The development of the senses begins well before we are able to appreciate the sight of a beautiful sunset or enjoy the feel of rain on our skin. You might not pay much attention to your senses until one of them is not functioning properly. For example, given that it is cold and flu season, many people can probably attest to how bland food tastes when they are unable to smell. For children, seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling started well before birth.
At birth, the sense of smell is the most advanced of the five senses. This makes perfect sense (no pun intended), given that babies get plenty of practice using their olfactory sense while in the womb. They smell the amniotic fluid, which is rich with aromas! Amazingly, when babies are only a few days old, they are able to distinguish the smell of their own mother’s milk and that of another woman’s, showing preference for a blanket that has a bit of milk on it from Mom.
The sense of hearing goes through most of its development in the womb. The inner ear fully develops around the 20th week of pregnancy, and at birth the ability to hear is fully developed. What did your baby listen to in utero? Your heartbeat, your stomach grumbling, blood flowing, and other fluids. It is actually quite noisy in there! Studies have even demonstrated auditory preferences after birth, which are connected with the sounds that babies heard in the womb.
Amazingly, taste buds resemble those of an adult’s by the 13th – 15th week of pregnancy. Taste is strongly linked to smell, so it makes sense that babies are born with taste preferences that resemble their mother’s. No surprise that babies love sweet tastes, given the natural sweetness of human milk.
Just before the 8th week of pregnancy, babies are able to experience touch. They spend the next seven months touching their faces, appendages, and the walls of their snug environment. Some fetuses may even respond to gentle patting by relaxing while in the womb.
Finally, the sense of sight really begins to develop at birth. While they are born with all the right parts, babies do not get a chance to practice seeing while in the womb, which is dark and may only let in trace amounts of very bright lights. Once born, babies can see roughly 5 to 15 inches, about the distance from the crook of their caregiver’s arm to the face.
At World of Enrichment, our classes are designed with sensory stimulation in mind. Be it art classes that help develop experience in color of depth perception, or music classes that tap into the importance of sound, we recognize the importance of the senses to healthy development. Children will rely on the five senses to make sense of the environment throughout their lives. World of Enrichment helps to develop safe and creative ways to begin this exploration.