The senses from 2 to 3 years old

Your little one’s senses have improved and the brain is getting better at putting all the new information together.

This helps them get better at language, movement and thinking.

Touch

A loving touch is still needed to help grow a sense of self.

Touch also gives the brain important information about the body while your little one gets better at controlling muscles.

Give your child slow, light and a loving touch because it:

  • sends the brain messages and helps them to make sense of their body and surroundings
  • helps them feel comfortable in their own skin
  • helps keep them attached to parents/carers
  • lets them know they are safe and cared for.

Smell

Little one’s sense of smell has grown and they can now tell when something smells bad or good.

Because this sense is connected to the emotional brain, smells can help your child feel good about trying new foods and doing things on their own.

Point out how great healthy food smells because this:

  • links positive feelings with healthy food in their brain
  • helps them learn to like other tastes, not just sweet and salty.

Surround your little one with nice and relaxing smells that are familiar because:

  • familiar smells can calm your child when they start to spend more and more time away from you
  • having objects with familiar smells like a blanket or stuffed animal comforts them in times of change.

See

Little one’s visual skills have improved and by the end of this year their sight is almost as sharp as an adult’s sight.

They can focus on objects near and far and recognise lots of colours.

Being given the chance to practise these skills helps improve the vision pathways in little one’s brain, so their vision and coordination keeps getting better.

Play together by building with blocks, rolling balls and drawing because:

  • it helps improve hand-eye coordination
  • it helps them recognise more colours.

Read picture books with little one so they:

  • can point out pictures
  • practise looking at detail.

Balance

Little one relies on this sense to give the brain information about gravity and movement. This helps them to jump, skip, hop, run, kick and climb.

Give your child time and space to play and to move their body because:

  • this sends important messages from the eyes, ears, muscles and joints to the brain
  • it can improve their motor skills.

Hear

All the listening that your little one has done so far has wired the brain so it can take in and respond to sound better.

You may notice their hearing has improved in different ways – like being able to hear quiet sounds, telling sounds apart from background noise and knowing where a sound is coming from.

Little one’s hearing will keep developing until age 10 so they need good experiences to keep wiring up the brain for sound.

Share stories with your child:

  • to help their brain pick up on the features of sound like pitch and emotion
  • so they will understand and learn to say more words and phrases.

Play music or sing songs with your child because:

  • it helps their brain notice the patterns in sounds, which is important for learning language
  • the emotions in music helps them improve their ability to notice moods in others.

Taste

Little one is now more aware of who they are and can say what tastes they like and don’t like. Because little one still prefers salty and sweet, they need to try different foods to build new taste pathways in the brain.

Keep offering your child new healthy foods over several weeks because:

  • this can change their idea of which food should be salty and sweet, which can tone down their cravings
  • they may go from spitting out a food they are tasting for the first time to liking it after trying it more times
  • they need to eat a variety of healthy foods and fats to wire up the brain.
Published — 04 April 2019 Last updated — 27 June 2019

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