© Copyright, 2007-2011 Sensorize, Sensorized;  All rights reserved.
Use the information provided on this site as an educational resource for determining your options and making your
own informed choices. It is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any specific illness.

Born to Learn
Babies are born virtually programmed to learn. Before birth, genetics determine how the brain is "wired."
Neurons travel to different parts of the brain, forming connections, called synapses, that await stimulation.  
Once a baby is born, every experience-sight, sound, touch, taste and smell-helps stimulate those synapses
and create trillions more.  Interested in
children's brain development?

Birth - 6 Months: Stimulating Sensory and Motor Development  

Even the tiniest newborn is poised to soak up sensory data like a sponge-and in doing so, stimulate brain
development.  A newborn's vision is limited, which is why tiny infants respond best to black-and-white
objects, bright colors and bold graphics. But vision develops quickly, along with motor control. As early as
the second month, babies will begin studying their hands and swiping at objects. Most begin rolling over
between two and six months.

For babies under six months, the best toys are:
- Colorful mobiles and banners that stimulate vision
- Rattles, teethers and other sensory toys that expose baby to a variety of sounds and textures
- Baby safe mirrors (babies are drawn to faces)
- Activity centers and baby gyms that encourage reaching and grasping
- "Tummy time" toys that help build abdominal strength (a must for back-sleeping babies)
- Age-appropriate educational videos and music that stimulate vision and hearing

6 - 12 Months: Interactive Play

During this period, babies discover cause and effect-shaking, banging and pushing every object within
reach. Hand-eye coordination improves; favorite games are "clap hands," "pat-a-cake" and "peek-a-boo."
addition, they begin to put sounds together to form simple words.

For babies between 6 - 12 months, the best toys are:
- Activity centers and push/pull toys that allow baby to create movement
- Musical and sound-making toys
- Shape sorters and nesting cups, which reinforce the concept of object permanence
- Adventure courses that encourage creeping and crawling
- First photo albums
- Gentle rockers and bouncers, which satisfy baby's love of motion
- Stuffed animals, dolls and "blankies" for cuddling
- Age-appropriate educational videos and music
- Storybooks that you read to baby.

12 - 18 Months: Goal-Oriented Play

Many children begin walking around their first birthday, and with this exciting new skill comes a strong
desire to explore. Most toddlers are goal-oriented and driven to experiment. They begin imitating
grown-ups physically and verbally. Through constant activity, they begin strengthening large muscles and
improving fine motor coordination.

For tots 12 - 18 months, the best toys are:
- Building blocks, play sets and bead mazes that encourage experimentation and help develop fine motor
- Active toys, such as toddler swing sets, safety trikes and wagons that allow tots to delight in motion, while
building strong muscles
- Very simple musical instruments
- "Hands on" toys like a jack-in-the-box, pail and shovel, and water toys
- Stuffed animals, dolls and "blankies" for cuddling
- Age-appropriate educational videos and music
- Storybooks that you read to baby.

18 - 24 Months: Problem-Solving Play

At this age, tots begin using their imagination. Children engage in imitative and make-believe play and
problem solving strategies. They can match objects by shape and color, follow simple instructions, and
dance to music. Language also explodes around 18 months, and toddlers acquire new words at a
mind-boggling rate.

For tots 18-24 months, the best toys are:
- Rocking horses, playhouses, miniature appliances and other toys that foster imitative play
- Puppets and dolls
- Costumes
- Puzzles, blocks and construction sets that create opportunities for problem solving
- Active toys, such as toddler swing sets, safety trikes and vehicles that encourage muscle growth and
- Simple musical instruments
- Stuffed animals, dolls and "blankies" for cuddling
- Age-appropriate educational videos and music
- Storybooks that you read together.

24 - 36 Months: The Age of Mastery

Fine motor coordination is on the upswing! Now kids are ready for arts and crafts projects, simple sports
and beginning board games. Children this age are very responsive to music, videos and books. By the time
they reach their third birthdays, most kids are fluent talkers. With this growing competency, many are
ready for more "big kid" toys.

For children 24-36 months, the best toys are:
- Art and craft supplies, such as finger paints, chalk boards, easels and modeling clay
- Simple board games for beginners
- Train sets and cars; dolls with accessories
- Rocking horses, playhouses, miniature appliances and other toys that foster imitative play
- Costumes
- Puzzles and construction sets that create opportunities for problem solving
- Swing sets, sand boxes, trikes and other riding vehicles
- Electronic educational games and workbooks that introduce kids to phonics, the alphabet and numbers
- Simple musical instruments
- Stuffed animals, dolls and "blankies" for cuddling
- Age-appropriate educational videos and music
- Storybooks that you read together.

See our
Developmental Toy Page for babies & toddlers toys!

See the fantastic
Value of Play article (PDF).
Toys, Products, and Ideas
for Sensory Education
Sensory Integration is the process by which a child learns to use information from all of the senses for
learning and maturation. These senses include body position, how the body moves, his/her relationship to
gravity, and, of course sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The senses weave together to develop a
child's sense of him/herself, as well as the world all around. Receiving and interpreting this information is
the first step in ALL learning.

Sensory integration disorders can be difficult to detect, especially in young children. We expect young
children to be curious about all sorts of stimuli, to have short attention spans, and to be easily distracted.
But there are some signs that may help to indicate when a dysfunction is present. These include: extreme
disorganization or purposelessness of activities, a lack of variety in playtime activities, a failure to explore
new environments or move around, excessive clumsiness, difficulty returning to a calm state after an
upset, and seeking excessive sensory stimuli.

