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4 Infant Activities to Explore the Senses

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The first three months of life are an incredibly important time for child growth and development. These early months lay the foundation not only for later success in school, but for a lifetime.  Hands down, the most important ingredient in early months is consistent, loving, and responsive interactions from parents and other caregivers.  Talking, reading, singing, and playing with infants make all the difference in helping them develop a sense of safety and security, while also providing the essential building blocks for language and thinking.  

Focus on short, playful activities throughout the day that engage all the senses and foster communication and movement.  Once you start creating these playful moments with your child, you will experience a deepening bond and notice small changes in your child’s skills that add up, over time, to big developmental leaps! These early experiences will have a lasting effect on you, your child, and your whole parent-child relationship.

Try these easy and fun activities with your infant today! 


Sight is a major pathway for learning in infants, and eye contact helps strengthen your

connection. It is a major marker of your infant’s vision and social-emotional development. This particular song has its own special way of connecting parents with their newborns. The combination of loving, secure touch with the ability to see your face is a winning formula for your baby’s comfort and learning.


Research Roundup!

According to researchers Teresa Farroni and colleagues, solid eye contact traditionally takes place around one-and-a-half to two months of age. However, according to their 2002 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eye contact can start as early as two days after birth.


Rock-a-Bye Baby

Newborn babies love to look at faces, and yours is the most important of all. As you cradle your baby, his eyes are in the exact right position and distance to see your face as clearly as possible.


How to Do It:

  1. Hold your baby in a cradled position and look at her eyes.
  2. Rock him to the following words. As you sing each line and rock, move your baby with the motions as marked.  


Twinkle, twinkle, little star (Rock your baby)

How I wonder what you are (Rock your baby)

Up above the world so high (Lift your baby)

Like a diamond in the sky (Hold your baby up)

Twinkle, twinkle little star (Bring your baby back down)

How I wonder what you are (Rock your baby)


Sound is another powerful avenue for learning. Throughout the ages, parents have made whatever simple, soft, and appealing sounds might be available to aŒtract their babies’ attention. They often combined items such as shells and beads to clank, jiggle, or make some kind of pleasing sound. Today’s rattles come in many different colors, sizes, and shapes and are made from a variety of materials.


Research Roundup!

Babies start hearing at about the 18th week of pregnancy and respond to the mother’s voice at about the 25th week, according to the Mayo Clinic. Once they are born, they are definitely listening to and learning from all the sounds around them.


A Rattle

One of the first play sounds most newborns hear is the sound of a gentle rattle. Many rattles used to be made with opaque plastic, but now some are clear so that the baby can see what makes the sound. A soft bell and the clink of keys are also popular.



  • Rattle, a soft bell, or keys

How to Do It:

  1. Take turns with the rattle, bell, or keys. First shake one and let your baby respond.
  2. Encourage your baby to shake it for you to respond.
  3. Switch back and forth, playing and creating interesting sounds.


Remember this old saying? People remember 10 percent of what they hear, 50 percent of what they see, and 90 percent of what they experience. Touching is an essential learning mechanism. Texture books and activities are great for your baby from early in infancy.


Research Roundup!

According to Tiffany Field and colleagues, touch from the caregiver-to-baby point of view improves health. The researchers developed massage therapy as a way to promote healthy weight gain for babies born prematurely.



Because soft is a great texture for newborns, cotton is a natural. You probably already have cotton balls as one of your baby supplies, and the large size is best for this activity.



  • Large cotton balls


How to Do It:

  1. Slowly and gently open up your baby’s —ist.
  2. Put a cotton ball inside.
  3. Observe your baby’s reaction. Your baby is likely to show pleasure from exposure to the soft texture.


All learning takes place through the —five senses. The more senses are activated, the more powerful the learning experience. Certain smells that a person associates with a particular event can bring back specific related memories.


Research Roundup!

According to smell research as reported by Penelope Leach in her book Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five, babies can distinguish between smells and even have a stronger ability to do so than adults. She explains it this way: “If a breast pad worn by his mother is put to one side of a baby’s head and a breast pad used by another mother is placed on the other side, the baby will choose the mother’s smell, turning his head to that side in 75 percent of the trials.”


Flower Scents

Use fresh flowers if they are available, but you can also substitute dried or silk flowers sprayed with nontoxic scents.



  • Fresh or dried flowers with a scent you enjoy
  • Silk flowers (optional)
  • Nontoxic scent, such as lemon or lime juice, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or garlic (optional)


How to Do It:

  1. Put your baby in a position in which he can comfortably see the flowers.
  2. Together, smell them. Don’t hold flowers close to your baby’s nose, particularly if they’ve been sprayed with a scent. Simply waft them in front of you both so you can smell them from a safe distance. 
  3. Observe the baby to note his reaction. If he doesn’t seem to enjoy the experience, try again another day.

More Activities to Try