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How your baby’s senses develop

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Babies develop rapidly in their first year of life. Their five senses are continually refining as their brain grows and they learn to do more and more. So how far have your three-month-old’s senses come since birth?

Smell, taste and touch

Because sight is poor at birth, babies sense everything through smell, taste, touch and hearing. A baby knows his mum’s smell and finds it calming and comforting – and initially, smell and taste are most important because babies want to be fed! But touch is also vital to small babies – they need lots of cuddles and find contact with others very soothing.

By three months, hand-eye coordination is developing and a baby’s hands are beginning to grasp for objects to see how they smell and taste – and to find out if they’re worth eating!

Hearing

Babies are born with fully developed hearing. In fact, they’ve been listening intently to sounds since week 18 in the womb. That’s why newborn babies respond to voices – they’re already attuned to them.

By three months, your baby is listening to everything that happens around him. That’s why babies babble so much; they’re responding to the sounds they hear and making their first efforts to imitate them. So make time to talk to your baby – even if he’s looking away, he’s listening. 

At three months, babies love music. Even if it’s just the radio in the background they enjoy the sound, especially if the tune’s got a good beat! Reading stories and singing or clapping out nursery rhymes are all great input for his sound-hungry brain too.

Sight

In newborn babies sight is undeveloped, and they can only focus over short distances. This isn’t because their eyes are weak; on the contrary, they’re fully functioning, but sight takes time to develop because the brain has to ‘learn’ to see.

As the brain processes visual information, it begins to make sense of light, shapes and colours. By three months, perception of colour is good but your baby’s brain is still learning depth perception – how far away an object is, its size and shape.

Over the next few months, as baby’s hand-eye coordination improves, his sight will get even better. By the age of eight months, most babies have developed near perfect vision. If you’re at all concerned about your baby squinting or having a lazy eye, speak to your health visitor and GP.

Keep stimulating the senses

Babies are like mini scientists doing endless experiments to find out about the world. Offer your baby different objects to play with, introducing new textures, colours and sounds. They don’t need to be anything elaborate – letting him tap different objects with a wooden spoon can be as fascinating as playing with his favourite toy. The texture of different fabrics can also intrigue a young baby. As long as all the objects are clean and safe for him to touch and taste, let the experiments continue!