It’s science: 5 ways to awaken baby’s senses in the womb

Simple ways to excite baby’s senses (and promote sensory development) before baby is even born.

It’s science: 5 ways to awaken baby’s senses in the womb

Just because the world isn’t lucky enough to see or hear your baby yet doesn’t mean she can’t see or hear the world!

Baby’s five senses begin developing in the womb, and the proper development of these senses may depend on the stimuli baby is exposed to as a fetus. Already starting to worry about providing your child with developmentally appropriate stimulation?Worry not, mama!

Chances are, when your baby is in the womb, the everyday stimulation of taking a walk outside or practically inhaling that dim sum for lunch is all baby really needs to develop functioning sensory organs. In fact, too much stimulation may be just as harmful as not enough.


If you want that perfect balance to promote healthy development in utero, these ideas for exciting baby’s senses are a great place to start.


Babies begin listening to mama and her surroundings around week 16.

Babies can remember words and stories they heard in the womb after they are born, and they even show a preference for your voice, mama! Establish good habits by reading books to your soon-to-be babe. They may get a kick out of it—and you might just get one, too! As for music, simply allow your baby to listen in to your grooves. Exposing those little ears to loud or close-range sounds, like placing headphones on your belly, may increase the risk of auditory damage.


At 21 weeks, your wee babe can taste flavors present in amniotic fluid. These flavors originate from your diet, mama, and can contribute to baby’s preferences for foods after birth. That’s right: Eating a varied, nutritious diet during pregnancy can improve baby’s health in utero and may lead to long-term healthy development as well!


Much like taste, baby can pick up on smells in amniotic fluid from the foods you eat and the aromas you smell starting around 20 weeks. Research in newborns indicates an inborn preference for yummy smells, such as colostrum (the first milk your breasts produce) and vanilla, and an aversion to harsh smells, such as detergents and disinfectants. Next time you bake cupcakes, take a moment to enjoy the aroma of the vanilla and cocoa. Or take a trip to a flower shop just to explore the scent-sations! We also recommend keeping household chores involving cleaning products to a minimum. (“Oh, honey, after you pick up the ice cream, would you mind wiping down the kitchen counters? Thanks…”)


By week 16, your baby’s eyes are developed enough to detect light from the outside world. To promote healthy visual development, focus on eating nutritious foods high in vitamin A and avoiding cigarette smoke, which can impair visual development. Although the darkness of the uterus doesn’t exactly make it a womb with a view, sunlight is bright enough to penetrate your skin and shed some light on baby. Recent research tells us that exposure to sunlight in utero can help visual development. Just one more reason to take a quiet, leisurely stroll in the sun with your growing baby.


Starting around week 19 (some would argue as early as week eight), your little bean is sensitive to tactile stimulation.

However, little evidence indicates that baby feels much of what goes on in the outside world while growing in the womb. You may instinctively place a hand on your belly as your squirmy babe kicks you in the bladder, but there’s no telling if baby can really feel your attempts at comfort. That makes it all the more important to offer tactile comfort as soon as you can once baby is born. Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact, after birth is highly beneficial for baby’s physiological regulation, attachment, breastfeeding, sleep and more. Plus, it is just so nice cozying up next to that tiny little person you have been dreaming about for the past nine months.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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