our everyday life

What Can Parents Do to Encourage Perceptual Development?

by Erin Schreiner, studioD

When children enter the world, they can feel discomfort and alert others to their upset with often ear-piercing cries. Beyond that, they can do nothing. As they age, they develop the skills necessary to interact with the world around them in a meaningful way. The development of these skills is referred to as perceptual development. This type of development falls into four major categories: auditory, tactile, visual and motor.


When your child is first born, his hearing is his most keen sense. He has, after all, been able to hear things in the womb while his eyes were largely useless and his skin, surrounded by amniotic fluid, gave him no insight into the world. The best thing you can do to promote the development of your child’s auditory perception is to read to him often. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends that parents start sharing bedtime stories from birth. When reading to your infant, you don't necessarily have to read the words on the page, but can instead focus on describing the pictures. As your child becomes more responsive, ask him questions about the pictures or text.


From birth, your child will have some sense of what feels good against his skin and what doesn’t. It is for this reason that he can recognize his discomfort and cry out when he soils his diaper. As he enters toddlerhood and becomes responsive to you, help him advance these skills with dedicated practice. As soon as your toddler stops putting everything in his mouth -- likely around age 2 1/2 -- start working with him on his tactile development by giving him malleable items with which to play, such as play dough or silly putty. Pair rolling pins, plastic knives and cookie cutters with these squeezable playthings, giving him more motivation to participate in an extended period of play with this malleable substance, according to Scholastic.


Newborns enter the world with a visual acuity between 20/200 and 20/400 -- bad enough to qualify them as blind if they were adults, says KidsHealth. Your child’s ability to see will improve substantially and rapidly as his eyes adjust to the world outside the womb. To help your child use this valuable sense, engage him in activities that hone his understanding of what he takes in with his eyes. Encourage your baby to explore her entire field of vision instead of just looking in front of her. Lay her down on her back on the floor and place some colorful toys around her. Allow her to discover and reach for these toys herself. By giving her the chance to look for them instead of just handing them to her, you can encourage vision development and exploration, according to Scholastic.


All development that involves the child’s ability to move falls into the broad category of motor development. Perceptual motor development is a niche of this category that includes only those activities that relate to the child’s ability to perceive how he is moving. By working to develop your child’s perceptual motor skills, you enable him to move more effectively and with greater deliberation. When your child first starts to walk, the task will be challenging enough in itself, but once she has mastered it, adding challenges through the implementation of perceptual motor development activities will help foster growth. Parents.com recommends focusing on balance with your 3-year-old by having him walk along a balance beam. Explain to him that he can hold out his arms to improve his balance. Encourage him to keep trying until he perfects his trek across this narrow beam. Once he has done so, suggest that he add in moves, such as turning or jumping and landing on the beam.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images