When your newborn arrives into this world, a lot of their bodily functions and physical attributes are still not fully developed. The first year of your baby’s life revolves around these advancements. One such aspect is sensory development in babies. The senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing grow by leaps and bounds in the first 12 months of a baby’s life and are almost fully developed by their first birthday. This refinement of senses gives your baby their own unique preferences and responses to the world around them, making their personalities truly distinctive.
Here is a quick rundown on first-year milestones for sensory development in babies:
At the time of birth, the only two senses that are fully developed are smell and hearing. Your baby can detect strong smells and may even turn their head toward the source of the smell, like a plate of food or someone wearing perfume. Similarly, any loud thuds, bangs, or screeching sounds can startle a newborn and even wake them from their sleep. Newborns also have a strong sense of touch and that’s why they crave and thrive on skin-to-skin contact.
The sense of sight and taste, however, are limited at this point. Your baby has a somewhat hazy vision. At the time of birth, your baby can see only about 8 inches away and can barely recognise colours. By the time they hit the 3-month mark, their visual radius improves by at least 15 inches. Similarly, your baby’s taste buds aren’t fully developed at this stage and they only have an affinity for the peculiar sweet taste of breastmilk.
As your baby crosses the 3-month mark, you’d notice that they become a lot more responsive to their surroundings and that’s a sign of sensory development in babies.
By this time, your baby’s eyes have developed rods and cones, which aids better sight and gives your baby the ability to track people and object moving around them. The sense of smell becomes more pronounced and your baby has stronger reactions to bad odours in particular.
As far as hearing is concerned, not only can babies this age hear a wider range of sounds but they can also process them better and make an attempt to mimic these sounds. Your baby’s taste buds will have developed some more and they become more accepting of different flavours, such as salt. The sense of touch becomes stronger than before, allowing your baby to tug on to objects more firmly and attempt to pull and push.
This is really the first time you’ll feel your baby coming into their own, as their responses to their surroundings become more clear and stated.
By this time, babies develop total eye control complete with depth perception, which facilitates better hand-eye coordination. The sense of smell and taste develop to a point where your little one can associate a smell with taste, and you can expect to find them drooling when there is fragrant food around.
Babies also start identifying sounds and recognise familiar words at this stage, and you may find your little one attempting to repeat what you say to them. More often than not, it comes out as an incomprehensible blabber but they might just surprise you with words like ‘mama’, ‘papa’ or ‘tata’. They can also differentiate between different textures by simply touching objects.
Sensory development in babies peaks during this time. Their judgement of distance improves, so you can expect them to aim and throw objects at a particular spot. It also makes reaching out for and grabbing objects a lot easier for your little one.
By the time your baby turns one, they develop their preferences in terms of smells and taste, having specific reactions to different smells and taste of foods you offer them. The sense of hearing is now almost fully mature and your baby can recognise songs, poems, and lullabies. They may even have a few favourites. The sense of touch develops enough to help your baby hold on to objects and crawl or cruise around.
Enjoy the Journey
Watching your baby grow from a newborn to a toddler with a distinct personality of their own is a fascinating journey for every parent. You can aid sensory developments in your baby by stimulating their senses through constant interactions, touch, and exposure to new experiences.