During their first six months, your baby is almost always in contact with you. After this period,
they open up to the world, which they discover with their five senses.
Smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing
are tools to understand this new life.
Discover how your child’s senses evolve and learn activities and tricks to stimulate your baby
according to their age.
• Touch: your baby’s first sense
- During pregnancy, the skin is the main communication element with your baby. The sense of touch is the first to appear around the mouth and in the palm of the hands, approximately around the 7th week of pregnancy. Mothers and fathers can communicate with their child very early: the skin on the mother’s abdomen establishes the contact between the baby and the outside world to create a “dialogue”. Don’t hesitate to caress your stomach or massage yourself, as your baby feels your movements. - Haptonomy creates contact between you and your baby during pregnancy. You communicate with your child by placing your hands on your abdomen and with your voice. Your baby reacts to these different stimulations. - At birth, your baby needs to feel safe above all. They absolutely need you: skin-on-skin contact offers them precious comfort. This allows you to extend their uterine life and gently enter the outside world. - In general, you can begin massaging your child as soon as the umbilical cord has healed. You can do so until your baby becomes more energetic and has trouble staying still. The skin is the most widespread organ and can provide important stimulation for your child, as it contains many nerve endings. Your baby likes to be touched. Tips to develop your child’s sense of touch At all ages, discover the pleasure of communicating with your baby via all of their senses. Your massages and caresses, during bathtime for example, allow your baby to discover their body. Your child will feel cared for, protected and safe. Opt for skin-on-skin contact to create intimacy: these are tender, stimulating moments that must be shared with your baby from the very first months. Read the Mustela file on massage to learn some massage steps. From 1 to 3 months: caresses to reassure your baby - At 1 month, opt for caresses that meet your child’s need for safety and calm. These physical exchanges are your baby’s first language and allow your baby to share their emotions with you. - As of 2 months, use smoothing strokes and then apply more pressure to stimulate your baby’s sensory system. - At 3 months, kneading (a movement in which you strongly rub a muscle or muscle group) develops your baby’s body language. - As of 4 months, emotions give way to the discovery of the physical world. Thus begins the “touching-feeling” phase: your baby is more energetic and can raise their head when they are lying on their stomach. They also begin to touch their body: hands, feet… all sources of wonder! New textures To develop your baby’s senses, nothing is better than introducing them to new textures: foams, lotions, fluids, waters, sprays, creams, oils… And so many beneficial sensations for their skin: freshness, lightness, richness, softness… Activity mat Gradually add games to your child’s world. An activity mat is an excellent way to stimulate their vision and touch. Numerous tactile and visual activities are available: your baby can discover them lying on their back, stomach or sitting up when they are older. With or without a toy arch, the activity mat allows your child to discover new materials and sounds. Play pen A play pen is a complementary play space for your baby. The classic play pen, with its square shape and crib bars, is the ideal model. It offers more space than a round one and allows your child to look all around them. Bathtime: a unique one-on-one experience Bathtime is the perfect moment to discover new sensations: make the most of it to encourage your child to play with water. Cold water, warm water, droplets… The water glides through their fingers and they can’t catch it – how strange! After bathtime, wrap your baby in a warm towel and hold them in your arms in a big hug. Then care for their body with a moisturising product or by massaging them with a massage oil. The joys of water Prolong the experience by turning your child into a “swimming baby”! As of 4 months (after the first vaccinations), you can go to the pool and splash around with your little one, with the help of a specialist. Your baby feels comfortable in the water. They will discover new sensations on their skin and feel safe in your arms. From 7 to 9 months Books with cardboard pages to turn As of 7 months, your child can grasp objects and shake them in their hands. Give them books with thick cardboard pages so that they can turn each page. Rolling objects - Your baby loves pushing and crawling after objects that roll. Between 7 and 9 months, your child tries to sit up. They have fun turning over and learning how to crawl. - After 9 months, they begin to crawl. From 10 to 12 months
Stacking games Your child has fun stacking objects, such as empty yogurt containers that fit into each other. Source - Text on the sense of touch written with the help of a child psychologist, Mrs. Hubin-Gayte, maternity researcher and specialist in mother-baby relations. - Dr Edwidge Antier : "Elever mon enfant aujourd’hui".
• Development of your child’s taste
As of the 12th week of pregnancy, the foetus is capable of recognising certain flavours thanks to the amniotic fluid. It perceives all the variety of your diet.
The future baby’s range of flavours begins to develop very early. They quickly discover the 4 sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavours, with a preference for sweetness.
As of birth, your baby already shows signs of pleasure or distaste for each of the basic flavours: their taste buds, more numerous than in adults, are ready to discover flavours. Your baby gradually learns to appreciate other flavours, as the taste of breast milk changes according to your diet.
