Science has backed that the sensory experiences of babies while in the womb impact fetal brain development and even the long-term growth of the baby’s brain. That’s why it’s no surprise that sensory toys and activities that engage sight, smell, hearing, and touch play a crucial role in baby brain development during infanthood.
Babies are born with all five functioning senses. Knowing that it’s easy to imagine why the baby’s brain is overwhelmed from sensorial experiences after leaving their momma’s belly. The colorful, loud, and very different world welcomes them after birth, and their susceptible infant brains are rapidly developed by different sensorial experiences. How should moms like us properly support our babies’ brain growth? Here are answers based on infant brain development facts from the realm of baby science:
Provide visual stimulation to engage neural growth in your baby’s brain
Babies have functioning vision at birth. They can see up to 10 inches forward, and this continues to improve as they grow. Last year, a new study found that as early as 6 days old, visual processing of faces and places in your baby’s brain is already on similar levels as adults. Stimulating this brain capacity is important to increase neural connections and brain growth in infants. Some visually stimulating activities include the following:
- Babies love looking at faces. Including yours and their own! Add a mirror in their Montessori bedroom. Learn more about designing your baby’s Montessori-inspired bedroom here.
- Hang colorful and high contrast play silk or blankets over your baby while they lie down on their back.
- Introduce sensory toys made of natural materials like wooden blocks for your baby to reach for during tummy time.
- Building a peace corner in their Montessori bedroom, with stimulating materials like calming jars is also a great idea, which you can resourcefully DIY at home.
These colored sensory blocks are perfect for visual stimulation because of their uneven shapes that spark curiosity in little ones.
The visual aesthetics of this set-up by @crystallily1 fits right into what a Montessori-inspired peace corner looks like.
Key Takeaway: Provide visually stimulating experiences for your baby with faces and high contrast colorful sensory toys to increase connections between brain cells.
Teach your infant rhythm to build future skills for cognitive development
One study found that teaching rhythm to infants by including music during play and matching the beat with movements has increased the ability of the baby’s brain to understand patterns. This is important in building future skills in cognitive development like problem-solving where predicting patterns is necessary. Another ability that is boosted is how your baby learns language when taught rhythm through music. Learn more about how to boost language development in babies here. You can teach rhythm to infants by:
- Choosing to play music with a strong beat during play. Make use of songs that you can easily follow the beat of.
- In timing with the music, teach your baby gross motor skills by clapping or kicking to the rhythm while lying down. You can also dance, bounce or rock your baby along when carrying them.
- During tummy time, they can also tap along to songs with easy-to-grip sensory toys like rings or peg dolls from wooden Montessori sets.
We can almost smell @happilyeverduo’s fragrant baby bath from here!
These DIY smelling jars by @montessorihisway are a great smell sensory idea even for older kids!
Here’s another set of sensorial smelling jars made with natural materials from @mylittlemontessorian that can be used for scent-matching activities as your baby grows into toddlerhood.
Key Takeaway: Stimulating the sense of smell in babies trains their associative memory formation.
Increase brain hormones for prosocial behaviors with sensory activities for touch
Lastly, a neurological study backed the importance of touch for infant brain development and connected it to the release of hormones linked to prosocial behaviors.
It’s no secret that the sense of touch with your baby helps you emotionally bond with them. The scientific explanation for this points to brain chemicals that are released when your baby experiences skinship with you.
Your baby’s sense of touch is also more well developed previously thought. They can easily tell objects apart with touch even before they can see very well. Engage in touch sensory activities by:
- Cuddling with your baby. Younger babies are more likely to crave the familiar environment of the womb, so moms can provide that experience with closeness and cuddles.
- Baby massages are also a great way to enjoy some tactile activities together. Babies love being held. You can incorporate sensory toys and make massages a learning opportunity too.
- As your baby grows, you can enjoy more motor movement activities like baby yoga. Although you’re doing most of the work, they do get a lot of healthy stretches in while you bend and straighten their legs and arms.
Baby massages benefit both you and your baby. Check out this post by @ickle_na.
Did you know baby and mommy yoga classes were a thing? We love this idea from @indieyogalife
Key Takeaway: Including touch sensory activities in your baby’s daily activities will increase brain chemicals for emotional bonding and socialization.
These scientifically proven activities that link your baby’s brain development and sensory experiences can help guide you to create learning opportunities for your baby. Want more sensory play ideas that your baby can try? Read about it here.