Multisensory stimulation is a natural (and important) part of your baby’s development and growth. Fortunately, we naturally engage in multisensory stimulation without even realizing it!
Examples of multisensory stimulation include:
- Singing lullabies
- Feeding and eating
- Gently rocking and swaying
- Practicing kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact)
In this article, we’ll learn what multisensory stimulation is and how it supports your baby’s early development.
Definition of multisensory stimulation
Multisensory stimulation is the simultaneous activation of more than one sense. The activated senses can be, for example:
- Sight (visual)
- Sound (auditory)
- Touch (tactile)
- Taste (gustatory)
- Smell (olfactory)
Other senses include:
- Motion (vestibular sense)
- Sense of position and movement of our body parts (proprioception)
- Temperature (thermoception)
Despite its scientific-sounding name, we all experience multisensory stimulation every day. Babies experience multisensory stimulation naturally when they interact with the world around them.
For example, when a baby hears their mother's voice, they may turn their head toward the sound and look at her. They may also reach out to touch her face, feel the texture of her skin, and smell her unique scent. In this way, the baby’s experiencing multisensory stimulation that helps them build neural connections and learn about their environment.
What are babies learning through multisensory stimulation
Multisensory stimulation is one way that babies learn about their environment. The learned skills include:
Social and emotional skills: Even at a young age, babies are learning about social interactions and emotions. Providing multisensory experiences with face-to-face interactions, touching, and speaking can help babies develop a sense of security and attachment to their caregivers.
Sense of self: By experiencing different types of movement and sensations, babies are learning about their bodies and developing body awareness. This helps them understand how their body moves and how they can control their movements.
Cause and effect: When a baby shakes a rattle and hears the sound it makes, they’re learning that their actions can have a direct effect on the world around them. This type of learning is essential for building cognitive and motor skills.
Curiosity and learning: Through multisensory experiences, babies are learning to explore their environment and discover new sensations. This exploration helps them develop a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn.
How does multisensory stimulation affect babies?
The benefits of multisensory stimulation are particularly evident in preterm infants. Within the NICU environment, these babies don’t get the same multisensory experiences as those born full-term.
The effects of multisensory stimulation on preterm babies include:
- Increased weight-gain
- Better neuromotor development
- Better quality of caregiver-child interactions
Using the Nucu Multisensory Baby Pad
Designed to soothe babies and promote calm and restful sleep, the Nucu Multisensory Baby Pad is a specialized sleep pad that provides a range of sensory experiences to help you comfort your little ones.
The Nucu Pad combines sound and touch into different feelscapes, that is, safe multisensory experiences. The Nucu Pad has been piloted in the Oulu University Hospital NICU and used in helping full-term babies through the Finnish maternity clinic system.
Can multisensory stimulation be dangerous?
Multisensory stimulation is a naturally occurring part of your baby’s growth and development. While it’s not inherently dangerous, parents and caregivers should take appropriate safety precautions when providing multisensory experiences for their babies.
The most important thing to remember is to stay in tune with your baby. Pay attention to your baby’s cues and adjust the sensory experiences accordingly. When playing music or other sounds, keep the volume low enough. Use age-appropriate toys and avoid small or loose objects.
Examples of multisensory stimulation
Once you learn about multisensory stimulation, you start to notice that it’s everywhere around us. All those little acts of caring are perfect examples of it!
Here are some more ideas for little moments of togetherness with your child.
Songs and stories as multisensory stimulation
We’re wired to appreciate story-telling. Try singing a soft lullaby or telling a soothing story while gently touching your baby’s back. This combination of auditory and tactile stimulation can create a powerful sensory experience that can help calm and soothe the baby.
Kangaroo care, also known as skin-to-skin contact, is a great way to provide multisensory stimulation for babies. This involves holding the baby directly against your bare skin, which provides both tactile and olfactory (smell) stimulation.
Research has shown that kangaroo care can have many benefits for both the baby and the parent, including reducing stress, regulating body temperature, and promoting bonding.
Visual stimulation through play, pictures and toys
Visual stimulation can also be an important part of multisensory experiences for babies. This can include looking at pictures or books, playing with toys that have bright colors or contrasting patterns, or simply looking at the world around them. Providing a variety of visual stimulation can help babies develop their visual skills and promote brain development.
Get out in nature
The natural world is full of colors, sounds, textures and delightful surprises.
Feel the breeze, listen to the birds, and immerse yourself in the simple pleasures of the great outdoors with your child.
Keep building on multisensory stimulation
Whether it's through singing songs, engaging in sensory play, or practicing kangaroo care, there are many ways to provide a rich and stimulating environment for your little one.
You are already doing a great job!