The first 18 months of an infant’s life are an extremely delicate developmental phase. During this time, a child’s physical, emotional and cognitive development takes place at an accelerated and intense level.
Two key factors which are essential to help ensure that a child adapts to the world around them and that helps to prevent cognitive and developmental delays, is effective sensory stimulation.
Regular, high-quality sleep is also an extremely important factor at this time.
So how can you use sensory stimulation to help improve your child’s sleep and, in turn, to enable them to develop well?
Sleep and Sensory Stimulation
The first five years of a child’s development are the most crucial, in terms of their brain development and growth.
When a child is born, the brain stem is the most developed part of the baby’s brain.
Sensory stimulation is paramount in helping to encourage the brain’s development. In turn, stable, quality sleep will ensure that your child is able to absorb what they have learned during the day.
The effective combination and balance of both sleep and sensory stimulation is key to helping your child develop healthily.
How To Stimulate The Senses
All the senses play an important role and in turn, help to promote better sleep for your child.
One of the main senses that is used is touch.
The four remaining senses take some time to develop fully, so the sense of touch takes on a principal role in sensory development.
Most often, tactile stimulation tends to come from the mother, or primary caregiver.
Several studies and experiments across a range of species, including worms and rats, have repeatedly proven that the parental touch (particularly from mothers) is essential for normal development.
“Tactile stimulation is essential for babies,” says, a health writer at Revieweal and Boomessays. “So, lots of hugs, kisses and general touching and stroking can be extremely beneficial to your developing baby. Skin-to-skin contact is another fantastic strategy. Either just cuddling your baby while they are wearing a nappy, or carrying them close to your chest in a baby-carrier, can be a great way to provide tactile stimulation and encourage bonding.”
Of course, babies need to process all the information that they acquire through sensory stimulation.
In order for them to be able to do this successfully, the appropriate amount of sleep for your baby’s age is helpful.
Using Sensory Stimulation to Encourage Better Sleep
Exposing your child to an environment which is visually dynamic, or which has an array of sounds for example, will help to tire your child out faster.
Engaging in a range of activities which stimulate all the senses, such as tickling, playing, making funny faces, singing nursery rhymes, playing with colorful toys or performing actions with your hands, all require a lot of attention and energy from your baby.
Your baby will be responding to all the sensory stimulation you are providing, but they will then need time to process these experiences.
It is during sleep that they are able to do this. As such, one way to help your child develop deeper, longer sleep is to provide them with a wide variety of sensory stimulation whilst they are awake.
But don’t forget to put your baby down in an environment conducive to sleep – dark and quiet.
The Power of Music
One of the most effective forms of sensory stimulation to aid sleep is the use of music. By exposing your baby to some calm, soothing music before bed, you can help train your child to become aware that this signals bedtime.
This technique is most effective if you expose your child to the same piece of music before sleep every night. In essence, you are gently conditioning your child’s mind to realize that it is time to sleep and over time, they will fall asleep faster.
The key to this technique is consistency. Choosing a soothing song or piece of music is also essential. “You could try a piece of classical music or some classic nursery rhymes,” says, a parenting blogger at UKWritings and Essayroo.
“Over time, your baby will associate the song with sleep and even if your child is wide awake and refusing to sleep, with the familiar sequence of songs, they can fall fast asleep before you know it!”
The Wonders of Routine
As well as consistency with regards to the music that you use before bedtime, you also need to be consistent with a bedtime routine.
A regular sleep routine will help your child to recognize that it is time to go to sleep. Using a mixture of tactile, visual and auditory stimulations can be helpful to calm your baby and prepare them for bedtime.
One of the most effective opportunities for sensory engagement is at bath time.
There is evidence to suggest that bathing can be a calming and soothing experience for babies, as well as helping to promote bonding.
You can give your baby a gentle massage with gently scented baby-oils or lotions.
Using familiar scents, such as a mother’s scent, can also help to calm a baby and reduce crying. Engaging in lots of visual stimulation, such as direct and loving gazes and smiles can encourage and facilitate social development.
All of this also allows for touch and promotes bonding, as well as reassuring the baby that they are safe, which will in turn help them to sleep more soundly.
Having a consistent routine each night will help prepare your child for sleep, reduce night waking and increase the longest sleep periods.
As a result of better-quality sleep, your baby will be better able to process and categorize all the information they have acquired during their waking hours.
Regular sensory stimulation is a powerful tool in helping your child learn about the world around them and helping them to develop effectively, especially during the early phase of their life.
Ensuring that your child has solid rest is key in helping them to be able to develop healthily.
Furthermore, using sensory stimulation to your advantage will help to promote more predictable sleeping patterns for your child, which will be beneficial to both your baby and you.
Aimee Laurence is a writer and tutor at Online Assignment Help and University Assignments websites. She regularly writes about parenting, offering advice on a range of topics from healthy eating to sleep training techniques. Aimee is also a freelance editor at Essay Writer portal.