Infant and Toddler Growth and Development

Share This Article: On Twitter On Facebook Print

Sense Experiences

If your supply of guest infants is ample, or if those who enjoyed motoric tasks would like to come back for sensory experiences, it will be very helpful to invite infants for this session. Trainees themselves, however, can be exposed to a wide variety of sensory experiences and learn from their own responses that an expanded world of sensation can be provided by a caregiver for sharpening an infant’s knowledge of, and delight in, the colors, sights, tastes, feelings, sounds, and smell of our world. If you can, try to procure the following kinds of times;

  1. Wall mirrors and unbreakable hand mirrors.
  2. A portable hair dryer with both mildly warm and cool air settings.
  3. An old-fashioned washboard with wavy ridges.
  4. Soap bubble solution; rings and pipes to make bubbles.
  5. Finger paint (for nontoxic recipes see Segner (1969, p. 42).
  6. A tub of sawdust or sand. The type that comes with a lid or hinged cover is preferable.
  7. Sifters—both the wide flat kind that you shake to sift—and the flour-sifter kind with a handle that turns to sift.
  8. Plastic bowl with tiny holes punched in the bottom through which water can drip slowly.
  9. Fragrant plants and flowers in pots or boxes for window sills.
  10. Large doll and tube of warm water with sponges and bar of soap.
  11. Swing set with suspended seat for an infant.
  12. Rocking (hobby) horse; rocking chairs for infants and adults.
  13. Assorted brushes—soft and hard-bristled. Suggested are toothbrushes, hair brushes, crumbing brushes, and whisk brooms.
  14. Lamp with three-way bulb to provide different levels of bright light.
  15. A cage of soft furry animals (such as gerbils or hamsters) that would be easy for the day care staff to maintain.
  16. Small nylon, orlon, or cotton stretch gloves or mittens.
  17. Balloons to blow up, tie at one end, and sail across a room
  18. Materials to make a book of “feelables,” or a set of “touchables,” and “clutchables.” Plush, terrycloth, silk, chicken wire (with any sharp edges protected by tape), yarns, leather scraps, fur pieces (a rabbit fur skin sells for $1.00 in some shops), metal link chains both belt and necklace widths, and sponges. Many clothing mail-order houses include free swatches of such materials along with their catalogues. Such swatches are fine for this collection.
  19. Soft receiving blankets for swaddling or cuddling babies. Soft cuddly toy animals.
  20. Music boxes; bells of different sizes and sounds; record player with records of children’s songs or of sounds; ticking clocks; rattles; chimes.
  21. A strobe light that can throw pulses of colored light on a child or on a wall in a darkened room.
  22. Similar items of different weights. Examples: a dense rubber ball and a light-weight ball; a heavier metal cup and spoon, and a light plastic cup and spoon; two bean bags, one packed lightly and the other densely with pebbles or beans; a linked metal and a lined plastic necklace.

It is very good for trainees to hear several times about all the way a caregiver can use materials.

Suggestions for books, [1] records, and materials for infant sensory enhancement are available in Parker, Huntington, and Provence (1971, pp. 213-221). Ways in which babies experience the world.

Before you and the trainees begin to sample sensory experiences, the following information can be discussed with trainees. Even quite new babies are sensitive to a variety of body sensations and experiences from the outside world. Following is a list of such sense experiences to which babies are sensitive and from which they learn about their bodies and the world around them. Get the trainees to talk about the sense experiences provided by each of these episodes involving babies.

  1. They will show a startle reaction if dropped suddenly a few inches, or is a sharp sound such as a blaring horn or a hand clap occurs close to them.
  2. Babies seem to quiet more easily if they are swaddled or snuggled in a soft receiving blanket.
  3. They often seem to derive special pleasures from being rubbed gently all over with a towel after a bath, or of rubbing their own cheeks and mouth area with soft fuzzy or furry items such as blankets, soft animals, or pajama sleeves.
  4. A crying baby will sometime quiet rather suddenly or stop fretting if a music box, tinkling bell, or other pleasant tones are sounded close to him.
  5. They will croon or bounce their buttocks to rhythmic music.
  6. Older babies will brighten at the sight of the bottle, or a new toy, and especially at the sight of a loved caregiver’s face.
  7. Some older babies who have been introduced to baths and water-play gradually and happily seem to enjoy very long periods of play with water. A two-year-old can be the most enthusiastic volunteer that ever a caregiver had for washing up utensils in soapy warm water.
  8. Babies who are moving from strained to table foods will often express a preference for sitting with a caregiver and sampling the fascinating world of
     new tastes available on the adult’s plate rather than his own foods, which have become too bland in texture and taste.
  9. They sometimes show as much delight in squeezing and feeling foods of different textures as they do in tasting and swallowing the foods.
  10. Babies like to sniff their world. They may lean close to a caregiver’s arm to smell or even lick her skin. They may want to put their noses too close to the pet turtle for his comfort. They may be dazzled by colors and smells of flowers and plants in the day care center or outdoors, or by the smell of fresh baked goods from the center kitchen.
  11. They seem to alert with their eyes to the world if their body position is changed and they are brought up to a shoulder and held there.
  12. Out on the playground or in a gymnasium, babies may like to be whirled around if firmly held, or to have the caregiver push their swing seat into motion over and over again.
  13. Babies like to feel and scratch and rub different textures and materials with their fingers. A baby may use his own body to provide such stimulation. He may suck on or stroke his sleeves or strands of hair.


In short, babies respond to a wide variety of touches, sights, smells, tastes, temperatures body motions and positions, tickles, and tones. Of course, when they are very tiny they may respond with much the same overall bodily kicks, or stretches, or arm waves, at first, to many different kinds of stimulation. Only later does a baby learn to act in particular and special ways to different kinds of sensory stimuli that come from inside his body or from the outside world. When a tiny baby is hungry, he may thrash about or cry. When a toddler is hungry, he may call urgently for “meat” or “cookie” or “juice” or “supper now!”

[1] A few examples of books for babies which are commercially available and which provide sensory-manipulative materials or experiences within the book itself are: Pat the Bunny, Golden Press; All By Himself, Plakie Toys; Little Bunny Follows His Nose, Golden Press; Touch me Book, Golden Press.

Ask Dr. Susan