Hello everyone, welcome to our October newsletter! As always, we provide an overview of what is happening within our childcare community. This month we will focus on the sensorimotor stages of development that occur in the first 12 months of a baby’s life.
Topic of the month - Sensorimotor Activities for Infants
From the moment they are born, babies soak in all the information they can about their surroundings. They take in the world around them and learn to react, manipulate, and interact to achieve their goals.
Jean Piaget first theorised how intelligence begins in infancy by showing how babies start to make sense of the world around them and develop ways to adapt to their environment. Through careful observation, he identified several sensorimotor stages and divided an infant’s first year of life into 3 stages.
In the first 4 months, babies start to learn how to smile from seeing people around them with the same facial expression. Not only that, they also learn to express their joy through smiling. They begin to evoke smiles from people by smiling pointedly.
As they discover joy, they also soon discover discomfort. However, one good thing is they learn coping skills like repeatedly doing self-soothing behaviours like sucking their thumbs.
Along with newly discovered expressions, babies start to become more coordinated, practising their limbs through stretching and kicking. This helps them build their muscles while also learning how their limbs work.
Another innate and primitive behaviour a baby will exhibit is that of grasping anything within their reach. A baby’s grip will be strong and show no control in their limbs except gripping and attaching themselves. After grasping an object, their next step will be to taste and smell it, learning everything it can about an object through touch, taste, and smell.
At 4 months, babies start to learn cause-and-effect relationships. They begin to understand they can influence their environment and their actions have consequences. This is why suddenly the rattle becomes a prized possession. A baby learns that when they shake it, it produces a sound that’s delightful to their ears. Or they may now try to reach for the wind chime over their crib to make it spin or produce sound.
Babies will also start to smile directly at their parent or caregiver to make the other person smile. These intentional interactions help the baby learn cause-and-effect relationships that they initiate.
After learning cause-and-effect relationships between their action towards an object and its outcome, 8-12-month old babies will now act more purposefully. This is also the time babies will explore more using their mouths so parents and caregivers must ensure the objects or sensory materials available to babies are clean and not a choke-hazard. To babies at this age, just absolutely everything needs to be inspected through hands and mouth.
Babies engaged in sensory play will now have goals in their play, coordinating their actions and movements to achieve that goal. For example, they may crawl to the other side of the room to get to their favourite toy. Or they may push aside other toys to reach for it. These actions show how your baby is learning that they can do a series of actions that achieves their goal.
They will also be more attentive to certain words they hear, turning their attention to the source.
Play Activities during the Sensorimotor Stage
Object permanence is a cognitive concept where babies learn that an object continues to exist even when it’s not in sight.For the first few months, babies tend to think an object has ceased to exist when it’s out of sight. This is why peak-a-boo is such a revelation for them. However, starting at 8 months or even as early as 6 months, some babies start to realise that an object does continue to exist even when it’s not in their sight.
Another game that reinforces a baby’s concept of object permanence, hide-n-seek gives a baby a chance to harness their goal-oriented actions. Whereas a 3-month old baby will ignore a hidden toy and will not look for it anymore while an 8-month old will now search for the hidden object.
Starting from 8 months, babies learn that an object continues to exist whether or not they can see them. And their cognitive development at this stage allows them to concentrate enough to seek the toy that has been hidden from them. It also boosts their problem-solving skills as they try to find the hidden object.
Best for 8-12 month old babies, building blocks allow babies at this stage to fully exercise their hand-eye coordination while also manipulating and exploring objects to meet their goal. Whether it’s building a tower or a random structure, it gives a baby autonomy and opportunity to flex their creative solving skills and improve their fine motor skills.
While commercially available playdough is still off-limits for infants who use their hands and mouth to inspect and test everything, edible playdough materials are the best substitutes for a sensory-filled activity. Anything from fruits and vegetables with various textures like apples and pears to carrots, broccoli and cauliflower to oats or oatmeal, mashed potatoes or rice, these highly manipulative or malleable foods allow babies to explore them at their own pace. Whether it’s grouping, separating, combining, shaping, or even throwing, these sensory materials allow babies to interact with it and improve their sensory experiences.
