The senses from 4 to 12 months old

Bub’s brain has had a huge growth spurt and will have tripled in size by the end of their first year.

More connections are being made in the thinking parts of bub’s brain. Bub needs lots of positive sensory experiences to keep these connections going and to make new ones.


Bub still needs loving touch from family to help grow a strong brain and body.

Hold bub, especially when crying because:

  • it is calming
  • it sends signals to the brain which gives bub a picture of where their body is in space
  • it is good for their sense of self.

Give bub slow, light and loving touch because:

  • it helps bub’s attachment with carers
  • bub starts to form a healthy body image
  • it lets them know they are safe and cared for.


Smell is still really important to bonding and emotional security for your baby, especially as they start to grow attached to parents/carers at this time.

Surround bub with the same nice and soothing smells because:

  • bub links smells with people, which helps bub to attach to parents/carers
  • familiar smells calm bub when they start to spend more time on their own.


Bub’s vision will take a big leap and by the end of the year bub can see almost the same as adults.

Bub’s brain can take in detail and start to tell colours apart.

Soon they’ll be able to track moving things and even look ahead to where an object is going.

Give bub lots to look at such as:

  • strong colours – blue, red, green and yellow – to help the brain remember these colours
  • toys they can watch fall and roll away – to help bub learn to track with eyes
  • picture books – bub loves to look at the detail.


Bub will start to bounce, sway, shake their head, rock their body and maybe even head bang.

Give bub the chance to move, swing, spin, rock and bounce to:

  • help bub learn to sit, crawl, stand and walk
  • calm bub, especially when having tantrums.


Bub’s hearing keeps slowly growing. Bub’s brain is better at knowing where sounds are coming from, but still finds it hard to pick up on soft sounds especially with background noise.

It’s an exciting time because bub starts to understand that words have meaning.

Talk lots to bub, away from background noise because:

  • bub’s brain can pick up on speech sounds
  • bub learns the names of family, pets and some other objects, and the word no
  • this gives the brain information that leads to bub saying their first words.


Bub starts to like salty as well as sweet flavours because the taste pathways have grown in bub’s brain.

Bub can start having solid foods, although breastmilk and/or formula are still the main diet.

Breastfeed if safe and possible because:

  • breastmilk has fats needed to keep wiring up bub’s brain as it grows and makes new connections
  • it has nutrients that could help bub grow more intelligent.

Let bub try a variety of healthy foods because it helps grow taste pathways in the brain, so bub might be a better eater later.

Published — 22 March 2019 Last updated — 22 March 2019

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