Early childhood is a time of exploration and discovery, which youngsters do through play. Even in the first few weeks of life, newborns will benefit developmentally from interacting with toys that encourage perceptual abilities such as seeing, hearing and touching. Toys that support multiple developmental abilities at once are best for encouraging a baby’s overall growth and maturation -- and they don’t have to be high-tech or expensive. Simple toys and homemade playthings contribute to an infant’s developing sense of perception -- an important skill necessary for progress in other developmental domains.
Even though a newborn isn’t able to grasp and manipulate soft blocks on her own, she will benefit from watching you as you show her how to stack them up and knock them down. It encourages a baby’s basic perception of dimension and spatial orientation, which is necessary for his eventual ability to crawl, walk and navigate the world around him. As your baby develops the ability to grasp objects, place soft blocks in his hand so he can feel and perceive textures. Place a few blocks just out of arm’s reach in front of your infant -- once he is able to sit up on his own -- and encourage him to reach for them to promote spatial perception and motor skills.
Slowly waving a puppet or plush toy across a newborn’s eyes promotes her ability to track objects, which is an essential perceptual skill necessary for hand-eye coordination. Use different voices when playing with stuffed animals in front of your baby to encourage her ability to perceive and distinguish sounds and voices. As your baby grows and her motor abilities increase, encourage her to reach for, grasp and even throw soft toys to promote her perception of texture and space. Once your baby is sitting, give her a hand puppet and encourage her to interact with yours, which will also promote an understanding of spatial relationships.
Books encourage perceptual skills in infants while also promoting early literacy skills. As you read the words aloud to your baby, you are encouraging her ability to perceive language. Imitating animal sounds and responding to the touch and feel of different textures will also foster sound perception. Allow your child to feel the different textures of fabric books to promote perception of her environment through touch.
Musical instruments allow young children to hear and create sound. They also promote hand-eye coordination, as babies and toddlers connect banging drums, tapping xylophones, shaking rattles and blowing into play horns with the different sounds each instrument makes. If you don’t have age-appropriate musical instruments or if your little one is still too young to play with them, offer him light-up, noise-making toys to promote sound and vision perception.