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Recommended reading Learning through the senses Stages: Birth to 2 months Stages: 3 to 6 months

Babies explore the world using their senses:

  • touch
  • sight
  • hearing
  • smell
  • taste.

How sensory experiences make the brain grow 

What babies experience of the world through their senses is absorbed in their brain as they go about gathering ‘data’ about the world they live in.

The experiences cause babies’ brain cells to connect and form pathways within and between different parts of their brain.

When experiences are repeated, the connections are strengthened through use and become a permanent part of a baby’s brain structure. The senses are the ‘doorway’ into the mind.

Multi-sensory experiences are rich

Experiences that involve more than one sense at the same time are ‘rich experiences’ and are more powerful in terms of brain building.

For example, baby seeing their parent’s mouth and hearing the sounds their parent is making is a powerful way to learn about language. Connections will be forming in and between several regions of the brain, such as in the vision, sound, language and relationship areas.

Overstimulation

Something to be aware of, however, is if a very young baby has too many sights, sounds, smells and sensations all going on at once, they can become ‘overstimulated’. Helping whänau to think about all the different messages that baby is experiencing via their senses in a busy household could help avoid baby becoming overwhelmed or unsettled.

Monitoring development with Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks

Keeping baby’s scheduled Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks is very important so that hearing and vision can be checked. The nurse will also measure baby’s head as a way to monitor development — because all those connections between baby’s brain cells make their brain grow.

Further information

See also supporting information Neuroscience in the first year in Te Pihinga 1 for more help with this topic.

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