› read sniff-and-smell board books. as they get older,
provide scented markers. Just be careful they are nontoxic and don’t go into mouths.
› When out for a walk, take time to let toddlers hold
and smell new items, so long as the item is safe. if you pass a bakery or other business emitting a
smell, use descriptive words such as “sweet,” “sharp,” and “icky” as you talk about the smells.
› add lavender and other soothing aromas to hand-
washing or bathwater to help infants and toddlers relax.
› describe and comment on the taste when new foods
are introduced. continue offering the same food for a while, so children can become familiar with the
taste of that food. Make interesting comments that describe the texture they are feeling plus the sweet,
salty, or sour taste. › connect the temperature of different foods with the
taste. Soon very young children will learn about cool, cold, warm, and hot.
Infants use taste to learn about their world. They
have more sensory receptors in their mouths and
on their tongues than anyplace else on their body.
A very young child mouths a doll with her tongue
and lips, tasting the skin and hair, feeling the
smooth plastic of the skin in contrast to the rough
strands of the hair or the terrycloth body. It is dif-
ficult to separate what an infant tastes and what an
infant feels when an object goes into her mouth.
Since everything goes into the child’s mouth for
exploration, it is important to make sure all toys
are too large to be swallowed and don’t have any
Taste is intertwined with young children’s
nutrition. Infants who are breast-fed often refuse
formula. As they grow and are introduced to new
foods, the taste buds take on a new role. It often
takes patience to help a child learn to eat new
foods—sometimes a new food needs to be offered
ten times before a child will like it!
Touch is highly developed at birth. Infants love
skin-to-skin contact and respond to patting and
hugging. Premature infants are often put into
kangaroo care, during which they are held skin-to-
skin with the mother. Infants are calmed by mas-
sage; feel secure when swaddled; and feel love and
nurturance when appropriately held, hugged, and
touched. These types of touch have positive effects
on infants’ growth and development and their emo-
tional security. Young children who are not held,
cuddled, and hugged may not make the necessary
brain connections and may not bond with their
caregivers, which can lead to mental health prob-
lems at an early age.
As infants mature, they reach out and touch
everything in their proximity. They also explore their
bodies using this sense. Hands as well as objects go
i n Fa n t & t o d d l e r a c t i v i t i e S
› Make sure everything within reach is clean and
sani tized, as infants put everything into their mouths. d e v e l o p M e n t o F t h e S e n S e S 17