Parents' Corner

How Much Sensory Stimulation Is Appropriate for an Infant?

Posted by Dave Smith on Wed, Nov 29, 2023 @ 08:00 AM

Sensory stimulation is a powerful tool for helping infants to understand and connect with the world around them. But it’s also important to be mindful of cues from infants to make sure they aren’t overwhelmed by sensory-rich experiences. So, how much sensory stimulation is appropriate for an infant?

Health.Choc.com lists some activities that can be appropriate by age:

  • 0-3 months: bath time, a colorful mobile for the baby to watch, singing, talking, and bouncing 
  • 3-6 months: playing with food, shaking rattles, and tummy time
  • 6-9 months: playing in various positions on the floor, peek-a-boo, and blowing bubbles
  • 9-12 months: crawling/walking, playing on swings, water play, and playing on grass

As far as what’s too much, let your child’s reaction be the guide. One baby might love a certain kind of sensory-rich play while another may dislike that type but greatly enjoy another. If you notice that your child is having difficulties with processing a certain activity, don’t completely avoid it. Instead, introduce it in small bits. The example given: messy play. Some dive right in while others may feel uncomfortable with, say, finger painting or playing with wet sand. You could, then, provide a drop of paint in the tub and encourage your baby to touch it. Experiment but don’t force the issue.

RaisingChildren.net.au notes how, if your baby does become overstimulated, the remedy is quiet time in a calm, familiar environment. Signs of being overstimulated as a newborn or baby include tiredness and irritability, moving in a jerky fashion, turning the head away, clenching fists, kicking, waving arms, and crying. There are, of course, other explanations for these behaviors but, if your baby has been in a noisy or otherwise sensory-rich environment, being overstimulated is a possible explanation. 

Pay attention to what situations trigger these responses in your baby, TheBump.com suggests. This information can help you to prevent overstimulation from happening again or at least reduce its frequency and/or intensity. Tips to help include keeping to a regular feeding schedule as much as possible, fitting quiet time into the baby’s day, and avoiding screen time until the child is two years old. Parents have to run errands—but try to keep them as short as possible. 

Perhaps the most important is to follow a consistent sleeping routine at night and at naptime. Watch for signs of sleepiness in your baby, which is a signal for quiet time. 

Explore Horizon Education Centers

Experienced teachers at Horizon Education Centers know how much sensory stimulation is appropriate for an infant—and, more importantly, because each child in our infant care program is assigned a primary caregiver, that teacher will know what’s right specifically for your child. Horizon pairs a sensory-rich environment with the amount of downtime needed to take the right approach for your baby. Babies have access to developmentally appropriate toys in an engaging atmosphere backed by a creative curriculum. 

For a one-on-one tour at the center of your choice, fill out this form

Horizon Education Centers offers infant care in Lorain County and Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Topics: Child Development, Infant Care

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