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The first twelve months of a baby’s life are full of sensory advancements. Sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste all develop faster during the first 12 months of life than during any time thereafter. As a baby’s senses become more refined, their unique preferences and responses begin to reveal themselves, and their personalities begin to shine.

Sensory Development - Your Baby’s First Year Milestones [Infographic]

 0-3 Months 

  • Sight: Limited colour, begins to make eye contact.
  • Smell: Fully developed, will turn towards the source of food.
  • Hearing: Fully developed, will react to familiar sounds.
  • Touch: Fully developed, will crave skin-to-skin contact.
  • Taste: Attracted to sweets (breastmilk) and anticipates feeding.

 To Encourage Sensory Development: 

  • Baby loves to see your face. Mobiles and overhead gyms are helpful to encourage eye tracking.
  • Familiar smells, like breast milk, calm and soothe baby. Try sleeping with a baby blanket and giving it to baby for comfort. They love your smell most of all.
  • Baby loves the sound of your voice. Try singing and narrating your day.
  • Cuddle time! Provide plenty of skin-to-skin contact.
  • Attracted to the sweet (but not sugary) flavour of breast milk and formula.
  • If breastfeeding, eat a varied, nutritious diet. Your baby will be able to taste the changes in your milk. 

3-6 Months 

  • Sight: Developing eye rods and cones, tracking objects and people.
  • Smell: Interested in smells of food, stronger reaction to bad odours.
  • Hearing: Sounds become associated with objects, sound mimicking begins.
  • Touch: Able to use both sides of the body together, learns push and pull.
  • Taste: Begins to become open to flavours such as salt and shows interest in others’ food.

 To Encourage Sensory Development:

  • Help baby explore with new toys, places, and experiences. When holding them, try facing them out to see the world around them.
  • Try minimizing bad odours (change those diapers quickly!) to keep baby from fussing.
  • Keep talking to baby, and start to point and name items.
  • Toys with varying texture engage little ones and create interest that holds their attention.
  • Begin to offer age-appropriate purees of fruits and vegetables between 4-6 months.

6-9 Months 

  • Sight: Eye control, hand-eye coordination, and depth perception improves.
  • Smell: Begins to associate smell with taste, and place location of smells.
  • Hearing: Able to identify the direction of sounds & recognize familiar words.
  • Touch: Recognizes textures and begins grabbing with thumb and forefinger.
  • Taste: Starts to reach for nearby food

 To Encourage Sensory Development:

  • Continue to encourage exploration by introducing new (safe) objects and experiences. Try playing peek-a-boo!
  • Uses sense of smell to help decide whether he/she likes new food
  • Introduce new and different foods, including some spices (not salt or sugar)
  • Encourage two-way communication and play music.
  • Encourage hand-eye coordination with stacking toys and fill and spill play.
  • Try offering teethers with varying surfaces to help teach an appreciation for new textures

9-12 Months 

  • Sight: Depth perception and distance judgements improve. Easy grabbing of objects.
  • Smell: Increase in smell preference and reaction.
  • Hearing: Can recognize and react to songs and sounds.
  • Touch: Crawling and grabbing develops. Baby is now able to grasp handheld toys – like rattles and teethers.
  • Taste: Enjoys a greater variety of taste.

 To Encourage Sensory Development:

  • Make consistent and meaningful gestures. Try teaching baby some simple sign language words, like “more” and “milk.”
  • Avoid harsh-smelling environments, and continue to introduce new flavours.
  • Use noisy toys to show cause and effect - hit it, make a noise!
  • Play with toys that require gripping and finger movement to encourage hand and finger control. Create associations by naming textures.
  • Experiment with offering new food textures, including soft finger foods.