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How Babies Benefit From Sensory Experiences

by on 11/09/2019 5191

Discovering The World Through Senses

Babies love to explore; eager to be a part of the world. Between the ages of 0-3, their brain is developing at an exponential rate as they learn to receive and respond to sensory stimuli. Research suggests that babies are more likely to recognise familiar sounds; from their mother's voice to perhaps their father's favourite music and they prefer to hear them again after birth. The same is true of sights, smells, tastes and textures (1).

Infants use their senses to familiarise themselves with the environment in which s/he lives, and, above all, to achieve comfort. In other words, they're constantly learning from every bonding experience and stimulus that the parents expose them to from birth. Apart from unintentional series of exposures, playing helps stimulate all these senses. Babies who are constantly stimulated are likely to reach developmental milestones faster (2).


Screen Time And Sensory Play Activities

There are many reasons why WHO went to issue its first ever guidelines on screen time. One of which is when a child spends so much time sitting in front of a screen, s/he is being deprived of the essential sensory experiences in which his/her brain really needs (3). Apart from sensory overload, uncontrolled screen time over an extended period of time can affect one's ability to concentrate.

Sensory play encourages scientific processes; play activities stimulate their senses and help them learn and develop, creatively, socially, emotionally, cognitively, linguistically and physically (4). Stimulation is crucial and parents must strive to provide continuous appropriate stimulation.

"Developmental delay is common in children deprived of normal sensory stimulation - for example, in premature neonates and some institutionalized children. Touch has emerged as an important modality for the facilitation of growth and development; positive effects of supplemental mechanosensory stimulation have been demonstrated in a wide range of organisms, from worm larvae to rat pups to human infants." - The Importance Of Touch In Development by Evan L Ardiel, MSc & Catharine H Rankin, PhD.

Furthermore, sensory play activities are not only fun, but they also encourage kids to investigate and ask questions. There is much more going on than meets the eye. Sensory play is any activities that stimulate a baby's senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Babies are continuously exploring these 5 senses as they try to make sense of the world they were brought into and sensory play helps heighten their senses and enrich their learning. Here are some of the key benefits of sensory play.

  • It encourages the development of fine and gross motor skills
  • It facilitates language development.
  • It helps helps strengthen their brain development for learning.
  • It helps children interact and work well with others.
  • It helps children develop a better sense of space around them.


Promoting Sensory Development

The following are activities you can try with your baby to promote their sensory development. For a more comprehensive list of sensory activities, you may visit this page; click HERE.


1) 0-3 months

  • Play with your baby, tickle them, make them giggle to help enhance their sense of touch.
  • Sing songs to help enhance their listening skills.
  • Hang colourful toys above their crib to help provide visual stimulation.


2) 4-6 Months

  • Encourage your baby to touch fabric with different textures.
  • Lift your baby, move her up and down to help her develop their sense of movement and balance.
  • Get soft, colourful fluffy toy balls, teach her how to roll, drop, and bounce them.


3) 10-12 Months

  • Play peek-a-boo with your baby.
  • Encourage your baby to crawl.
  • Begin introducing new textures through food, toys, clothes and so on to your baby



Babies learn by using multiple senses simultaneously. What parents can do is, allocate an area in one's home that's quiet; filled with all sort of sensory materials of varying shapes and colours. Play dough is a must. Sensory materials like play dough and sand provide hands-on, active learning experiences for babies. Any material that's able to stimulate their senses is considered a sensory material. Any activity that engages their senses is considered a sensory activity. Bear in mind that, babies who have no access to sensory materials and activities, are likely not to have their sensory development optimally facilitated.





  • (1) Babies and Their Senses By Lois Barclay Murphy, Ph.D., with Rachel Moon, M.D., Washington, D.C. Edited from the Zero to Three Journal
  • (2) The Importance Of Touch In Development By Evan L Ardiel, MSc and Catharine H Rankin, PhD
  • (3) Guidelines On Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour And Sleep For Children Under 5 Years Of Age By World Health Organization
  • (4) Cognitive Development And Sensory Play By Michigan State University Extension