Why A Sensory Toy Is The Most Thoughtful Gift You Can Give A Baby
What Makes A Thoughtful Gift?
The most thoughtful gifts put the receiver first. You consider their likes, interests, passions, hobbies - essentially what brings them joy. You understand and know them well enough to make a good decision about the perfect gift for them. With your gift you show them how well you ‘see’ them, and nurture your bond.
This is what makes buying for a baby so difficult. They’ve not been around long enough for you to know their personal likes and dislikes! Nor do they want or need anything more than love, connection and their needs met.
But thoughtful gift giving is also about giving something that’s significant. Something that makes a positive difference. We think this factor is important to keep in mind when choosing a present for the baby in your family. What gift will make a significant positive difference to them?
Touch importantly informs us about pain, pressure, temperature and movement. Babies are born with a very sensitive sense of touch. This is why skin-to-skin contact soon after birth and as babies grow is so powerful and important. Babies need constant loving touch to healthily develop - it’s particularly vital to their emotional development.
The sense of smell is one of the earliest to develop at around 14 weeks gestation. The sense of smell is important for babies’ development as it assists the bonding process with parents/carers, which provides comfort, and influences food preferences.
Newborn babies have a very sensitive sense of smell, and are able to recognise their mother by their smell. Breastmilk smells similar to the amniotic fluid of the mother; this is familiar to the newborn and helps them to find their food source from birth.
The sense of smell is also interestingly processed by the same part of the brain which controls memory. This explains why strong associations are made between smells and experiences.
By 3 months, a baby is able to recognise familiar smells, and distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people and surroundings. Familiar smells will bring comfort.
Taste buds are developed by 28 weeks gestation, babies can taste sweet, sour, bitter and savoury flavours when they’re born. Whilst in the womb babies swallow amniotic fluid which tastes like the food the mother eats. At around 4 months babies also develop the sense of taste for salty foods.
The sense of taste allows a baby to know which foods are safe to eat. By six months the sense of taste along with smell and touch help the baby to learn the different flavours, textures, consistencies and temperatures of food.
The sense of hearing is also developed by 28 weeks gestation. Babies become familiar with the sound of their mothers voice, along with other voices heard frequently whilst in the womb. At birth a baby can recognise these familiar voices. They can also hear high-pitched sounds particularly well.
As young babies continue to grow, their sense of hearing also matures; at six months they are able to fully hear and understand a range of different sounds.
Sight is the least developed sense at birth. Newborn vision is blurry and at birth babies cannot focus on or see things more than 20-30cm away from them. Sight continues to gradually develop over the child’s first year of life:
At 2-3 months babies can distinguish between different hues and recognise the difference between black and white. At 4 months depth perception begins to develop - enabling the little one to learn how far away items are in relation to themselves and surroundings. When a young baby reaches 5 months they start to see colours. By their first year of life, babies can tell the difference between near and far objects, as well as recognise familiar people even at a distance.
Since sight is the least developed sense at birth, and continues to develop over the first year of life; visual stimulation from birth is very important to help develop this sense. Baby sensory toys that consider the development of sight, such as black and white toys, pictures and books are particularly effective.
What Are Sensory Toys?
Sensory toys are types of toys that are designed with children's sensory development specifically in mind. They feature elements that engage at least one of the senses, as well as entertain curiosities. In this way, sensory toys help babies’ reach natural sensory development milestones.
Designed to specifically stimulate one or more of the senses, sensory toys can have contrasting colours, make noises or feature a variety of textures to awaken the senses and provide opportunities to explore and discover through play.
An example would be toys or books that are designed with black and white hues. These are the only contrasting colours young babies can see, and therefore allow them to engage with patterns and pictures in a developmentally considerate way. Through such sensory toys, babies are given the chance to discover their environment for themselves. Sensory toys are also the most effective and appropriate tools to assist babies’ continued sensory development.
Why Are Sensory Toys Important For Development?
Babies and young children are constantly learning, primarily through their senses and experiences. Quality sensory toys that help develop key skills, satisfy curiosities and foster a love for learning are vital for healthy development.
Through sensory toys babies can independently explore and discover. They quickly learn cause and effect through their interactions with sensory toys, such as, ‘If i press this squidgy octopus leg it makes a squeaky noise’. These connections are incredibly important to babies' discovery of the world and their cognitive and sensory development.
Sensory toys encourage curiosity with their interactive and stimulating features. Curiosity is at the core of learning. As long as babies and children remain curious, they will always be driven to discover, attempt and enquire.
Gently stimulating toys that are sympathetic to development milestones also provide babies with the opportunity to uncover new experiences where they’re at, and practice familiar ones, without being overwhelmed or overstimulated.
Sensory Toys Are The Most Thoughtful Gift For Babies
Babies are born with some fully developed senses such as smell and touch, whilst their other senses; taste, hearing and sight take a little longer to mature. They explore and learn primarily through their senses; what is comforting, interesting and pleasant. Through their senses, babies discover their preferences and build the foundations they need for life-long learning and healthy development.
Thoughtful gifts are those which put the receiver first, bring them joy and make a positive difference. Sensory toys are therefore the perfect present for babies because they meet babies where they’re at, and considerately nurture their sensory development - vital for their overall health and wellbeing.
Healthy sensory development forms the core of our experience from our earliest experiences; our preferences, comforts, familiarities and security. These are the building blocks for positive self-esteem and build confidence to explore the world, which helps us to become happy and healthy individuals. A sensory toy is a nurturing and thoughtful gift, which will have an important part to play in the experiences and development of the beautiful baby in your life.