Making “Sense” of Things: How Touching & Tasting Help Baby Understand the World
By Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell
The earliest conversations between you and your child involve the sense of touch. When you hold your little one in your arms, baby nestles against your skin, seeking the perfect fit in the curve of your arms. The skin is the most highly developed sensory organ at birth, and most babies love to be stroked. Surprisingly, some babies may prefer a firmer touch. Try applying pressure slowly and gently to baby's skin just before naptime or bedtime to help your wide–awake wonder settle down.

As your baby becomes better at grasping, you may find that your hair or face becomes the focus of exploration by touch. That's your cue that baby will really start to appreciate textured objects—rough, smooth, crinkly, soft, squishy—so start introducing them, with your supervision.

And what about taste? Your baby is born with a sweet tooth, preferring the sweet taste of breast milk or formula to other foods. The other three basic tastes—bitter, sour, and salty—develop later. A baby's dislike of bitter tastes may protect your little one from ingesting harmful substances. A taste for salty things usually comes after four months of age.

Babies can (and will) taste almost anything you give them, and their little hands can't wait to finger whatever comes their way. In fact, a baby's sense of taste and texture work together to help baby make discoveries about the objects in the world.

Hand your baby something new and watch what baby does: baby will look at it, touch it and then mouth it. By mouthing objects, baby discovers how they feel, which provides vital clues about their shape and size. You can encourage this way of learning by giving baby appropriate toys for mouthing. But be sure to wash baby's toys often!