When a baby comes into this world, everything apart from the mother’s arms is new for him. New smells, new textures, new touch, new things to look at. Everything around the baby is contributing to “Infant Stimulation”. Have you ever wondered what happens when the baby is exposed to so many things all at once? Do all the things around the baby stimulate baby’s senses? How would you feel if you were blindfolded and taken to a places with so many new smells, all the textures feel different and when you open your eyes the light is the brightest you have ever seen. You feel a sensory overload right? It takes some time to get adjusted to this new place, but as we are grown ups we get adjusted soon and have ample amounts of qualities in place to help with that.
So what can we do as parents for our babies? You can provide the best environment, lots of love and care, stimulate the baby’s senses and it will be a little easy for the baby to embrace everything around him.
Most of the nurturing you need to do comes naturally to parents once they have the baby in their arms. You would probably be providing a lot of sensory stimulation for your baby already. It is important to understand and take the cues from your infant. Don’t rush or push too much. Overall development happens over a long time, this is just a beginning of all the development.
Main Senses you need to focus on for Infant stimulation
Best Ways to Stimulate Baby’s Senses
Ideas to Stimulate Baby’s Sense of Touch
“What the hand does, the mind remembers.”
– Maria Montessori
The first senses we always focus on are sense of sight and hearing. But the most important sense to have a huge impact on a baby’s development is “Sense of touch”. Baby’s explore everything around them by the sense of touch first. The baby touches his mother and feels her skin. Baby touches dad’s hand and recognizes it to be different from the mother’s. Some babies tend to remember the touch of his primary caregiver, they start crying if a stranger picks them up. They feel everything around them with their hands. Teddy’s are soft, water is wet and warm, diapers are soft, mama’s hair has beautiful texture, feeling of wind from the fan. Consequently touch plays a crucial role in brain development and overall development of the baby. So how to stimulate the baby’s sense of touch?
Massages – A great sensory stimulation for newborn babies up to 1 year
Massage is one beautiful way of bonding with the child using your touch and the baby’s sense of touch. While massaging is a beautiful form of helping your child relax. Babies love the closeness they get while massaging. Babies enjoy the massages. Schedule this special “massage time” for everyday when your baby is in a playful mood to get the best benefits out of baby massage. See what kind of strokes your baby likes. See how he or she likes to be handled gently or quickly. Sometimes father’s touch can make babies giggle and feel excited, while mother’s touch can make them feel safe and secure.
Click on the article to read more about. “Best Benefits of Baby Massages”.
Skin to Skin Touch with the Baby – Great idea for infant stimulation
Skin to Skin touch with the parents has been shown to have great benefits for the child. It gives them a sense of security, love and helps them explore the world around them without being afraid. Moreover it is highly beneficial for the baby’s psychological development as well. Try to squeeze in skin to skin touch time with your baby. Wear minimum clothes possible and hold your baby close to you. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes. Let the baby enjoy your company and touch. It de-stresses you and the baby. This goes for fathers as well. Fathers can provide this skin to skin contact with the babies.
Explore different fabric textures with the baby
There are a variety of fabric textures always available around the house. Take your baby around the house and help him touch and feel those objects. Ensure that the baby is in a playful mood to provide the right amount of stimulation to the baby’s senses. You can help him touch the curtains, carpets, soft blankets, satin, cotton clothes etc. Everything is getting registered in your child’s brain for future use.
Get toys with different textures for sensory stimulation
You can buy toys with different textures to help your baby play with and stimulate the baby’s senses. This is mostly helpful when you need to leave the baby alone for a few minutes. This can keep him occupied. If not toys you can provide this infant stimulation by introducing blankets, older siblings , pets and other material around the house. Make sure to supervise the child with anything that can harm the baby in any way.
Ideas to Stimulate Baby’s Sense of Smell
Babies tend to be introduced to a myriad of smells in normal day to day life. Mother’s smell (special perfume for the baby in the breastfeeding years), dad’s after shave or shower gels, elder siblings playful hands, food smell drifting around the house. Babies develop a keen sense of smell enough to differentiate as they grow. What can you do to stimulate a baby’s sense of smell?
Make a different smelling oil jars
I used to make small jars or fragrant oils diluted with coconut oil. We tried to get the jar close to the baby and we would guess the smell together. I would repeat the smell and name of the fragrance.
Go around the house smelling things (Obviously good stuff)
A home has so many fragrances that the baby can be introduced to. Dad’s perfume, Mom’s favourite room freshener, flowers in the garden, cooking items etc. Please take caution that you don’t take the baby too close to the smell or fragrance. It can irritate the baby at times. Take the cue from your baby if he or she is having a sensory overload. Stop for that time and resume it some other day.
Ideas to Stimulate Baby’s Sense of Taste
In the beginning few months you do not need to do anything specifically to introduce various tastes to the baby. A baby is introduced to the flavours of food breastfeeding mom eats naturally. Sometimes you can even notice that the baby is fussy during breastfeeding if you have eaten a certain food which flavour she doesn’t like. But the opportunity to introduce a variety of tastes opens up once you start feeding solids to your baby. You can introduce a new and healthy taste every week after testing whether the baby is allergic to anything. Babies love tasting new foods once they start solids.
Self feeding is a great way to provide infant stimulation through taste
Once your baby is able to sit on her own and has a few teeth, you should start introducing your baby to finger foods. Eating finger foods helps them explore a range of flavors and also explore texture of food at the same time. Children whose parents encourage self feeding become independent eaters soon. Also, if you introduce the baby to a variety of food and tastes in beginning days, there might be less chances of them becoming fussy and picky eaters.
