Sensory processing is the way our nervous system receives messages from our senses and turns them into motor and behavioral responses. Just like with your child’s language, cognitive, physical and social-emotional development, your child will hit certain milestones as he or she ages and develops. You can help your child develop sensory skills with age-appropriate sensory play. Here are some developmental milestones by age and what you can do to help your child’s development.
0 to 6 Months
Between zero and 6 months, babies can recognize the scent of their mothers’ breast milk. They can track objects with their eyes, look at their own hand and reach for nearby objects. Babies typically can coordinate the movements they need to eat like sucking, swallowing and breathing. Their hearing is fully mature at this stage, and they can cry to communicate fear, discomfort and hunger.
6 to 12 Months
By this stage, babies usually will play for 2 to 3 minutes with a single toy and imitate gestures. They can open their mouths to be fed and use their tongues to move food around inside their mouths, as well as drink from a cup. They will tolerate a variety of different food textures.
1 to 2 Years
Toddlers at this stage generally can tell the difference between inedible and edible objects. They start to understand common dangers like glass, hot objects or the stairs. They can follow 1-step instructions and solve problems by trial and error. They enjoy messy play. They begin to react more to their environment, like showing discomfort in extreme temperatures or being bothered by a dirty diaper.
2 to 3 Years
By this stage, children typically can pay attention for up to 3 minutes, sit and look at books on their own and begin to take turns. They are very curious and love to explore their environment. They can point to different body parts when you ask and identify different shapes. They can use the toilet with some help and have control during the daytime.
Sensory Play to Aid Development
Age-appropriate sensory play can help your child’s budding sensory skills. Here are some activities you can use to foster their development.
- Try foods that are opposites — hot versus cold, sweet versus salty, crunchy versus soft.
- Try foods that will help calm your child down or keep him or her alert. Foods that require sipping or sucking motions calm your child, while crunchy and chewy foods keep him or her alert.
- Experiment with colors together. You can color the bathwater with food coloring, finger paint, use clay or do other crafts to explore colors and how they mix together.
- Play under different lights. You can play flashlight tag, make shadow puppets, turn off all the lights and use glow sticks, wear sunglasses and more to see how things look different under various light sources.
- Explore textures around the house together. Finger paint with shaving cream, sip seltzer, touch different objects like sandpaper and cotton balls.
- Let your child participate in chores around the house which require him or her to use some muscle. Wipe down the counters, sweep and mop, and push the grocery cart together. You’ll help your child’s development and get a little helper around the house.
- Go on a nature walk and have a sound scavenger hunt. Try to guess what is making the sounds you hear around you.
- Play with the stereo dial to hear the difference between soft and loud sounds (but not too loud).
- Go around your kitchen and smell all of the different foods and spices.
- Read scratch-and-sniff books together.
Would you like more information about your child’s sensory skill development? Contact a Sparkles! team member today. We encourage sensory play every day and can tell you how your child is doing.