The hand is the teacher, So the mind can learn, So the eye can see.
The sensorial materials in Montessori education are wonderful. They incorporate all of the senses and then some. To quote from a collections of papers I have from my training: "Children are taught to recognize similarities and contrasts between and among objects and entities- visually, auditorily, dimensionally, stereognostically, tactily, tastily, barically, and thermically." Montessori taught that from birth to age six the child is in a sensitive period for exploring with the senses. Also, from age 2-6 the child is in a sensitive period for the refining of the senses and has quite a fascination with the senses. To provide a little insight as to why the first Montessori year, and so many materials, are devoted to the development of the senses, we have to understand the importance of a sensitive period. Montessori taught that a sensitive period is a transitory, and somewhat brief, period of time that a child has an unconscious need and overpowering force and interest in a specific aspect. This need and focus doesn't lead to fatigue or boredom, but to a greater interest and finally to a state of consciousness and fulfillment. Montessori also taught that a sensitive period can never be regained once passed, and is somewhat like a window of time that closes whether used or not. So, yes, activities involving the senses are so important!
Here are just two example from our Montessori time today in which we used and developed the senses. The Touch Tablets (made from different grades of sandpaper) are an early Montessori activity. The introduction to this begins with the youngest children touching the Rough and Smooth board. Next, the child feels different grades of sandpaper. Lastly, the child matches grades of sandpaper while blindfolded. The use of the blindfold not only entertains the child (my daughter loves it) but helps to isolate the sense being used, which helps provide a greater impression.
This activity can be played alone or with another person. The tablet on the left stays in place while the right hand feels the other tablets for a match. The tablets are also very easy to make, requiring only sandpaper, a base and glue.
The stickers on the back are the same if the match is correct.
Another game we played on this day involved the bell and blindfold. One person sat blindfolded in the middle of the room, while the other person walked quietly to a spot and then rang the bell. The blindfolded person pointed to where they thought the bell ringer was and then took off the blindfold to see if they were correct. These types of games are so simple, but really enjoyed and fun. It doesn't take much to create a game using any of the senses!
I hope this post inspires you to provide a Sensorial activity. Just writing this has really renewed my appreciation of the materials. I am so grateful that Dr. Montessori had the wisdom to create these activities and the knowledge of its importance to share with us.