Tips to develop your child’s taste
From 4 to 6 months
Rubber or soft plastic toys to bite
By biting on these toys, your child plays with their saliva and mouth. Offer them a teething ring, which will help them feel objects in their mouth.
From 7 to 9 months
A varied diet
As of 6 months, your child learns how to put things in their mouth and recognise their consistency. The discovery of new food occurs gradually: pasty foods are gradually replaced by more consistent elements. As of this period of dietary variety, you must stimulate your child’s taste.
- Avoid mixing too many flavours in their mouth: once your baby is familiar with a certain food, you can combine it with a more intense flavour.
- Use spices to enhance the flavour of vegetables without altering them. Coriander and carrots blend well, while cumin is delicious with pumpkin and thyme with cauliflower.
- To introduce them fully to flavours, serve a slightly compact consistency, such as potato purée, with a more liquid consistency, such as tomato sauce.
- Use cooking tricks for certain vegetables that do not look delicious when mixed. To prevent bean purée from becoming grainy, add courgettes, which bind the mixture.
- Dr Edwidge Antier : "Elever mon enfant aujourd’hui".
• Stimulating hearing
Hearing is one of the most highly developed senses of the foetus. As of the 7th month of pregnancy, your baby is able to react to sounds.
The foetus becomes aware of the external world through the sounds that it hears, such as:
• The low sound of the mother’s heartbeat
• The deep voice of the father
These deep frequencies sound muffled to it. They are engraved forever in your baby’s primitive memory. On the contrary, high-pitched sounds incarnate daily life and encourage your child to discover the world – although they can also be a source of stress.
Depending on the frequency of sounds • Your baby can become worried: when they hear high-pitched sounds, such as car horns, doorbells, brakes on a train, the acceleration of a motorcycle or an alarm. You can even sense your baby’s stress in utero with the occurrence of rapid, staccato movements that feel disorderly.
• Your baby can relax when they hear deep sounds, such as the wind in the trees, the sound of waves on the beach, church bells in the distance. In this case, you feel wider and calmer movements when you place your hand on your belly.
During pregnancy, your baby can hear you and react to your emotions: they are sensitive to the sounds of your heart and to your rhythm: soft music can calm them.
After birth, your baby recognises the sounds they heard in utero. They cannot localise the source of a sound emission, but they react to different sounds: they move their limbs or cry… Your baby has their “ears wide open”: lullabies, soft voices and comforting words calm them. These moments of communication are important. Your baby recognises you by your voice and smell, as well as your body. It is important to talk to them and sing to them, especially during cleansing.
You can see that your child hears well when they react to noises in the street, the sound of the phone ringing, the vacuum cleaner, an object falling, etc.
This hearing improves around 3 months, when your baby is able to perceive medium-frequency sounds.
At 4 or 5 months, as your baby grows, they turn their head to face the source of the noise: someone entering the room or turning on the television.
Their ears mature completely at age 5 for high-pitched sounds and at age 10 for low-pitched sounds.
Tips to develop your child’s hearing
• From 0 to 3 months
Create a calm environment
- Soft music (no radio or television)
- The most interesting sound for your child is your voice. Speak softly to your baby and sing often, as you should also do during your pregnancy.
- React to the sounds that they make! You must reassure your baby with soothing words, smiles or caresses if they are surprised or worried.
• From 4 to 6 months
Sit your baby in a “relaxing” seat
They will be calm and well supported by the tilted seat. They can play with you:
- Sing nursery rhymes while moving your hands.
- Imitate the sound of animals: this generally makes babies laugh!
- When you play music, mark the beat with a tambourine or by snapping your fingers.
- Give them a rattle that makes noise: your baby will be delighted to discover the cause-and-effect relationship between the movement of their hand and the noise that is made.
• From 7 to 9 months
Pots and spoons
Your kitchen cupboards are filled with objects that make noise when your child taps on them. Improvise a music group with some jars filled with seeds, some pots and spoons.
Songs for children
Continue to sing nursery rhymes to them, which will stimulate their imagination and language.
You can also play music for your child. For smaller children, choose gentle songs sung by a child. Your child will quickly identify with them.
The choice of musical styles can vary to match the moment: calm before naps and more energetic for playtime.
During cleansing and diaper changes...
Diaper change is an important step that should be a moment to stimulate your baby!
Play with water and bubbles to allow your baby to discover the sound of water.
After the bath…
You can stimulate your baby’s hearing with soft music (CD with music for babies, classical music, etc.).
- Text on hearing written with the help of Dr. Marion, paediatrician.
- Dr Edwidge Antier : "Elever mon enfant aujourd’hui".
• Smell development
In your belly, your baby’s sense of smell already begins to develop before birth. As of the 7th month of pregnancy, the foetus discovers scents transmitted by the amniotic fluid, as smell is closely linked with taste. As of this period, you initiate your child to the smell range of the favourite foods of your family and your culture. Through smell, your baby’s brain makes its first impressions of the outside world.
