In the realm of Montessori education, Dr. Maria Montessori identified five crucial areas of focus: Practical Life, Language, Sensorial, Math, and Culture. From birth, children establish a sensory connection with their surroundings. They receive information through their senses, which is immediately processed in their brains. Sensorial activities play a vital role in enabling infants to sort, pair, and manipulate objects, contributing to their overall development.
Sensorial activities involve a collection of wooden Montessori items specifically designed by Dr. Maria Montessori. These activities not only provide enjoyment for children but also promote the development of their senses.
The Role of Sensorial Materials in Child Development
Within a Montessori classroom, various materials cater to a child’s five senses: visual perception, tactile perception, auditory perception, gustatory perception, and olfactory perception. Engaging in sensory activities helps refine a child’s senses and enhances their ability to discriminate, sort, pair, and order. These activities also contribute to the expansion of a child’s vocabulary. With each introduction of new materials, the child adds words to their dictionary, fostering language development. Furthermore, sensorial activities aid in the development of fine motor skills, which serve as a crucial foundation for writing. Moreover, sensorial materials play a significant role in improving a child’s concentration.
Key Characteristics of Sensorial Materials
Sensorial materials are not commonly found in the home environment. Until a child enters the Montessori environment, they may never have seen or worked with these materials before. Designed to provide a concrete purpose, these materials enable children to observe the control of error, allowing them to correct themselves. They possess a simple appearance, often referred to by Dr. Montessori as ‘Materialized Abstracts.’ Sensorial materials demonstrate concepts such as height, width, length, area, and diameter, helping children develop a deeper understanding of these dimensions.
The Areas Covered by Sensorial Materials in Montessori Education
The sensorial area of the Montessori classroom is divided into six distinct areas, each targeting a specific sense:
Color – Visual Sense
Color is introduced to children through color table boxes. The first box contains pairs of primary colors, while the second box includes tablet pairs of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. The third box encompasses shades of all colors. By engaging with these materials, children learn to recognize and pair colors. They also acquire knowledge of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as different shades. Additionally, children can experiment with mixing two colors to discover new shades. Furthermore, these activities help children differentiate between sizes, such as ‘big, small,’ ‘big, bigger, biggest.’ By incorporating order and left-to-right movement, these materials also contribute to vocabulary expansion. Another notable benefit is the enhancement of visual discrimination skills.
Relevant materials in this area include cylinder blocks, pink towers, red rods, brown stairs, and knobbles cylinders.
Tactile – Sense of Touch
Tactile activities focus on developing a child’s ability to identify rough and smooth textures. These activities also enable children to perceive sensations such as hot and cold through their skin. Materials such as rough and smooth boards, tablets, fabrics, thermic bottles, thermic tablets, and baric tablets aid in the development of tactile perception.
Auditory, Olfactory, Gustatory – Hearing, Smell, and Taste Senses
Auditory activities in the sensorial area enhance a child’s ability to distinguish sounds. Children learn to pair similar sounds and also grade them based on loudness or softness. Sound boxes are commonly utilized for auditory exercises.
Olfactory activities focus on developing a child’s sense of smell. Smelling bottles are used to introduce various scents to children, while gustatory activities involve tasting jars to familiarize children with different flavors, such as salty, sweet, bitter, and sour.
Stereo Gnostic Sense
The stereo gnostic sense refers to the sense we use when all other senses are absent. It is the ability to identify objects even when our eyes are closed. In the Montessori environment, children are introduced to the mystery bag, which includes a blindfold. Objects with interesting textures are placed inside the bag, and children cover their eyes with the blindfold, reach into the bag, and attempt to guess the object by feeling it. This activity engages the stereo gnostic sense.
The Importance of Sensory Play
Sensory play is vital for developing and expanding a child’s memory. It also helps strengthen the neural connections in their brain. Sensory activities can be particularly beneficial for fussy children. For example, if a child dislike walking without slippers or shoes, engaging in sensory play, such as jumping into a mud puddle, walking on paint, or playing with sand, can help desensitize them to various textures and sensations.
Parents can also incorporate simple sensory play activities at home to support their child’s sensory development. By creating an environment that encourages exploration through the senses, children can experience the joy and concentration that arise from engaging in these activities.
Sensorial activities play a significant role in a child’s development, fostering the refinement of their senses and facilitating the development of essential skills. Through sensorial materials and activities, children gain valuable experiences that enhance their cognitive, physical, and emotional growth. By actively engaging with their surroundings and exploring the world through their senses, children lay a solid foundation for future learning and development.