Sensory and Rhythmic Play in the Early Days
Celine Stonex (Guest Play Therapist)
A baby’s relationship with his/her parents begins to develop during pregnancy. As early as 16 weeks, the mother starts to feel the first few flutters and a playful dialogue commences between mother and baby!
At around 20 to 24 weeks, the foetus will take on a more ‘human’ appearance, display a variety of facial expressions, yawn, suck his/her thumb; he/she will start to develop their senses: taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing (Although some studies have shown that taste can begin to develop as early as 14 weeks!). This highlights how incredibly important the sensory system is.
As babies develop in the womb, they become increasingly able to respond to different tastes, smells, are aware of changing light and appreciate music. Babies recognise their mother’s voice and develop an understanding of its rhythm and flow. In the same sense, harsher sounds and shouting can also startle a foetus and they can sense the tension in the mother’s body.
During the first trimester, importance is placed on the development of the foetus and the mother’s physical state. As mothers enter the second trimester, and hopefully morning sickness comes to a close, it is time to start being creative and playful with your baby!
The relationship develops and flourishes through singing, talking, telling stories, humming, swaying, dancing, warm baths or light massages. These rhythmic and sensory experiences allow babies to begin to make sense of the world that awaits them.
Whilst there is no set prescription for what games to play, different ways of communicating such as whispering secrets, sharing jokes, passing on caregiving thoughts, making up stories and sharing dreams can be a great way for mothers and babies to practise little role plays.
Imagine, during a conversation between a mother and her baby, as the mother opens up about her thoughts, she might playfully speculate, 'If you could speak, I bet you'd be urging me to leave this cozy bed and take a walk!'"
This role play and playful use of imagination makes space for empathy as we start to infer how the baby may be thinking and feeling. These beautiful interactions become a great blueprint for future empathic responses to our little ones!
The first 6 months.
Babies begin to play almost as soon as they are born! They want to interact, they begin to mirror and differentiate different facial expressions. These early interactions are similar to pregnancy play.
A series of rhythmic and sensory experiences such as stroking, rocking, feeding, humming, storytelling and singing to communicate a sense of safety and connection between one another. Although the first months of becoming a parent are incredibly taxing, exhausting and filled with highs and lows, an incredible bond is forming through these reciprocal games.
Over the course of the following six months, these games can be introduced in a sequential order of development, fostering the baby's sensory and cognitive growth: Mirroring the baby’s noises, allowing and encouraging the infant to follow sounds, voices, moving toys; caressing and patting babies with soft toys.
Baby massages, peek-a-boo, hand claps, finger play, bubbles and splashing. Blowing ‘raspberries’, body games, dancing, singing, introducing a variety of toys and puppets, and allowing the baby to experiment with different textures, smells and sensory experiences.
By following this developmental sequence, caregivers can progressively nurture the baby's sensory and cognitive abilities, fostering a deeper connection and supporting their overall growth and development.
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