Oh, if I had only known what I know now about sensory stimulation for infants!
First, let me tell you a story... a friend of mine shared with me the most important "lesson" he learned while attending Lamaze classes with his wife 18 years ago. During one of the classes the instructor emphatically told the couples, "Do NOT adjust to your baby... have THEM adjust to YOU!" My friend went on to describe how this materialized, from the first day of his little girl's life on.
As my friend, his wife and their new baby left the hospital, they ever so gently placed their precious newborn into her car seat and started driving home to begin their "new life". My friend began driving and, almost instinctively, avoided EVERY bump, EVERY pothole, carefully and slowly rounded each corner, so as not to disturb or "hurt" his little baby, until... he remembered the Lamaze instructors words. It was that defining moment which changed everything... he let go and just began to drive as he normally would (not dangerously, just "normally"). "The rest", they say, "is history."
Therefore, it is critically important that we provide our children with a variety of sensory stimulation from the moment they are born. Notice, I didn't say "bombard them" or "overwhelm them". We should introduce them to sensory stimulation naturally and gradually, yet often enough so they can integrate this stimuli, make sense of it, and be able to efficiently act on and use it for the purpose it serves. Infants, babies, and toddlers actually LEARN through their senses. IT IS, in fact, THE WAY they learn. Without being able to take in, interpret and use this sensory information effectively, proper learning will NOT occur, and milestones will be delayed.
Remember, sensory processing theories are heavily based on the influence of the 5 "typical" senses AS WELL AS (and perhaps more importantly) the interoceptive, vestibular, and proprioceptive senses. These latter 3 are at the root of any individual's ability to effectively process and use sensory stimulation, no matter which sense you are referring to. If these 3 core sensory systems (at the central nervous system level) do not interpret sensory stimuli properly, then your precious little infant will start showing signs VERY EARLY on. We MUST be aware of this and recognize these signs as quickly as possible! (Click Here For An In Depth List Of The Signs And Symptoms In Infants/Toddlers!) If we address it early enough, we can prevent the all encompassing and debilitating functional impact that sensory processing disorders can have on a child.
Have you ever heard of a program called "early intervention"? If not, let me explain... it is a free program in many states, (but some do charge, or bill insurance for OT/PT, etc.) which is available in every community and is usually part of the educational system. If you EVER have any concerns about your child's development not being "on target" before the age of 3, you should call your local early intervention program (if you don't know who they are, start by calling the school department or your child's pediatrician).
Once a referral is made (and YOU can make the "referral"), a team of therapists will come to your home to discuss your concerns and professionally evaluate your child. If your child is delayed, or even "at risk" for a delay (such as being born premature, living in or with certain environmental or social conditions, or has a known disability), a variety of developmental professionals can help address and actively treat your child, at no cost/minimal cost, to you. Sensory processing disorders (also called sensory integration dysfunction) are certainly a necessary part of that evaluation as they influence developmental milestones. So, if you have ANY concerns, speak up... please! Catching sensory processing disorders as early as possible WILL minimize any negative effects on your child's development.
It is with these concepts in mind, that I feel passionately responsible to emphasize the importance of sensory stimulation on infants, babies, and toddlers. It has been proven over and over again that if infants and babies are neglected or deprived of sensory stimulation, they WILL NOT develop "normally". They WILL likely have a sensory processing disorder that, if not addressed, will be carried into childhood and adulthood.
Here is just one, of many examples... there is an extremely high correlation between infants who are tube fed for any extended time to those who have ORAL DEFENSIVENESS. Why? Because they never received any sensory stimulation in their mouths (or, if they did, it may have been intrusive, invasive and uncomfortable; due to certain medical procedures), thus becoming hypersensitive in that area. So, when they are finally able to be fed orally, they may resist, gag, and/or choke.
So, please, I beg of you... give your children as much sensory stimulation to all of their "8 senses" as possible. Do not force them, or overwhelm them, just gradually introduce them to a variety of sights, sounds, tastes, textures, movement, touch and tactile input every day! Their fragile, malleable little nervous systems will begin to acclimate and adjust. If there are any of the "8 senses" they absolutely will not tolerate, then call in the specialists! It is VITALLY important.
Keeping this all in mind, I would like to help you pick the best infant, and toddler toys (sensory integration toys) that will benefit your child's sensory system and give them the sensory stimulation they need. They are developmental infant toys. They are toddler educational toys. They are infant and toddler activities that should be used. They are kids toys and play equipment that will provide wonderful sensory stimulation for your child.
Infant stimulation, infant toys, and infant activities are all CRITICALLY important for proper infant development. Toddler toys, activities for toddlers, and toddler equipment based on providing sensory stimulation are also invaluable and highly recommended for normal sensory development.
Like I said, "Get 'em when they're young!". Here is a
start to a whole host of developmental, sensory stimulation, and educational
toys which you can introduce to your child.
(For SO MANY MORE, Check Out Sensory Integration Products)
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