Growing minds need constant sensory input. This sensorial focus is at the heart of the Montessori education. It stimulates the child’s five senses: touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. It allows them to study and experience their world in a meaningful way.
Sensorial learning activities help children explore shapes, colors, textures, sounds, tastes, and smells. It is a fun way to learn that is also extremely beneficial. By using sensorial materials and practicing sensorial activities, children are given different avenues to classify and create order to their understanding, learning, and place in the world. It helps them build necessary skills, such as logic and cognition, while also helping enhance their memory by learning through experience.
Sounds great, right? But what does it look like in the Montessori classroom?
Montessori sensory materials are broken down into eight different groups:
Visual: This includes exercises in which children learn to visually discriminate between objects. This can be achieved by using a common Montessori material known as the Pink Tower. It is made up of 10 blocks that descend in size. By playing with the tower children hone their visual sense by learning differences in dimension and their sense of space. Classification cards are another tool for the visual learner. The cards have pictures of objects on them so children can see what they’re learning about.
Tactile, Baric and Thermic: To develop these senses, children learn by engaging with different items hands-on. They learn the feel and weight of objects, such as rough and smooth boards, fabrics, and weighted cylinders. Thermic bottles, filled with cool, warm, and hot water, can be used to help children refine their sense of temperature. Children can also use dressing frames to learn how to tie shoes and button buttons. Outdoor play is another great way to develop children’s physical senses.
Auditory: Although Montessori teachers do not lecture as much as conventional teachers, children still have ample opportunities to speak with their teacher and ask questions. But auditory lessons go far beyond conversations in the Montessori classroom. Students can build this sense by recording and playing back sounds, matching sounds with sound cylinders, and even self-talk.
Olfactory and Gustatory: With these exercises and materials, children are given the opportunity to sharpen their sense of smell and taste. This can be achieved through smelling jars and tasting bottles. Smelling jars can be filled with various items such as vanilla extract, lemon juice, coffee grounds, or peppermint leaves. Children then smell the bottles and try to discern what’s inside. The tasting jars work much the same way except children are given dropper bottles with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter liquids to try and identify.
Stereognostic: This sense, often referred to as the Montessori Sixth-sense, is about a child’s ability to identify an object without seeing, tasting, smelling, or hearing its sounds. This sense is how you can feel around in your pocket or purse and find your keys with just your sense of touch. This sense can be developed in the classroom with blindfolds and mystery bags. Without visual cues, children must use their bodies to feel the shape, temperature and weight of objects. Items used to develop this sense can be as simple as basic shapes and common household items to the pieces of a U.S. map puzzle.
All sensory play in a Montessori classroom calls for fun activities that stimulate children’s senses. The activities should be safe, inspiring, and challenging. By utilizing all of their senses, children will create strong neurological pathways and concrete understanding of the world around them.