During the first six months of a baby's life there are lots of games and activities you can do to help them make sense of their new world. Even when they are just born their senses are working and developing.
Here are some ideas for encouraging babies to use their senses.
- Sight - to begin with a baby's vision is very limited. Bright or contrasting objects and faces will be of most interest so rattles, plastic mirrors and coloured items will be of most benefit. They will begin to learn where they end and the rest of the world begins. They will start to track objects as they move in front of them and will begin to focus on more and more.
- Touch - For babies, being held and touched is vital and wonderful. They love the comfort of being held and the sense of touch can have a wonderful calming effect. Also, their own sense of touch, they they too can reach out and touch things is a key skill learned in their first six month of life. This learning happens through trial and error (and accidentally!) and can be encouraged by showing them how things rattle or move if they hold our a hand or shake a shaker etc.
- Taste and smell - Little babies have a great sense of smell. They can recognise the taste of their mother's breast milk and her unique smell before they can properly focus on her face.
- Sound - the sound of a mother's voice is the best thing in the world for a baby. It reassures the baby that the mother is near, it can sooth them and settle them. By four months some sounds the baby makes will be already based on the mother's own speaking voice and the rhythm of the language. So chatting to your baby, singing rhymes, reading books and talking in baby's presence is important.
There's an enormous difference between 'looking' and 'seeing' and if you can get this through to your growing babies, then you will set them up for a life of learning! 'Looking' is the process of light being reflected off objects into our eyes and forming shapes and patterns. 'Seeing' is the ability to process those patterns into meaningful interpretations. Let's illustrate this...glance around the room you are in and look at any clutter on surfaces of tables, shelves or whatever. You can 'see' clutter without any problem, but in order to see what the clutter comprises, you have to 'look' more carefully, there might be particular books, a music player and CD's, coffee mugs and so on.
When it comes to learning, babies and toddlers must learn not just to 'see' objects, but to 'look' at them. They need to examine and understand objects and work out what they are and how they work. Foster an inquisitive nature in your children and have them question the world around them, they will quickly learn to 'look', interpret and understand, and they will pick up the fundamental principles required in order to learn throughout their growing lives.