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Sensory Development

How to Stimulate Your Baby's Sensory Development

by Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP
From the womb, birth, and beyond, your baby's senses are constantly developing. These essential tips will help her continue to experience and enjoy the world in a healthy and productive way.


Your baby's hearing finishes developing in the womb before the end of the third trimester. She'll get used to hearing your voice as well as language patterns, and may enjoy music even before she is born. In the first few months you may notice her calming down to familiar tunes she heard in the womb, and as she gets older she may dance to fun beats. Choose music you both like, but once she can understand lyrics, you'll want to make sure they're kid-friendly and good for building her vocabulary!

Senses of Smell and Taste

A baby's senses of smell and taste are also fairly well developed at birth, although preferences may change with time. You can continue to stimulate these senses by exposing her to various smells both inside and outside the house (think yummy home cooking or fresh air). Breastfeeding babies will experience different flavors in mom's milk, but children of all ages can and should be offered age-appropriate foods with all kinds of tastes, smells, and textures.

Sense of Touch

Infants touch objects with their hands as well as their mouths, so don't be surprised if your baby decides to lick or chew a rattle, book, or anything else within her reach. Offer furry, crinkly, bumpy, soft, smooth, and other textured surfaces for her to feel against her skin. Great touchable items include small blankets, play mats, or touch-and-feel books. Also choose toys your baby can safely grab and put in her mouth - ones that don't have small pieces or sharp edges.


A newborn can see relatively clearly from about 12 to 18 inches in front of her-basically the distance between your face and hers while you're holding her. So be sure to show any items you'd like her to see fairly close up. Babies love human faces the most, so she'll love looking at you. But you can also stimulate her vision by providing objects with contrasting, bright colors, while avoiding fine lines and details. By 6 months of age infant vision is much better, so your baby will be more likely to appreciate pictures on the walls as well as hanging mobiles.  
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Meet Our Expert
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Pediatrician & CNN Health Columnist
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, is a mother and practicing pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia. A frequent guest on national and local television, radio, and web-based programs, she is medical editor in chief of, is the Living Well health expert for, contributes medical information to, and serves on the Parents magazine advisory board.

Dr. Shu also coauthored the award-winning books: Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup and Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.

She has chaired the young physicians sections for both the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association and formerly served as director of the normal newborn nursery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
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Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP