Sensory Development

The maturing of the five familiar senses: hearing, smell, taste, touch, and vision. It involves the way your child’s nervous system receives input from these senses and then forms an appropriate motor or behavioral response, also known as sensory processing.

What Are Sensory Motor Skills?

Sensory motor skills generally refer to sensory development skills, such as taste, touch, vision, hearing, and smell developed through movement and exploration. Infants explore with their mouths and progress to exploring with their hands. Sensory skills become more refined in early childhood. A child must effectively register and then interpret sensory input in the environment (including one’s body) to respond to sensory input in a meaningful and consistent manner.

What are some signs and symptoms of Sensory Motor Disorder?

Signs and symptoms include any of the following difficulties: breast feeding, settling to sleep, tolerating different textures/temperatures of foods (e.g. picky eating), socializing with parents/peers and demonstrating joint attention, learning from others due to poor understanding and attention, following instructions at home/child care, toilet training, sitting still, following routines, responding appropriately to questions, or may cry often.

If your child is experiencing any of the above, he/she may be at risk for:

Poor attention in school; inappropriate behavior; being overly active or being very lethargic and lacking in speed/interest of activity; difficulty with learning and retaining learned skills; inability to comfortably manage crowds or group settings; poor transitions from task to task or place to place; immature social skills; heightened anxiety; and picky eating with limited diet/nutrition.


Skills expected at various ages are listed below:


Birth - 6 Months

Tracks objects with eyes; looks at own hands; responds to sounds and voice; reaches for nearby objects; coos in response to playful interaction; enjoys bath time; typically able to tolerate diaper changing without crying; able to calm with experiences such as rocking, touching, and calm sounds; does not become upset with everyday sounds; has an established and reliable sleeping schedule

6 - 12 Months

Plays 2-3 minutes with a single toy; imitates gestures; tolerates a range of different textured foods; vocalizing in response to playful interaction; maintains eye contact with familiar people during playful interaction; enjoys various types of movement, such as being gently swung; is not fearful when moving to lying on back for diaper changing; enjoys moving to explore the environment when placed on floor; has grown accustomed to everyday sounds and is usually not startled by them; able to self soothe when upset

1 - 2 Years

Bothered by soiled diaper; distinguishes between edible and inedible objects; understands/fears common dangers of hot objects, stairs, glass; enjoys messy play; reacts to extremes in temperature; looks for an object he/she watched fall out of sight (such as a spoon that fell under the table); follow simple 1 step instructions

2 - 3 Years

Uses toilet with assistance and has daytime control; pays attention for 3 minutes; begins to be able to take turns; able to participate in small groups with other children; is interested, aware, and able to maintain eye contact with others; turns head in response to name being called; enjoys playing with new toys in varied ways; able to participate in messy activities that result in dirty hands; cries and notices when hurt; able to transition to new environment or activity; able to tolerate and stay calm during haircuts

3 - 4 Years

Can differentiate between real and pretend world; takes turns; can dress self (exception of fasteners); feeds self without difficulty; social encounters are acted out through play activities; tolerates having fingernails trimmed and face wiped

4 -5 Years

Develops friendships; expresses emotions; able to follow rules; able to sit and pay attention e.g. mat/circle time; able to initiate and play with another child of the same age; able to play with one toy or theme for 15 minute periods of time; eats a diet rich in various foods, temperatures, and textures

5 - 6 Years

Has the attention to sit at a desk, follow teacher instructions, and independently do simple in-class assignments; begins to recognize others perspectives; able to cope with an unexpected change; would rather play with a friend or children rather than adults; not overly controlling of play with other children; able to self-calm to fall asleep; able to tolerate and wear textures of new and varied articles of clothes; need for crashing, bumping and moving fast does not interfere with participation in activities and family life; enjoys participating in loud, fun settings such as birthday parties; not overly controlling of daily tasks such as dressing or mealtimes

11 - 15 Months

Develops a rotary chew

12 Months

Weaned from baby food and bottle. Offer 2% or whole milk

15 - 18 Months

Drinks from an open cup independently and uses utensils to self-feed

24 Months & Up

Can safely eat all foods. Typical Serving Sizes: Fruits and Vegetables – 4 or more servings daily; Fats and Oils – do not limit amount; Dairy Products – 4 servings daily, Meats – 2 servings daily; Breads, Cereals, Starches – 4 or more servings daily

If you have concerns for your child’s Sensory Motor Skill development, contact us today for a FREE screening!