume (aftershave for dads) as your baby gets to know your smell.

    From early on, a soft toy or blanket that smells of you will help calm your baby. Pop it into the cot at bedtime and it will help settle him down.

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  • Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

    SUPER SIGHT

    All babies have poorly developed sight at birth, so this is a good area to stimulate from early on.

    After all those months in the dark, your newborn's eyes will initially be very sensitive to light, so try to keep lights dimmed or soft.

    Encourage focus by using visually interesting stimuli such as black and white geometric shapes in a book or mobile. Babies also love staring at faces.

    Your newborn will find it tiring to exercise her sight at first, so limit her exposure to artificial images.

    As she becomes more accustomed to the light, she will enjoy watching shadows or the movement of branches against a light sky as they are blown by the wind, so place her close to a window where she can see outside.

  • Best ways to stimulate your baby's senses

    ESSENTIAL SOUNDS

    Hearing is directly linked to speech, so stimulating this sense is essential for your baby's language development.

    Your newborn baby will have a keen sense of hearing, but needs to learn to interpret these sounds - where they are coming from, who is speaking, the tone that is used and eventually what the words mean.

    'White noise' (eg the sound of the vaccuum cleaner) and rhythmical sounds are calming for a small baby while fast, loud, irregular sounds may overstimulate her, making her fussy and irritable.

    You'll find yourself talking naturally in a slightly sing-song, high-pitched voice which helps encourage your baby to listen.

    Remember to actually talk to your baby rather than over or about her, using repetitive phrases that will engage her attention. Make eye contact and encourage her to gurgle back at you, and you'll soon find you are having a conversation!

Last updated on 11 September 2008

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