Chapter 1 – Kids and five senses

According to some prenatal psychology scholars, the human being begins to develop his sensory abilities since the first weeks of gestation.

Touch before birth

Touch sensitivity appears early, first in the area around the mouth towards the 7th week, then expends to the face and the genitals (10th week), hands and feet (12th week). But four-dimensional ultrasound revealed that as early as the 9th week, if it touches the foot planks, the fetus folds his fingers or fan out them, drawing the leg to escape contact.

The child would above all can sense a series of vibrations through the amniotic fluid. Towards the 22nd week, nerve endings finish to develop the tips of the fingers and the baby begins to touch her body, umbilical cord and uterus walls.

Touch development after birth

At birth, the child's safety and protection needs lead him to look skin-to-skin contact for with his mother. This will calm him and, through a sort of extension of uterine life, will introduce him into the outside world. The newborn loves touch and heat from the earliest hours of life.

With growth, touch becomes an important tool for the child to know and explore himself and the world around him. Since the 4th month, the infant begins to discover himself and to touch his hands, feet, face, etc. By the 7th month, however, the child learns to grasp the objects and explore them.

Smell before birth

At the 11th week, the baby begins to swallow amniotic fluid and expel it with the first urine. Then the dissolved substances meet the vomeronasal organs, the smell receptors, which ripen around the 13th week.

The collection of these molecules, derived largely from ingested by the woman food, is for him the smell of mom and it will be immediately recognized after childbirth, at first contact with her skin. The smell, developed at birth, will carry him towards mother’s breast.

Smell development after birth

Studies have proved that children develop their smell long before the other 4 senses. In a couple of hours, the infant uses the smell to locate her mother. The infant also recognizes the smell of human milk and can distinguish it from the milk of a stranger.

There is also evidence that pleasant smells can effectively improve the immune system, reduce stress and induce sleep. Research has shown that a scent stimulates different receptors in the brain, which is also responsible for basic learning skills.

However, they are the most important scent receptors in the nasal cavity that have the capacity to differentiate over 9,000 several smells. Each receptor has a place where a scented molecule can form a bond with it so that the brain can smell it properly. Smell does not require air; it simply asks for a scented molecule.

However, the actual smell development happens during the weaning, when it comes into contact with the most varied scents.

Sight before birth

At the 8th week the optic nerve is formed, but the fetus begins to open his eyelids only to 26th. From this period onwards, if you move a strong light source on the surface of the womb, the little one follows her with the look.

Sight, compared to the other four, is still a "delayed" sense: at birth, the infant cannot focus more than 25 centimeters and distinguish a few colors. But it is exactly what it takes to attach the look of mom (for an innate mechanism recognizes a human face, though only drawn on a sheet) and locate the nipple for the first feeding.

Sight development after birth

At birth, the eyes and areas of the vision-oriented brain are immature, which explains why very young children cannot clearly see red, yellow and pastel colors. White and black branded models provide the strongest contrast. The faces are particularly appealing to young children, though the most exciting image after birth is the face of the mother.

The newborn looks for the pupil, which resembles the shape of the nipple. Objects can be seen at a distance of 20 to 25 centimeters, which corresponds to the size of the mother's mother when she nurses or embraces him. Routes that transmit information from the eye to the occipital lobe in the back of the brain develop quickly. From the age of two months, both eyes can focus in the same way and follow the movement of an object if it is not too far away. The colors become distinct with a preference shown first towards the red and yellow and then towards the green and the blue. From the age of three months, the child will follow an object for a full bow from right to left. At this stage, the child is particularly captivated by the lights movement, as long as they are not too strong. From the age of six months, pastel colors are recognized and remote objects can be identified from a distance.

Additionally, the child develops depth perception (three-dimensional view) and turns to an object put to a different perspective. Children watching television see images in two sizes and cannot determine the exact size, position, and shape of an object. At eight months, color vision is fully developed and the baby begins to see with much greater precision.

It will take 4 or 5 years for the child's vision to reach the level of an adult.