Moving from solids to liquids, babies aged 8-12 month old are constantly developing their ability to use their hands and fingers. Gradually their sense of control will get stronger. Having them create oobleck helps babies establish the cause-and-effect relationship and transformation of separate ingredients to an oobleck. Depending on the ratio of cornstarch and water, the oobleck can change consistency from gooey to dough-y. This oobleck is highly malleable and great for sensory play as babies run their fingers through it, grab it, and form it into any shape they want.
These bottles give babies a lot to look at and observe. These bottles are usually filled with materials that interact with each other, create visions that are uniquely interesting to babies or produce unique sounds particular to the materials in a bottle. It could be a bottle specifically for vision, hearing, or a combination of both.
As babies learn cause-and-effect relationships, they can interact with a vision bottle, for example, to see a red blob floating around a much bigger green liquid. Or they can shake and roll a hearing bottle that produces various sounds from the different materials in the bottle.
Sensorimotor stage is the developmental stage where infants make sense of their immediate environment. From starting to learn how to smile and entertain themselves to exploring ways to get what they want, infants develop and learn at an incredible speed in their first 12 months and become a solid foundation for the coming developmental stages.
0-12 month development
The surprising science of breast milk
Author: Anna Turns
Breast milk has been routinely recommended as the best food for an infant to up to 2 years of age but why is that? Researchers have gone on to study what makes breast milk better than formula and how it can help milk manufacturers formulate a better and closer formula. As studies have shown, while breast milk seems like a simple combination of water, fat, protein, and maternal antibodies among others, the formulation of breast milk can differ based on the mother’s diet, the time of day, and even along the feeding timeline.
Learn more about the science of breast milk and how manufacturers of infant formula are trying to improve its formulation here.
1-2 year development
When do babies start walking, and how does it develop? (An illustrated guide)
Author: Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.
Are you wondering when your 1-year old or infant is going to start trotting off on their own? Read on to find out about the milestones infants take that show signs of development in the department of walking for a child here.
2-3 year development
The Best Foods for Your Child's Cognitive Development
Author: Kayla Garritano
What toddlers eat fuel their brains and if their diet consists of food that’s high in sugar and is ultra-processed, it may hinder their cognitive development. Studies show that children who eat these food types have trouble with basic cognitive functions, inhibiting their development.
Find out which food types help children’s cognitive development in this article.
3-4 year development
How To Keep Kids From Putting Stuff In Their Mouths
Author: Matthew Utley
At this age, toddlers start to test their newfound independence and mobility by exploring, sometimes, if not often, by putting things in their mouths. When introduced to new things, their instinct to grab it, hold onto it tight, and straight into their mouths. But there can also be different reasons why a toddler proceeds to stuff things in their mouth like if they’re thirsty, hungry, teething, want attention or anxious.
So before this behaviour becomes a habit, find out how you can prevent your child from being an expert in taste testing of things here.
4-5 year development
Does screen time before bed affect your child’s sleep? Here’s what the research shows
Author: Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN
After a long active day for your child, how do you wind them down and get them ready to sleep? Are you guilty of allowing your child to have screen time just so they finally sit still and calm down? While having your child become more digitally adept is not bad, new research shows that screen time can contribute to your child’s interrupted sleep patterns. Images and scenes they encounter before bedtime may cause children to have nightmares and wake them in the middle of the night.
Read on to find out how screen time can be the secret culprit to your child’s less-than-ideal sleep pattern and find alternative ways you can wind them down.
How To Make Fizzing Lemonade (Edible Science for Kids)
Quench children’s thirst for learning by having them make their own fizzy lemonade. Adult supervision may be required when adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. We advise the teacher to add the bicarbonate of soda to every cup to avoid any accidental ingestion.
Children love to play in a sandbox but there’s more to the soil than it looks. Help teach them about how fabulous the earth is with these soil layers activity that helps them visualise the layers of soil in our environment using yummy substitutes like chocolate pudding, gummy worms and chocolate chips.
This craft teaches young ones how water cycles through the earth and atmosphere. An activity that lasts for multiple days, based on the weather, sharpen their observational skills and cognitive development with this activity.
Launch mini rockets with the force of a toddler’s stomp with this STEAM activity. While they may need help when it comes to measuring the fins, they can practise their fine motor skills cutting, pasting and crafting their tiny rocket into the juice pouch propeller.