Friday, February 23, 2018

“Never give the mind what has not first been experienced by the hand” Maria Montessori

As a doctor and educator, Maria Montessori strongly believed in the importance of a child's sensorial experience from their birth. Sensory comes from the Latin word sentire meaning to perceive, fee. The first six years of a child’s life, is meant to have them experience their surroundings through the five senses as much as possible.

 Children learn so much about the world around them through sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. For example, when taking a nature walk, you may hear birds singing or feel the wind blowing in your hair. Likewise, you may touch the leaves and rocks and feel their different textures and sizes. Lastly,  the flowers you see and smell provide an unforgettable experience about the nature that surrounds you.

If we provide enough sensorial experiences to a child from birth, they won’t have any problems in the future with reading, handwriting, memorization, and other school activities. 
There are traditional Montessori sensorial materials that are available to purchase and many activities you can make yourself. As my sixteen month old daughter  becomes more interested in her older brothers sensorial activities, I am introducing to her the following activities: 

1. Grain work - excellent for children’s motor development skills. This activity requires any type of grain you may find at home such as rice, or dry pasta. You can use coffee beans, peas, and black beans for this exercise as well. Place the grains in various containers and let your child sort them by type, color and size. For young children begin with introducing them to one type of grain and let them play with it. When I first presented before my daughter white beans she could not stop touching, pouring, picking up, and tasting them for over half an hour... I couldn’t believe something as simple as uncooked beans could interest a one year old for such a duration of time. 
Similar to our hands, our feet have many sensory nerve endings. Consider taking your children to the beach or nearest sandbox and allowing them to play barefoot. There are so many benefits to this type of learning experience, and as this is outside the home, it relieves you of a clean up chore around the house.

2. Transferring and pouring water - excellent for  hand coordination and concentration. Prepare a tray with a small pitcher or a small creamer for your youngest student and a glass (or metal cup) with a sponge to clean up spills. Demonstrate to your child how to hold a pitcher with two hands and pour water into the glass. Repeat it again. You can also show how to transfer water or grains with a spoon. Later, add variations to the exercise such as: pouring through a funnel.

 3. Sound bells
 Children are fascinated with musical sounds. I have never met a child that isn’t excited by music. There is a difference between passive listening  and creating musical sounds. There are traditional Montessori sound bells (see the first item on my Amazon list below) that I recommend. Alternatively, have different materials from home on a tray or in the basket that your child can use to make sounds such as: wooden spoons, metal trays, and small kitchen pots or  drums. Let your child experiment with the sounds by themselves. I know it’s tempting to create the sounds for your children but it’s much more exciting and rewarding for a young human to discover a new sound for themselves. Teach your little one some basic music terms: loud, quiet (forte and piano for older children), high and low sounding pitch and other alterations.

4. Smelling bottles - my favorite! Purchase clear bottles that are easy to open. Fill them halfway with coffee beans, cinnamon sticks, lavender flowers, garlic powder, and vanilla flavor. As you introduce these aromas for the first time, make sure you name them for your child. When my son was two years old, I used a gift set with essential oils to introduce to him eucalyptus, lavender, orange, and vanilla scents. He was mesmerized by the activity! A year has passed and I happened to the set and recently added some eucalyptus to the kids bath, after which my son happily announced, “Mom, I remember this smell, it’s eucalyptus”. What we retain through our sense of smell amazes me!

My next article will feature part two or more sensorial activities to complete with your kids. Stay tuned!

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