Taste before birth

The taste buds appear on the tongue towards the 12th week. When the fetus swallows the liquid in which it is immersed (from 2 to 4 centiliters per hour), the buds start experiencing their flavors and transmit their sensory information to their brain areas. So, it seems that once passed into amniotic fluid certain foods, if they are very much appreciated by Mom, are combined with a feeling of well-being, pre-disposing the brain of the unborn to appreciate them in the life of extrauterine.

Taste development after birth

The taste buds on the tongue can distinguish four qualities - bitter, sweet, salty, acidic: all other flavors are identified by the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity. Evolutionary speaking, the obvious preference for sweetness ("taste of safety") can be explained by the fact that sweet taste is a source of energy (carbohydrates) that are not harmful and are safe to eat. Instead bitter taste warns us about toxic foods, an acid flavor can warn against spoiled foods for example, while a salty flavor may suggest the presence of minerals.

Babies are extremely able to differentiate a variety of tastes, which may be in breast milk, and then to develop their preferences. So, weaning is the moment of meeting the child's genetic tasting patrimony with a framework of adult preferences: this encounter will be crucial. In fact, it’s shown how eating behaviors achieved in the very first years of life are kept even in adulthood, underlining the importance of investing in this period to improve the quality of life of tomorrow's adults as well.

Hearing before birth

By monitoring the movements of the body and the heart rate, it has been observed that the fetus reacts to sounds from the 16th week, long before they develop hearing organs: baby According to some hypothesis, would be able to feel the vibrations through skin and skeletal structure.

After the 24th week it can normally hear, not only the physiological noises of the maternal (the heart, the breath, the blood circulation) body but, partly, also those outside. From half pregnancy in then, the baby can recognize the voice of his mother (if she affectionately speaks to him, he is excited and its cardiac rhythm changes) and also of his dad; it distinguishes some simple syllables and ago evolutions in the liquid amniotic to the rhythm of a music (what sweet must be, otherwise it kicks annoyed).

The hearing, therefore, is fundamental to create a sort of "family bond" anticipated. And sonorous stimuli compete to the cerebral development of his child engraving himself in its memory. After the birth, just reunited to his mother, the baby immediately recognizes "that" cardiac pulsation, "that voice." Not only. It is observed that a newborn knows how to distinguish, among the so many, a particular melody often felt in the prenatal period, and even a fable.  But child also has an auditory perception of himself: if he makes him listen to a recording of his weeping he stays indifferent, while he is getting excited and he starts in turn to scream if it originates from other children.

Hearing after birth

A newborn with only few days of life feels all the noises and some of them can provoke in him a called reaction "reflected of Moor", open and described for the first one turned by the Austrian pediatrician Ernst Moro. It manifests him with a reaction suddenly accompanied from a sudden opening of the arms caused or from a sudden noise or when the supine newborn supports him in way some abrupt or rapid.

In these cases, the newborn has a bump, stretches arms widening hands and fingers and subsequently folds up her, then it normally follows the weeping.

  • Just born, the newborns start in answer to a strong and sudden sound, sometimes turning the head in direction of the noise.
  • Around the 2 months: the hearing of the newborns is improved, he should be the degree to hear sounds of different tonality now.
  • Around the 3-4 months: child is able of to gather and to understand the source of a voice or a noise for then to turn in the correct direction, starts besides to articulate some consonants and vowels.
  • Around the 5-6 months: baby starts to understand that he can provoke some noises himself, as for instance when it will throw objects for earth for the taste to feel that it makes noise. The confused sounds that it sends forth look more and more like the words.
  • Toward the 7 months: he will begin to stammer and to produce sounds to manifest the really state of mind, this ability of lallation will increase around the tenth month.
  • Toward the 8-9 months: child starts to understand the relationship that ties the words to the gestures.
  • Toward the 11-12 months: baby will turn him if called for name and he will be able to associate a name to an object. He should start to pronounce simple words as "Mother" or "it Eats up”.

In conclusion, especially in the first three years of life, until toward the seven years, child is completely organ of senses. In him there is no separation among body, soul and spirit and all of this that it operates to the outside he is internally reproduced. Child lives in how much he tastes everything how much he welcomes in itself.