Summing Up Ideas About Sensory Experiences for Babies

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Throughout this session, the trainees should gradually learn to describe the kinds of sensory stimulation provided an infant by his caregivers and by himself. They may wan to know some of the words for such experiences. Music provides an auditory input. Music can be heard. Being swung in a swing provides kinesthetic stimulation. An infant’s body feels the swinging motion.

The trainees should have discussed and carried out a variety of activities and caregiving routines whereby one insures to an infant special, clear experiences in the rich world of the senses.

Ask the trainees to tell you how the games you have just all demonstrated and discussed apply to infant caregiving. Trainees should include in their caregiving advice the following points:

  1. Vary the amount and quality of sense experiences. A baby needs a certain amount of sensory stimulation to nourish his increasing interest in and exploration of his world. Too little experience is monotonous for him. Too much may make the world seem like a noisy, confusing palce. Babies may “tune out” this confusion or they may become hyperactive and noisy themselves.
  2. Be alert to individual differences. Babies differ in their needs for and tolerance of sensory stimulation. Some are comfortable with a cluttered living space. Other babies seem irritable when too many faces and voices and crowded furnishings surround them, or too many hands are handling them. Some babies can tolerate very talkative caregivers who busy themselves with a baby constantly. Others need plenty of free time—time free of adult handling or talking—when they can explore their world on their own. Cruising peacefully about a living room under and around furniture and even sampling a carpet crumb can provide a rich experience for a baby left on his own for a while.
  3. Plan and schedule some sense experiences. If a baby is presented with woo much or too new sensory stimulation, he may not be able to learn something clear about any part of the stimulation experiences. A sensory experience when planned offers opportunities for a baby to get information. For example, a music box may be offered to a baby for his viewing, then for his listening, then for his handling (or even tasting!) Baby then has more of a chance to get information about various aspects of this new experience from each of his senses in turn. Or, we may offer a new experience for looking, hearing, and touching at the same time—a bright blue bracelet of jingle bells, for example—but we offer one such item and not a help of them at first. A caregiver must be alert to how much, when, and what kinds of sensory stimulation a baby can best learn from and enjoy at his given stage of development and at a given time in his daily living patterns. Body stroking and a lullaby are more suitable at nap time than a record of jungle animal calls. For a toddler, being outdoors on the grass with his caregiver and with toys, slides, and swings available is preferable to spending the afternoon-nap hours in a hump-seat or empty crib.
  4. Use caregiving routines to provide sense experiences. Diapering, feeding, and other caregiving activities during the day offer many opportunities for enriching the baby with sighs and sounds and touches a caregiver provides. Babies learn to know caregivers not only as loving, helping people, but as special people who provide interesting experiences for feeling, doing, dna enjoying.
  5. Accept baby’s body functions and explorations. Sensations provided by the baby’s own body and body functions are a natural part of his sensory experience as he grows. The caregiver needs to accept calmly a baby’s pleasure at his own mouth sensations, or his pleasure at touching his genitals. She needs to respect his desire to enjoy sensations at times of his own choosing. She will be careful not to overwhelm a toddler with her wishes as to where and when his toileting should occur. The infant’s desire to please a loved caregiver who appreciates hi needs is a powerful help to the caregiver who is weaning or toilet-training a baby.

Coordinate sense and motor experiences. Sensory experiences can be coordinated with newly emerging motoric skills. Such combinations can enhance a baby’s interest in trying out such skills in order to provide himself with attractive sensory inputs such as tastes a

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