The following list contains concerns that MAY indicate a need for Sensory Integration therapy. All children
display these behaviors occasionally. Also, children may display these traits for reasons other than sensory
integrative needs. However, if several of these concerns are noted over a period of time an evaluation may
be warranted. A pediatric therapist can assist parents in deciding whether an evaluation is needed.  
California has an
Early Start Program that allows eligible children to be evaluated at no cost.
Understanding Brain Development in Young Children.  See our Attachment Parenting page for support.
See our
Developmental Toy Page for babies & toddlers toys and Strategies Page for helpful hints.

Birth to 12 Months                                                                                   See Also Infant/Toddler Checklist
Babies & Toddlers
Good Sensory Integration:
The baby...   
  • After six weeks of age has fairly well-established sleep
    cycles. Sleeps all night by six months.    

  • Likes to be held and molds her body to that of the adult
    holding her.     

  • Is comfortable when being moved.   

  • Easily moves from one position to another.

  • Has favorite songs or movement games, and anticipates
    these special interactions.   

  • Explores toys by putting them in his mouth.  

  • After six months accepts solid and textured foods when

  • Can attend to more than one stimulus at a time. For
    instance, can look at a book while listening to a story.   

  • Has favorite sensory stimuli, such as certain music, finger
    games, flavors, etc.   

  • Plays with the two hands in the middle.

12 to 18 Months     

Good Sensory Integration:
The toddler...      
  • Enjoys touching textures; plays with food, textured toys, sand,
    play-doh, etc.    

  • Enjoys bath time and accepts touch from washcloth.
Accepts clothing moving against skin during diapering
and dressing.    

  • Plays in imaginative and unique ways.    

  • Spends time exploring the various features of toys (the
    sights, sounds, texture, etc.)   

  • Understands simple directions without gestures, listens and
    looks when spoken to.    

  • Accepts various clothing textures. Accepts clothing that is
    appropriate to the weather.    

  • Is not excessively frightened by loud or sudden noises.    

18 months to 3 years      

Good Sensory Integration:
The toddler/child...     
  • Adjusts play to the situation, active play outdoor lay vs.
    structured, quiet play inside.   

  • Explores new play equipment, with good balance and body

  • Can remain focused on a task despite a moderate level of
    activity in the room    

  • Is able to participate in simple group activities: Understands
    the sequence of changes in group activities. Is able to
    understand turn taking.  

  • Is comfortable with trying new things, or changes in

  • Is able to tolerate moderately loud noises, and unusual
    environmental stimuli.    .

  • Accepts tooth brushing, bathing, and grooming, unless
    distracted by play.    
  • Has not developed predictable sleep/waking cycles; is
    frequently difficult to calm or get to sleep.

  • Arches or attempts to pull away when being held.

  • Becomes irritable when moved or position is changed.

  • Prefers to stay in one position.

  • Avoids novel play situations or interaction with others.

  • Avoids mouthing toys.

  • Has difficulty with solid or textured foods, "picky" eater.

  • "Tunes out" if more than one stimulus is presented.

  • Caregivers have difficulty determining baby's preferences.

  • Transfers toys hand-to-hand.

12 to 18 Months

The toddler...
  • Avoids finger feeding, touching textured toys, messy hands.

  • Is excessively upset by dressing and diaper changes or by

  • Is "stuck" in play, continues to mouth, bang or throw toys

  • Has short attention to new toys, does not independently
    explore toys' properties.

  • Has poor eye contact: Makes inconsistent responses
    (actions) when spoken to.

  • Is fussy about clothing textures. Avoids wearing shoes, OR
    insists on wearing shoes on all textured surfaces such as
    carpeting or grass. Insists on heavy clothing during hot
    weather, OR avoids clothing, even in cold weather.
  • Noises such as thunder, sirens, vacuum cleaners are

18 months to 3 years

The toddler/child...
  • Has an intense need for constant movement such as
    jumping, rocking, swinging; Can't sit still. OR avoids

  • Has difficulty getting on and off play equipment, or is clumsy.
    Avoids new movement play situations. Does not want feet off
    the ground.

  • Is easily distracted by sights and sounds.

  • Seems to get lost in group activities. Is unable to take turns,
    even with adult assistance.

  • Becomes upset if routines and plans are changed.

  • Is upset by loud noises. Can hear distant sounds that others
    do not hear. Has unusual responses to light, smells, or other
    sensory experiences.

  • Has poor tolerance of grooming such as hair combing or
    shampooing, tooth brushing.

See our Developmental Toy Page for babies & toddlers toys!

Stimulate all his senses
For your child to learn about people, places, and things, he needs to be exposed to them. Every new
interaction gives him information about the world and his place in it. Studies show that children who grow
up in an enriched environment — where they are presented with new experiences that engage their senses
— have larger, more active brains than those who grow up without adequate sensory stimulation.

You don't need to bombard your child with stimulation 24 hours a day, nor should you try to engage all his
senses at once. Children can become overstimulated. Just let your child play with lots of different toys and
objects. Choose things with a variety of shapes, textures, colors, sounds, and weights. Play music and
interactive games such as peekaboo and patty-cake, go on walks and shopping trips together, and let your
child meet new people. Even the simplest daily activities will stimulate his brain development.

It's also important to give your child room to roam. Toddlers need space to crawl, walk, and run to develop
strong muscles, good balance, and coordination. They also benefit from safe spaces where they can explore
their surroundings without hearing "No" or "Don't touch" from you. The easiest way to do this: Childproof
your home (or at least the common areas). Keep dangerous objects out of your child's reach and safe ones
accessible. For instance, in the kitchen, put childproof locks on all the cabinets but one. Fill that with
plastic bowls, measuring cups, wooden spoons, and pots and pans that your toddler can play with safely.

Find articles on all stages of your child's development and ideas for playtime with babies and toddlers plus

See our
Developmental Toy Page for babies & toddlers toys!
giggle - the new parent store