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Stimulating Your Newborn's Senses: Sensory Play from Birth

Welcoming a newborn is a time of joy and discovery. As parents, you can engage in simple, enjoyable activities that stimulate your baby's senses and promote their development. Here’s how you can make the most of your time with your little one:

Playtime Activities
When your baby is alert and ready to play, try these sensory activities at home:

Cuddling and Reading: Hold your baby close and read stories. This helps with bonding and introduces new sounds and rhythms.
Music and Toys: Listen to music together and explore colorful, interesting shapes and toys.
Interactive Games: Play peek-a-boo, blow raspberries, and tickle your baby with a soft brush or scarf. These games are delightful and stimulating.
Everyday Sensory Opportunities

You don't need to carve out special time for sensory play; everyday routines offer plenty of chances:

Routine Activities: Feeding, changing nappies, dressing, bathing, and preparing for sleep are all sensory experiences.

Outings: Trips to the supermarket can be sensory adventures. Explore the fresh fruit or herb counters. Nature walks, zoo visits, and beach trips provide rich sensory experiences with new sights, smells, textures, and sounds. Swimming is also therapeutic and calming.
Organized Baby Activities

Consider joining a baby activity group like Baby Sensory™:

Baby Sensory™: These classes offer a wealth of sensory experiences, the chance to meet other parents, and ideas for home activities. Babies love the sing and sign song ‘Say Hello to the Sun.’
Hello Baby Courses: For newborns up to 3 months, these courses offer insights into your baby’s abilities and needs, with workshops on topics like crying, colic, and comfort, and include baby massage.
Sensory Development and Activities
At Birth: Newborns can see colors, though they may be blurry. Track moving objects with a colorful toy or mobile.
Engagement: Your baby will focus on your eyes, study facial expressions, and communicate with subtle cues. By three months, they’ll reach
out for favorite toys, and by nine months, they’ll start picking up small objects. Always ensure their safety as their coordination improves.

Early Recognition: Your baby will recognize your voice from birth. Use simple, repetitive sounds and varied pitches to engage them.
Comforting Sounds: Lullabies, heartbeat sounds, white noise, and nature sounds are soothing. Books and music introduce new sounds and rhythms.
Monitoring: If your baby doesn’t respond to sounds or you suspect an ear infection, consult your GP or health visitor.

Early Experience: Touch is crucial for brain development. Skin-to-skin contact and massage release oxytocin, helping your baby feel secure.
Comforting Motions: Rocking or swaying soothes your baby. A wrap or carrier keeps them close while freeing your hands.
Exploration: Give your baby toys to look at, shake, and touch. As they grow, they’ll learn about textures and shapes by bringing objects to their mouth. Be vigilant about small objects once they start moving around.

Smell and Taste
Early Recognition: Your baby uses their sense of smell and taste to locate the breast. Breast milk’s taste is familiar and comforting.
Comforting Scents: Your scent provides reassurance. Cloths with your smell can comfort your baby when you’re not around.
Exploration with Solids: Introduce varied smells and tastes when your baby starts solids. A varied diet during pregnancy may encourage them to try different foods.
Sensory Toys
Newborn to Three Months: Black and white pictures, rattles, and textured books stimulate interest.
Three to Six Months: Toys that can be mouthed and play gyms are ideal.
Six to Nine Months: Pop-up toys, musical instruments, and activity centers keep them engaged.
Nine to Twelve Months: Stacking toys, shape sorters, and push-along toys enhance development.
Limit the number of toys to maintain interest and watch for cues like yawning, fussing, or looking away, indicating they need a break or a nap.

Sensory play starts at birth and includes activities that stimulate sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. These activities not only contribute to brain development but also help your baby make sense of the world around them. Enjoy these moments of discovery and bonding with your newborn!

Adapted from Dr Lin Day's article Sensory Play from Birth 2022

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