Sensory Development in the Baby

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The fetus develops when it is already in the mother’s womb and it is ready for the functioning of all sensory organs. The child is born with the ability to notice the events around him, receive external and internal stimuli, those from the environment, as well as those from their own body. However, the sensory organs need some time to be fully adapted. Therefore, after the child’s birth, the newborn does not fully perceive the environment in which it is located.

Sensory OrganFunction
SkinTouch
EyesSight
EarsHearing
NoseSmell
TongueTaste
5 Sensory Organs and Their Functions

The first feeling that develops in the fetal period is the feeling of touch. In the newborn, this feeling is the most developed, and in the young psyche it introduces the first information about the environment in which it is located. The newborn is most sensitive to the touch of the lips, cheeks, palms and feet. On other parts of the body, the feeling of touch is less developed. The child is the least affected by the touch on the shoulders, back, chest and abdomen. The good development of the feeling of touch is the sharpest on the mouth, and therefore all the objects that they will grab,they first put them in the mouth. In this period of life this is the first way to get acquainted with the environment. When we touch it, the newborn usually pulls the touched part of the body, such as the leg, when we tickle the foot. The more intense stimuli react with movements of the whole body. Older babies can already locate the irritation, touching the irritated place and trying to remove the cause for it.

The newborn also reacts to heat, that is, to temperature changes in its surroundings. The sensitivity of heat is most stressed in the area of the feet, and less on the head and upper limbs. The child calms down when it is warm and, if it is cold, reacts with disturbed movements. The heat response will be more stressed if the heat deviates from the normal physiological needs of the body.

The feeling of pain is relatively poorly developed right after birth and is intensified already in the first days of life. All parts of the body have varying degrees of sensitivity to pain, the largest being on the lips. When they are irritated, the child reacts with withdrawal and with an expression of facial pain or crying. There are innate differences between children and their sensitivity to pain. These differences seem to be partly responsible for the differences in the intensity of timidity, that occurs later when they are already grown, by the reasons that caused them pain.

Apart from the sense of touch, vision is the most important function through which the child receives the first impressions of its surroundings. It can see as soon as it is born, but the sharpness of the sight and image that is created in its retina is still opaque and vague. This is because the newborn still can not focus the sight at a particular point, it can not focus the eyes equally. The newborn also reacts to a strong light source by closing the pupils, blinking or turning the view on the side. A few days after birth, it can already follow the movements, and in two weeks it begins to differentiate colors. At the end of the first month, the child can direct its eyes in a certain direction, but only with one eye (monocular viewing). The other eye moves in the opposite direction, so the child appears transient (strabismus). Already at the end of the second month the child begins to fix objects with both eyes (binocular viewing). Then the frustration disappears, and the sight becomes sharp, gets spatial characteristics and recognizes the perspective. At the age of three months, the child develops a color recognition sense, primarily for red. The child’s interest in color dominates by the end of the second year. It develops at the same time with the development of speech that significantly enhances the skill in distinguishing colors.

The hearing in infants is relatively poorly developed, although the hearing system at birth is already fully formed. The reason for this is mucus in the middle ear or in the outer auditory corridor, which remains there for several days after birth. When the mucus disappears, the child responds fully to auditory stimuli, with blinking of the eyes, deep breathing, pulse acceleration, and stronger sounds with strong muscular movements on the whole body. The longer the noise lasts, and how much it is monotonous, the reaction of the child becomes weaker. At first, the newborn does not distinguish between high and low tones. It begins to recognize them after several months of life.

The newborn is sensitive to odors in the nasal cavity, which like the intense scents, irritate the mucous membrane. In such a case, the child sneezes, cries and turns its head in the opposite direction from the source of the smell. Only later, it responds well to the pleasant mild scents.

The taste as well, in the newborn child is underdeveloped. But in the early days it begins to distinguish the mild taste from the rest. After a certain period, it becomes capable of distinguishing the rest, too.

Besides the stimuli from the immediate environment, the child receives a full range of stimuli from its own body from its internal organs. Most of the stimuli reach its nervous system, as well as digestive and urinary organs. The child becomes restless when it feels that its bladder is full and when it needs to poo. Immediately after urination and defecation (pooping), the baby calms down. They are in general the internal, so-called visceral or organic stimuli.

With the combined use of various sensory organs, especially sight and touch, the child gradually becomes acquainted with the environment and all of this is greatly contributed by its movement in the same. In the human body there is a so-called muscular feeling that comes from the muscles and informs us about the movement and the relationship between the individual parts of the body. To this is added the feeling of balance and the position of the body in the environment. This is facilitated by special formations that are found in the inner ear and through which we control the position of our body. All these senses are well developed in the newborn child.

By the end of the 6th month, the child becomes capable of distinguishing between the forms of the objects. This ability improves all the time during its growth. By enriching these experiences, the intelligence increases. The development of speech contributes a great deal to the recognition and distinction of characters. The child’s ability to properly assess the size of the objects, their position and the mutual connection in space develops much slower. This skill begins to appear at the end of the second year. By the end of the fourth year, the child is accustomed to the perspective, distance, size and position of objects in the same way as adults. And this ability is largely aided by the development of speech.

The ability to observe develops by itself, depending on the functional maturation of the sensory organs and nervous system in the newborn. Therefore, it is not necessary, neither possible to teach a small child how to observe and perceive things. But it should be permitted to safely have contact with various objects from the environment that will enable it to become acquainted with the characteristics of the non-living world around it and gradually enrich its experience. For this purpose, items such as rattles, toys made by images of people and animals made of rubber or plastic, cubes, boxes, balls and the like may be used. These are toys of the child during the first two years and serve not only to sharpen its feelings, but also contribute to the psycho-motor development of the child.