Help your child make sense of the world around them

Help your child make sense of the world around them

The importance of sensory stimulation for babies and toddlers

The world is an exciting place for children, with new sights, smells and sounds at every turn. Making sense of this sensory information is known as perception, and developing this skill is a critical part of your child’s development. Without it, we would look and never see, listen but never understand.

Sense making skills

The more children are exposed to different sensory inputs, the more they develop their perceptual skills. “Each sense plays an important role in the development of a child’s sensory system which unlocks the key to how they learn, think and feel,” explains Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Clamber Club.

“The role of the senses in learning cannot be overstated,” adds Kelly Westerman, Occupational Therapist and Clamber Club Toddler Milnerton Franchisee. “Parents need to have at least some understanding of what the role of each individual sense is in order to maximise the learning potential of even the simplest everyday experiences, such as bathing, sleeping, feeding and dressing.”

  • Touch 

Touch and hearing are two of the senses that develop in the womb. The sense of touch relies on receptors in the skin that tell us about heat, pressure, texture and pain. As the skin is the largest sensory organ in the body it has the greatest potential to be stimulated. These touch experiences will develop what is known as the Tactile System.

  • Smell

Receptors in the nose are responsible for receiving and perceiving smells, developing what is known as the Olfactory System. Smell is largely underrated and often ignored as it is less closely linked to physical and intellectual development. However, the sense of smell has an important role to play in our emotional stability and memory recall and should therefore not be ignored.

  • Sight

Through sight we are able to learn by visually exploring the world in which we live. We gain an understanding of the relationships between people and objects and experience light, colour and form.  It is for this reason that parents should invest as much time as possible to help their children develop their visual sense.

  • Hearing

The most common cause of speech delay in children is hearing loss; a child must be able to hear in order to learn to speak. Children who are able to hear and listen well are able to learn faster, make fewer mistakes and are less easily frustrated.

  • Taste 

Children taste everything that goes in to their mouths, and through these taste experiences they develop what is known as the Gustatory System. A child’s taste preferences may also be linked to their temperament. Very relaxed children who require a large amount of sensory input to stimulate them show a preference for strong flavours such as lemon and curry; while children who are easily overstimulated tend to show a preference for bland and salty food.

Take your child on a sensory journey

Even before a baby is born they begin to use their senses to discover and learn about their world. In the beginning, a new-born is forced to take in just about every single sensory input, but as children grow they are able to filter through the sensory stimuli they receive and refine their various perceptual skills.

“As parents you should have an understanding of what senses may be involved in any particular activity and aim to give your children good quality sensory experiences from an early age,” suggests Westerman. This can be done by stimulating each of the senses individually and in combination with other senses. “These sensory experiences will lay important foundations for learning, movement, emotional security and survival,” she concludes.

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