The first year of life is a whirlwind of sensory learning for your baby. She learns about her world through everything she sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches. Sensory play games give you many ways to help your baby develop her senses. The trick is to introduce sensory stimulation activities in small doses to avoid distressing your baby with sensory overload. By watching your baby's response carefully, you can determine when she is enjoying the experience and when she has had enough.
'I Can See'
Undoubtedly, it warms the cockles of your mama heart that your face is your baby's favorite from the day he is born. As his eyes develop tracking and focus skills, you can use that to your advantage by leaning in close to talk gently to your baby as he studies your face and tries to talk back. Interesting, colorful, lighted or moving objects suspended from the ceiling or over his crib can grab his visual attention as well. Eye-body coordination develops between 4 and 8 months of age, so this would be a good time to combine sight with touch by putting objects just far enough away that he has to see it with his eyes, reach for it and grab it with his hand, and feel the texture. Expose him to different lighting levels and colors, and observe his reaction.
Hearing starts in the womb in the third trimester, so talking to your baby lets her get familiar with your voice. Likewise, she will begin to recognize her own name within just a few months. You can experiment with different songs and types of music, both recorded and by singing or playing an instrument for her. Observe which types are calming and which cause excitement and movement. Rattles and other noisemaker toys help her explore different sounds, and to discover her ability to cause the noise by shaking or pressing a button or other control.
'I Can Taste and Smell'
The sense of smell closely relates to the sense of taste, and the sense of smell is well developed in most infants. Infants commonly have a sweet tooth, preferring sweet foods such as applesauce and orange juice. As your baby begins to transition to solid foods, introduce him to a variety of tastes and textures, such as crunchy cereal, slippery pasta and sticky mashed potatoes. Talk about the flavors, textures and scents associated with the foods your baby is eating to give him words to describe his experience.
'I Can Touch'
Touch is a sense your baby can experience through any part of her body. Her mouth is a favorite tool of exploration, making it important to keep choking hazards and toxic products out of her reach. Gluing differently textured fabrics or objects onto a poster board, 3-by-5 cards or a sturdy baby-safe book allows your baby to reach out and feel each one to discover various textures. Another variation is to pass your baby's feet over different textures, talking about how it feels and watching for your little one's reaction. Foam or sponge shapes allow your baby to squeeze and squish to develop her sense of touch. Crumpling paper exercises her motor skills while developing her hearing and touch.