Ideas to Stimulate Baby’s Sense of Vision
Out of all the baby’s senses, parents’ first focus always goes to the baby’s sense of sight. It is the easy one to understand too. In the first month babies can see but they cannot see clearly. Slowly their vision starts developing and within the first year they develop almost clear vision. Babies start learning through the sense of sight right from the beginning. Looking at certain faces, remembering and recognizing the parent’s face, looking at expressions and trying to imitate, differentiating between people and objects etc. All of these things happen as the baby’s vision develops. Your newborn baby will be more interested in looking at you if you come closer to her face where she can see you. Similarly highly contrasting designs or patterns catch a newborn’s attention. How to go about infant stimulation through the sense of vision or sight?
Mom and Dad’s Face or People’s Faces:
A newborn loves to look at your face up close. Similarly different people’s faces really excite them and help them stay alert and interact and communicate with them. They love looking at your expressions. Spend more time talking to your child or simply playing without saying anything. Let the baby gaze at you. You can also introduce other family members by showing their photos.
I had made a wall of family photos for my newborn to look at. I made sure I made it in black and white. He would look at it for a long time. Most fun “infant stimulation” preparation I made for my child.
Black and white mobiles or animal mobiles always catch your baby’s attention. Mobiles with gentle sound are also an interesting choice for newborns and upto 6 months. Make sure to keep it on the baby’s preferred side. It helps stimulate a sense of vision as well as hearing.
Black and White Flashcards
Showing your baby black and white flash cards is an amazing way of infant stimulation through vision. Babies prefer high contrast colors like black, white and red. Many parents tend to make their nurseries in black and white and slowly introduce colors. Black and White flash cards with designs and patterns help amazingly in baby’s vision development and brain development. Because they can see it well, babies study the images and patterns for a long time when alert.
Many of us stack up a lot of toys for the baby right from the beginning. But it is not really necessary, sometimes babies do not even play with a few of them. Buy toys that provide sensory stimulation for all the senses. Toys should be gentle, soft edged and safe for the baby. Toys that have movements like rattles, balls with beads in it, a cuddly toy or finger puppets catches the baby’s attention. Play gyms, visual night lights are some toys which help with senses and you can use it in future as well.
I cannot put into words how much importance books play in a child’s life. Books are simplest things that provide a range of developmental benefits like imagination, visual perception, knowledge, creativity etc. Books with hardbound are available for children under 1 year to explore their hands at reading. You can use Baby books specially designed to provide sensory stimulation to babies through big pictures, colorful pictures, patterns etc.
Everything around him
As the baby grows you can use anything and everything around the house to stimulate your baby’s senses. Smallest of the things like bugs, flowers to the biggest things like cars, trees provide an amazing stimulation to a baby’s sight.In the first year baby will be interested in looking at everything they can see. From the visual perspective you think what stimulates your baby. As they grow they will choose what they want to see according to their interest. My toddler chooses to look at animals, bugs and vehicles over toys and me. 😛
One thing you need to take care of is that the baby is not overstimulated or under-stimulated as it can lead to a fussy and cranky baby. Let your baby take the lead and you just be there whenever they need fun.
Ideas to Stimulate Baby’s Sense of Hearing
The most fascinating voice for your baby is the sound of your voice Mom and Dad. Try talking to your baby in different voices. Make imitations of different sounds you hear. Talk about what you are doing. Babies love hearing you talk. They won’t understand what you are saying yet, but it is helping build their vocabulary and language necessary skills.
Select musical toys that make a gentle and soothing sound for your baby. Take toys that need actions for the sound to be played. In the beginning the baby might not be able to push on his own, but as his skill develops he will try to make sounds on his own. Moreover, avoid toys that make large sounds as it can damage the baby’s hearing. Rattles and other music making toys like xylophone can also be used to entertain and stimulate your baby’s senses.
Around the house
Again there are a lot of sounds around the house for you to use for infant stimulation. Go around the house exploring sounds and name it for your child. For example, the fan makes a buzzing sound, cooker whistles when the rice is cooked, alarm in the clock etc. You can make sound activities around the house like dropping coins in a coin box or a bowl, tinkling sounds of spoons, splashing water on a hot pan, water flowing from a tap etc.
Please do not switch on TV around your child much. It is good to introduce TV after 2 or 3 years.
Read more about “What happens when your toddler watches too much TV”.
Play a background music
Playing soft background music when your baby is awake and alert is a great idea. You can decide to play Mozart, devotional songs, classical songs or in fact repetitive rhymes for your child. Certain kinds of music like Mozart and classical music are even good for brain development according to research. This kind of infant stimulation is best for us moms too, because we can enjoy relaxing to the music with our baby.
All said it is very important to be attentive to your child’s need for infant stimulation. Sometimes your child wants you to hold him, sometimes he wants you. to talk to him. Look for cues from your child. Tummy time is a great exercise wherein you can introduce a lot of introductions to baby’s senses. Your job of stimulating a baby’s senses can be a fun and bonding activity (not compulsory). It is to help and encourage learning right from early years. You need not burden yourself if you are unable to do these things or have not done it until now. Consequently, a newborn baby is like a sponge, even if we do not provide external stimulation, they learn and absorb from everything around them.