Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Supporting physical development in early childhood
Supporting physical development in early childhood

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2 Developing senses

In Section 1 you looked at the four vital systems that keep oxygen flowing to every cell in your body, enable you to move, and allow your body to respond to the environment. In addition, the brain needs information from the world around you to ensure that the body stays safe.

Take a moment to stand up, close your eyes and use your left hand to touch your nose. Think about:

  • How your finger knew where your nose was?
  • Why didn’t you fall over?

It is because of your senses that you are aware of your immediate environment and are able to interpret the world around you. The traditional five senses are: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. However, in addition there are some lesser-known senses that are also vital for health and wellbeing, and which enable humans to function. These include:

  • interoception – awareness of your body’s internal state, such as feeling hungry, perceiving pain (nociception) and awareness of one’s body temperature (thermoception)
  • vestibular sense – sense of balance
  • proprioceptive sense – sense of one’s body in space.

It is because of your proprioceptive and vestibular senses that you could touch your nose and that you didn’t fall over.

The senses use various organs, muscles and nerves to collect information and send messages to the brain for analysis, such as smelling danger, seeing people you recognise, feeling pain or tasting things that make you feel happy. Your senses determine whether you move your hand away from the hot kettle – without your sense of touch you would not be aware that the heat was damaging your skin.

Your senses often send a lot of information to the brain at once. The brain must integrate and organise this information through a process known as sensory integration, and babies and young children need lots of opportunities to experience the world using all their senses. Movement is essential to achieving ‘sensory integration’ and enabling young children to learn to make sense of the world and respond to the different stimuli they encounter.

Next, you will look at the five traditional senses, along with vestibular sense and proprioceptive sense, and discuss why these are so important to children’s overall development and learning.