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[1. Reading without Being Taught]
[2. Reading - Your Child Progresses]
[3. Teaching Babies to Read]
[4. Teaching the Five Senses]
[5. Reading to Your Child]
[6. The Beauty of Words]
[7. Integrate Learning]
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[9. Poetry and Your Child]
[10. Emotional Growth]
[11. Teaching Science to your child]
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4. Teaching the Five Senses

by Aruna Raghavan

on his own, without interference from the adults around. A lady told him with great pride that she had not taught her 5 year old anything. The philosopher said, “Madam, you have wasted five years; go home immediately and start teaching your child.”


Probably what the philosopher meant was that we ensure that we do not pass on our own likes, dislikes, prejudices and fears to our child. But certainly teach we must. And what do we teach a child less than five?


In the preceding columns here, we have discussed reading methodologies. There is a stage of readiness that a child goes through before he begins. We teach him to use his five senses; to use them well and correctly so that they, in turn, report – developing his intelligence. The more the number of senses used to ‘understand’ the more complete the learning.


One of the first senses that a child uses is taste and almost immediately, touch. In just a few days a new- born knows its mother’s arms. He can tell the difference between a friendly arm (cozy enough to sleep) and an unfriendly arm (he’ll bawl the hospital down.) In weeks, he knows cold from warm and will tell in no uncertain terms his preferences.. A little rain or cold and the washing machine does overtime with the nappies! His entire body is so tuned to everything around him. At three months, when the doting  mother starts on the solids (after advice from all neighbourhood, doctors and extended family) the baby spits it out. To him, it is new, not necessarily friendly. The mother goes into a  frenzy. After the dust settles, the mother finds that she is back to the first box of cereals anyway. The truth was the baby was learning. And was not given time to complete learning one taste before the second, third and fourth were presented to him. And so a pattern sets. The mother waits for ‘rejection’ before she ‘finds’ what the baby likes! Most babies like everything; for them, orange juice or a banana is a learning game. What each tastes like, what the texture is, what it smells like…


By the time a baby is two months, he knows sounds too.  The familiar sound of running water and he knows he is in for a lovely time. Something flows down him. It feels tickly and smooth. By three months, the baby knows even his daily routine. He knows when he is going to be powdered, bathed, fed, taken out… By then he can see, register, look for familiar things. This is the time to carry him so that he can look over the mother’s shoulder. The world is a movie, all things are characters in it. If the mother tells the baby where she is going it would be a bonus.  Not long sentences. Just, “Baby and I are going to the bath room”, “Baby and I are going to the kitchen”. Repeated sentence patterns and repeated action and words. The three will register a number of messages. “Baby will now eat banana, mmm, banana, sweet banana.” This sounds like non-stop chatter from your side. But look at the outcome: he will have a nice fat vocabulary even if he can’t talk yet!  He will know what, where and how of each thing in the house, besides having ‘mapped’ out the entire house by the time he is five months! He will know exactly which door leads to ‘tata’ and from which window he can see the crows. His world is growing. To all this, you add small games. These exercises can be practised on any child irrespective of the age.

To sharpen his sense of touch, vary the texture of things he plays with.  You could have a small coir mat, a soft towel, a rough bark of a tree, a stone with many edges, a painting brush, a tooth brush …All these are to be kept aside for this exercise. Make sure that all the pieces are very large and cannot be put in the mouth by the baby.


Now, you could run each of the items on the baby’s arms. But before you do, tell your baby what you are going to rub and then rub it. Say that it is soft/ sharp/ poky/ prickly. You are finessing the sense of touch.

For taste, what ever you feed him should be called out, its taste specified, said that it is yum and then fed. (It will keep your own preferences in check whilst learning what your baby actually likes.)

For sound, choose soft music, initially 5 cassettes with about 15 songs or pieces on each cassette.  Ensure that they are your favourites, because you’ll have to play them over and over again. Until you are sure that your baby has registered every note. That might be almost 5 months down the line. You’ll be rewarded with a finely tuned ear in your child. (That you might wake up at night with the sounds of those notes going on in your head is of little consequence. Besides, it is a taste of what is going to come 15 years down the line!)  When you choose the songs, you might even like to make it in as many languages as you wish. For each language, even as a raga, has its own nuances; the more sounds that are offered, the better tuned ear your child will have. Speak to your child in as many languages you know.. India is a gift to the sense of hearing. In any city, you can, at any given moment, hear at least 4 languages. The state language, English, Hindi, and a neighbour  who hails from another state. So, for any city Indian knowing 4 languages is not a great feat. Your child too will learn. If his ears are tuned well, he will speak each of the languages like a native. Do not worry about confusion. Here is a joke I often crack: we have two Labrador retrievers and they can understand English and Tamil; draw your own conclusions!


With sight, sound, taste and touch becoming more acute, your child’s skills at learning are also finessed. It doesn’t take  time or energy. Cooing to one’s baby is natural; coo a little more is all that is asked! And as you coo, see the world again through your baby’s senses.

Aruna Raghavan can be contacted at:

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