At birth, your newborn can use these prenatal scents. They act like a recognisable theme that links the world from before with the world that comes after. Your baby retains this information after birth and finds these scents in your breast milk.
Smell helps your baby find your breast and facilitates the first breastfeeds. Your baby rapidly expands their repertory of familiar smells: the scent of your neck and face, your perfume. All of these scents have a positive meaning for them: they motivate your baby to turn to you and they comfort them in moments of solitude.
Your newborn is soothed by any object infused with familiar scents: for example, a scarf that you have worn around your neck. The simple act of leaving this scarf with them can help them sleep. Moreover, their own scent on a stuffed toy or comforter can reassure them.
First expressions of opinion thanks to smell…
As of the very first hours, babies are able to make fine distinctions between smells, showing by mimics which ones they find pleasant. They know how to differentiate a familiar smell from a new smell. Without being exposed to it for long after birth, babies already appreciate the smell of breast milk and that of vanilla, banana, honey, etc. They also show their repugnance or dislike for unpleasant odours.
As of 5 to 6 months, when your baby experiences food directly, they will discover determining oral and nasal sensations. Research shows that dietary flavours and aromas will be more accepted by your child when they are exposed beforehand to varied flavours and scents, particularly through breast milk.
Smell: a source of emotional memories…
Scents can be learned early… and sometimes be remembered for life! They can revive old memories filled with emotion. Likewise, the most poignant olfactory and food aversions can often be traced back to childhood.
The scents of people are other major elements of emotional memories.
Using smell alone, babies can recognise their parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents. This early aptitude is based on the natural scents of people as well as the perfumed products that they wear. The variety of these cosmetic products can thus be a source of enrichment for the olfactory understanding of children.
It is stimulating for a baby to make the most of these special skin care moments to develop their sense of smell!
Tips to develop your child’s sense of smell
- If you are breastfeeding, avoid wearing fragrance and always use the same soap, preferably without a strong scent, so that your baby can discover your natural smell.
- If you are giving them baby formula, which always has the same taste, your baby’s olfactory stimulation can occur naturally upon contact with their environment. Have them smell the objects around them.
- Avoid the presence of cigarette smoke in their immediate environment as this can have a negative effect on their sense of smell.
- To soothe your baby when you have to go away temporarily or to help them fall asleep more easily, leave a scarf (comforter) that you have worn next to them.
- Let your baby be carried by their father, grandmother, big brother, etc. They will be exposed to scents other than your own and will be able to recognise the people around them more easily.
- As of 6 months, when you begin to give them food, teach your child to appreciate the scents around them, not just those of food, but also those of their environment, such as flowers, objects, people…
- Later, around age 1 and a half to 2, you can continue to stimulate your child’s nose with scent games, by having them name scents as they would colours. Books about smells are also an excellent way to talk to them and have them talk about smells.
- Make bathtime a special moment to discover scent. With their unique fragrance, Mustela products awaken your child’s senses. Source - Text on smell: Mustela has summarised the work of B. Schaal, olfactory specialist at the CNRS. - Dr Edwidge Antier : "Elever mon enfant aujourd’hui".
• Tips to develop your child’s vision
At birth, your baby sees blurred images and cannot distinguish relief or colours. They don’t like bright lights, as their retina does not contain enough pigments to protect itself from bright luminosity. Little by little, your baby’s vision expands and improves. At 4 months, they can distinguish a sad face from a happy face. At age 1, they perceive different colours and at age 2, they have approximately 20/40 vision: it is almost as effective as their parents’ vision. Your baby can now perceive and recognise objects from a distance and no longer confuses the primary colours.
Tips to develop your child’s vision
• From 4 to 6 months
- Even when they are very young, you should smile and make facial mimics: your child will respond by imitating you.
Your child will have fun watching their reflection in a mirror! Watching their companion will make them smile, even if they don’t recognise themself yet. A simple mirror or reflective surface is all it takes.
- Faces drawn on cardboard
Stimulate your child’s mind by making black and white cards. Use a thick black marker to draw a smiling face or simple shapes on coloured sheets. Place them near your baby’s cradle.
• From 7 to 9 months
- Coloured blocks
They allow your baby to make intelligent observations. Your baby chooses two cubes and compares them. They are fascinated if you build a tower in front of them and then knock it down.
- Hide-and-seek games
Your child loves playing hide-and-seek with objects. Play with them by making objects disappear and reappear from under dishcloths.
• From 10 to 12 months
- Large stacking blocks
Your child takes more interest in their blocks. They can now pick them up and put them away one by one in a basket. They like to stack them up and watch them fall.
- Pictures and photos
At 12 months, your child begins to take interest in pictures. Create postcards with photos of family members. This activity allows your baby to begin to understand the world around them and recognise faces.
- Dr Edwidge Antier : "Elever mon enfant aujourd’hui".