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Natalie Clauss

Aspects of child development - senses

In the last article, I went into the prenatal development of a baby and very briefly covered one major area: sensory development. I would now like to go into more detail about the senses here.

A very crucial organ for the processing of all senses is the central nervous system and thus the brain, which is why I will briefly describe it here. The CNS is already created in the 3rd week and continues to mature until the end of pregnancy and far beyond. Ultimately, the CNS in all its facets is not fully mature until the age of 24. However, the areas necessary for sensory development are fully mature long before that.

Almost all sensory organs such as the ears with the sense of hearing and balance, the eyes for vision, the nose for smell, the skin for touch, feel and the perception of joint positions (proprioceptive perception) and also the tongue for taste are laid out in the early embryonic period and mature during pregnancy.

Especially the olfactory sense (smelling) is already very well developed at birth. A newborn would always recognize its mother by smell if she is not wearing artificial scents. A baby can also already taste and hear well at birth. Other areas of perception, such as visual perception (seeing), continue to develop after birth. Here it becomes clear that, judging by the stage of development, the baby could still use some time in the womb. We are all physiological premature babies.

A newborn can only see sharply at the "nursing distance", i.e. a distance of about 20 to 30cm. Everything else the baby visibly practices in the next weeks and months. It follows us more and more with its eyes, it focuses and practices targeted grasping, for which it must of course also see sharply. It is a tremendous coordination of eyes and hands.

The receptors for touching and feeling are initially most pronounced in the mouth. A baby therefore also puts all things in its mouth first, feeling their shape, size and texture. In the next few months, they will increasingly use their hands to touch things, but this must first be practiced. Also, the motor skills of a baby with hands are not yet so mature, so that the feeling is also limited by the still undirected movement. After all, the feet come after the hands and are only perceived much later as a body part in their own right, because they are also quite far away. You see here already clear connections to the motor development and also to the development of an own body image.

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