Baby’s 5 Senses and How They Develop over the First Year

Have you seen the commercial on PBS aimed at educating parents and, I assume, encouraging parents to be more patient with their baby’s messes? It says, “Babies are natural born explorers. They have to try things over and over and over again.” You see the baby spilling the cereal on the floor as they point out that it’s a baby’s nature to do so. It’s true, as anyone with babies or toddlers can tell you: babies learn by exploring. Lacking the adult means of communicating information, these little people use their senses to learn about the world around them. Take a brief look at how your baby’s senses develop through the first year of life:

Touch
* Swaddling can soothe your baby because the whole experience, from the warm soft blanket, to the snug way you wrap her, mimics the comfort of the womb.

* Who said only fingers are for touching? Surely, not baby! This is why “floor babies” put everything in their mouths too! Babies learn through their sense of touch, be it with their fingers, their bodies, and their mouths!

* Your natural born explorer wants different textures to play with. Offer her books and toys with different textures that she can touch and explore. This innate desire to explore textures by the way, is what makes meals such a thrill: cheerios, oatmeal, carrots and more! Be prepared for a big squishy mess while your baby is getting those things into his mouth!

* It is important to keep a newly mobile baby safe. But you should expect a few bumps and bruises for this is all part of the learning process as well. Babies will learn to leave something alone if they have a bad experience with it: like the corner of the coffee table.

Sight
* When first born, babies only can see as far as their mother’s faces. It takes time for them to learn to recognize daddy and other close care givers.

* By two months, babies will be able to distinguish other colors as well but at first, they can only see black and white.

* People are a lot more fun to look at than any thing else. After learning to recognize care givers, babies will enjoy looking at pictures of other babies. Also, for her, your facial expression has more meaning than anything that you say.

* The sight of something familiar will likely soothe the baby or bring excitement. Something or someone unfamiliar on the other hand may get a turned head!

Hearing
* Within an hour after birth, a newborn can distinguish mommy’s voice from the voices of other women. He’ll learn rather quickly to associate comfort with the sound of your voice.

* Scientists are now saying that the reason that shooshing, swooshing, and whooshing are so calming is because they mimic sounds that the baby heard while he was in your womb. Babies apparently have auditory memory from in utero and the sounds calm them.

* Baby’s hearing is not fully developed, but he responds best to high pitched sounds. That’s why “baby talk” is likely to get a rise out of your little one.

* Despite what many parents think, classical music won’t make your baby smarter–but he’s likely to love it just the same. Young babies tend to like listening to smooth melodic tunes with sections in between. So go ahead and turn on your Mozart!

*A key hearing milestone is that foreign language sounds foreign. By age 1, babies can tell if you’re not speaking his native language. This eventually helps him understand spoken language.

Taste
*Baby has an intuitive sweet tooth. Breastmilk is naturally sweet so it takes time for a baby to adjust to new tastes. But don’t worry–keep offering!

*Texture is more important than taste. Babies go from liquid to liquidy-smooth and the first time they try chunky–it may not go so well. Getting used to different textures is also a big part of learning to eat regular food.

Smell
*Babies know the scent of their mothers pretty much from birth. They can distinguish the scent of mom as opposed to dad or anyone else.

*At first, babies rely largely on their sense of smell to distinguish “safe” and “good”. However, as their hearing and eyesight develop, the sense of smell takes a back seat.

*Babies may crinkle their noses at something that is unpleasant, but familiar unpleasant odors still may bring comfort to your baby. This is because it reminds him of who or what is family.

As your baby develops her senses, you’ll be able to see her reactions more and more. You’ll get a window into her personality by what soothes her and makes her excited. No matter what stage your baby is in enjoy it for it surely will not last long!

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