When infants first interact with the world, they don’t have words to describe what they encounter, so they absorb their surroundings and new information through their senses. They experience the external world through the use of their senses. Our eyes help us see, our ears let us hear, our hands help us feel, our noses let us smell, and our tongues help us taste.
Children are spontaneous learners. Every day is a new opportunity for a child to learn. You can use almost anything surrounding you to help stimulate a child’s senses. Begin by experimenting with different smells, watch their expressive language for likes and dislikes. Visit a park, find nature objects to touch, taste, smell, using language to describe what you’re experimenting with. Children respond differently to sensory experiences. These experiences can greatly improve their motor skills, raise awareness of the world around them, and contribute to language acquisition. They can also be quite therapeutic. Enhancing and building upon the child’s senses helps improve their social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language development.
The hand is a powerful tool. Dr. Maria Montessori emphasizes that the hand as one of the most important tools used to connect the child to their environment. In Montessori, we don’t use computers at a preschool level because we want children to learn through the use of their hands; touching and manipulating real objects in their environment. Children are “trained” to use their senses. We provide works and materials that require a thorough use of the senses to accomplish the lesson.
“To learn a craft, especially if it is of an artistic or refined nature, means that one must develop his senses and the movements of his hands, and these movements are assisted by a consequent refinement of the sense of touch.” (The Discovery of the Child, p 146)
“The senses are organs for the apprehension of images of the external world necessary for the mind, just as the hand is the organ for grasping material needed by the body. But both hand and senses can be perfected to perform much higher tasks and thus become ever more worthy servants of the spirit that retains them in its service. Any real education of the intellect should also raise the potentialities of these two faculties, which are capable of almost indefinite improvement.” (The Discovery of the Child, p 148)
The sound boxes allow the child to discriminate the different sounds, finding which ones are loud and soft. This work refines the auditory sense.
There are many variations in training the senses. Blindfolding a child encourages them to use their other senses. They listen for the sound of the wood prisms touching one another, they feel the weight of the baric tablet in comparison to the others, or touch the soft fabric, attempting to match it to its pair.
“The training of the senses, insofar as it makes a man an observer, not only fulfills the generic function of adapting him to the contemporary mode of civilization, but it also prepares him for the exigencies of life.” (The Discovery of the Child, p 145)
You can provide a stimulating environment by recognizing your child’s needs. What excites them the most? For young infants, visual stimulation is extremely important. Providing a beautiful mobile that moves naturally with the rhythm of the air helps promote visual stimulation, enhances concentration and focus, and encourages reaching and grasping of certain objects.
By educating the child’s senses, allowing them to connect and explore the world around them, we are in fact aiding to the construction of intelligence.