Enriching Your Baby's Senses: Hear Me, See Me, Touch Me

by Virginia B. Hargrove

Enhance Baby's SensesYour baby's senses began developing long before birth. How will you be enriching your baby's senses?

Babies begin to develop feeling in their mouths and noses at about 7 weeks. By 14 weeks, baby's head is sensitive to touch. The first taste buds emerge 8 weeks after conception. In the third trimester when the eyelids open, baby can detect light and see outlines in the womb.

You can keep your babies brain and senses developing by interacting, playing games, touching and talking.

See Me: Playing with Vision

Babies are programmed to be fascinated by human faces. Hold your newborn a few inches from your face, talk or make funny faces. Wait a minute and see if your baby mimics you.

It's not just faces that hold a baby's attention. Your wee one will study patterns and shapes, especially those with sharp outlines. Research indicates that babies prefer complex over simple or curved patterns and that they spend more time looking at new objects rather than ones that they've seen over and over.

• At birth, your baby doesn't see very well, especially distances. Newborn's see best at 8 to 10 inches.
• By two months, your baby's vision has improved enough to follow moving objects.
• At three months, objects up to 10 feet away become clearer. • Around six months, baby's depth perception.
• Your baby's vision is similar to an adult's by his or her first birthday.

"Look at Me" Games and Activities

Engage your newborn by gently shaking a high contrast rattle a few inches from his or her face. Once spotted, slowly move from side to side, giving a "rattle hint" if your baby looses sight of it. When the game gets old, your baby will lose interest or look away.

By the time your baby can sit up, color vision develops. You can get down on the floor and pick out your favorite colored blocks. Does your baby share your tastes?

Once your baby realizes that things exist even when they're out of sight, you can play games like peek-a-boo and hide the toy.

Take your baby around town, the supermarket, museum and park. Talk about what you're doing, going, what you'll do when you arrive, and who and what you'll see.

Did you know that babies learn differently from a TV or computer screen than from a book?

Hear Me: Enhancing Baby's Hearing

Your baby waited months for the eyelids to open. The sense of hearing starts much sooner. Babies begin to react to loud noises as early as 25 weeks gestation.

• A newborn remembers noises from the womb, like your voice and songs that you've been singing.
• At three months, your baby attempts to repeat sounds by cooing. You'll notice changes in pitch and pauses.
• By five months, your baby discovers the power of words.
• By eight months, babies understand the meaning of many words and try to duplicate them.
• At one year, most babies say a few words like "dada," "bye" and "uh-oh."

"Talk with Me" Games

Securely sew a bell to your baby's sock. Each kick rewards your budding soccer player with a melody.

Offer toys or objects that make different sounds, like crinkles, low and high pitched rattles, music and chimes.

Put on music and play an oatmeal box or tin can drum with your baby. Sing or dance together.

Introduce animal sounds. "The doggie says 'woof-woof'." "The pig grunts!"

Did you know that babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better, soothe easier and show sophisticated responses to music earlier.

Touch Me: Nurturing the Sense of Touch

Babies "feel" by using their mouths. Touch sensitivity starts there and develops in a head-to-toe sequence.