“Have you lost your sense?” This is a dialogue that we have all heard at one or another point in our lives.

But what does being in our senses mean?

The Human body has five distinct senses; Sight, Hearing, Smell, Touch, and Taste. Below is a brief explanation of the mechanics of our five senses:

The 5 Senses

Sight: When the neurotransmitters or receptors in the eyes react to stimuli like light and help the brain form visual images.

Hearing: When the inner ear receptors translate, stimuli presented as sounds.

Smell: When the receptors in the nose detect chemicals like fragrances, odors, or aromas.

Touch: When the receptors in the skin collect information about textures, temperature, and pressure of an object and transmit this information to the brain.

Taste: When the receptors on the tongue react to chemicals in flavors; sweet, sour, bitter, or bland.

As defined by the Cambridge English dictionary, the term’ Senses’ is “an ability to understand, recognize, value, or react to something, especially any of the five physical abilities to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.” (sense, 2021) So basically, being in our senses refers to being able to use our five senses in understanding the outside world and in processing meaning out of the stimuli presented to us.

Are Senses a learned skill or an inherited phenomenon?

The five senses are not learned skills but are natural abilities present in the human body at the time of birth. However, not all five senses are fully developed at the time of birth. For example, while a newborn child may possess a fully developed sense of smell and taste, sight is not as developed. An infant of age one month can only see objects that are as much as 12 inches away from their eyes. At the time of birth, children are not entirely in control of their bodies. They primarily rely on the infant reflex, which means they easily get startled by stimuli like loud noises or sudden movements. Over time, the senses develop, the sense of sight, for example, develops and strengthens; it takes around 7-9 months to develop fully.

Below is a detailed chart of how each sense develops during early childhood:

Sight

Initially, at the time of birth, an infant cannot see beyond 12 inches. The infant is also only able to see bright colors. Over two months, the baby starts developing the ability to follow objects with their eyes and make head movements. The child can see all colors and as far as one yard away once they reach the age of 3-4 months. It takes around 7-9 months for a child’s sense of sight to get to the level like that of an adult.

Hearing

The sense of hearing, unlike sight, is fully developed even at the time of birth. Babies can recognize the voice of their mothers. Babies rely heavily on the sense of hearing as their sight is compromised in the initial months after birth. At around the age of 2- months, babies develop the ability to make sounds themselves. By the age of 4 months, babies understand the tone that we use to communicate. A 6-7 months old baby tries to copy sounds and can also understand most of the talk that is made with them. Language development is more advanced towards the completion of the first year of a child’s life. Children of age one year and above communicate using actions and single words.

Taste

Children are born with the sense of taste, fully developed. Babies can distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter, and bland and different textures of food, based on which they may often refuse certain food items.

Why is sensory development significant?

The five senses help humans to be aware of their bodies and their surroundings in order to perform everyday tasks. It is with the use of bodily senses that children learn to balance. The five body senses play an essential part in the development of gross and fine motor skills. For example, the sense of touch helps develop the ability to hold objects between fingers and the thumb (pincer grasp), which is a fine motor skill. Children develop cognitive skills through senses, such as telling the difference between hot, cold, soft, and rough objects. Moreover, hearing, sight, and touch also help children develop social ties with their playmates through social interaction.

How to assist sensory development in children?

Sensory Play activities are activities that help develop a child’s sensory skills. These include:

  • playing in the sandbox

  • Playing with Play-Doh

  • creating and using string phones

  • walking barefoot on different surfaces, like grass, concrete, sand

  • collage making with other materials.

Girl playing with play-doh

The sensory development process has a natural pace. When you engage with your kids in play-acting, you enhance their learning experience. It also helps them build a more vital ability to react to sensory information. Because they learn to react better to stimuli present in their environment.

Sensory disorders:

A delayed or slower than normal sensory development can mean that your child suffers from some sensory disorder. A child who has difficulty discriminating between two objects based on how they look, sound, taste, or smell may suffer from a “Sensory Discrimination disorder.” Similarly, if a child has trouble with locomotion or develops her gross or fine motor skills slowly, the child might suffer from a “Sensory-based Motor Skills disorder.” It is also a possibility that a child is suffering from “Sensory Modulation Disorder”, meaning that the child may over or under-react to stimuli from the environment.

Conclusion:

Sensory development is indeed a building block of a child’s overall growth and development. Parents or caretakers must actively take part and keenly observe their children’s behavior to ensure a more sound sensory development of their child.

Works Cited 

Dictionary.cambridge.org. 2021. sense. [online] Available at: <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/sense> [Accessed 28 July 2021].