GUEST POST: A sensory world (pt3)
Joanna Grace is a Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, Author, Trainer, TEDx speaker and Founder of The Sensory Projects. She has a 5 year old son and at the time of writing was 6 months pregnant with her second child.
A baby’s world is a sensory one. They pop out (well not exactly pop, but let’s pretend things are so simple) into this world from the protective cocoon of your womb and immediately their tiny brains are inundated with sensory information.
Your communication with them will be sensory. You can use the senses to sooth them, to bond with them, and to engage and stimulate their developing brains.
In this series of three little blogs I am going to give you some starting out ideas for doing each of these things. If you get the sensory bug, as I did, then explore for more because there is a wonderful sensory world out there.
Some people find tiny babies boring, I remember one friend telling me “I get interested in them when they start to do stuff.” If I am brutally honest I found my first son less interesting as he became seemingly more able. Those early days and weeks where I could almost watch him wiring up his own brain were amazing to me. Far more so than him learning to aim a spoon in the general direction of his mouth!
The sensory experiences your baby encounters at the start of its adventure with life are what wire their brains. You can see them figuring out “ah ha, I can move this body of mine” you will hold out an object and they will want it and their brain will send messages to their body to move, and all of it will move. In time when you hold out the object just their hand will move. They’ve worked out which message does what. It’s amazing.
There are so many toys on offer and so many ideas out there to suggest a few here is a case of “where to start!” So I am going to limit myself to just two tips:
1. Find something bright red. It is very likely that the first colour your baby will be able to see after the black and white and grey world which is their initial experience of vision will be the colour red. It’s funny when my first son was small and we went to toddler groups I noticed how many parents cited red as their child’s favourite colour, when it is more likely that at that age it was their child’s only colour!
If you’re trying to attract their attention to the red object you’ve found (which by the way does not need to be some fancy expensive baby toy, it can be the red spatula from your kitchen drawer) think about the visual background you are giving to that object, if you’re holding it in front of yourself and you’re wearing a boldly printed top with red and other jumbled colours it will be far harder for them to spot it than if you’re wearing a muted grey top.
Notice if their eyes look at the object, if you move the object do their eyes follow it or do they look surprised that it has vanished? Do they respond to it in other ways? Do their limbs move, do they make a sound? Respond to their actions and sounds, this is their brain working super hard to understand the world.
2. Make tummy time sensorially interesting. We all know babies are not generally fans of tummy time. And why would you be, one moment you were on your back able to see the whole world, and the next you’re flat on your stomach with a view of a few square inches of carpet – what a raw deal!
A gently tilted mirror can make tummy time more interesting, allowing them to look at that funny little baby’s face as their head wobbles around trying to make sense of the world.
A space blanket can create heaps of sensory entertainment (I mean the foil blankets they wrap runners in at the end of marathons, they usually cost about 50p and for your baby will provide a dazzling show of flickering light and sound).
Finally when they get to the stage where they are able to roll over give them some sort of sensory reward for that effort. If you start up facing the carpet, heave yourself over a couple of times and end up facing the carpet – so what! If you have a coloured blanket, or even just different colour tea towels then they can start off looking at something blue, heave themselves over and low and behold their efforts have turned their visual world red! With my own son I happened to have lots of sheets of coloured card around at that time and so he rolled around on my recycling having happy sensory adventures.
Oh and do sing nursery rhymes, until you’re blue in the face and think you are going mad, their rhythms and melodies are wonderful building blocks for early language development. If you find you need more intellectual stimulation than yet another rendition of twinkle twinkle little star, challenge yourself to learn the other verses – yes there are about six I think! (In getting ready for my new little one I only have two memorised).
Most of all when your baby arrives enjoy the sensory moments with them. Your own senses will be heightened and so you’ll be better able to tune into the sensory wonderment that they experience. You can join them in that bubble of amazement with the here and now.
For more sensory brain development games for little ones visit
www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/guides and scroll to the developmental sensory games.
You might also like to try sharing a Sensory Story with your baby, Dream and Cocoon are super for little ones www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/sensory-stories , and when they are a little older try Voyage to Arghan or Ernest and I www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/books