Sensory Learning & Play for Toddlers

Despite shifting pedagogical trends over the past century, Montessori education appears to have remained consistent. The foundation of Springdale Academy’s early childhood curriculum is the Montessori philosophy. Using learner-driven approaches, it follows the learning preferences of each student, nurturing and developing them to the fullest so they can develop to their full potential.

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.” 

– Dr. Maria Montessori

In Sensory Learning, students learn through a variety of senses, including touch, smell, sight, sound, taste, balance, and spatial awareness. Children learn about objects, colors, textures, tastes, numbers, and situations through activities that engage them in studying. For example, play may involve squishing, squelching, splashing, smearing, tossing, and running. This may seem messy, so parents may avoid it. However, for a child’s health and development, sensory play that stimulates any of their senses is beneficial. Besides introducing them to the world around them, it also builds cognitive skills.

Since infancy and toddlerhood, sensory learning activities have been an invaluable part of learning. This is true of babies who respond to the environment and develop new connections with toddlers who are naturally curious about the world around them. They want to explore it. It leads to a greater ability to think and be independent as they grow. Sensory play promotes the development of language and motor skills, so here at Springdale Academy, we strongly believe that sensory play works hand in hand with sensory learning.

Sensory Receivers

An essential element of Montessori education is the focus on the eight senses that help a child develop actively. The visual sense teaches children to differentiate between the form, color, and size of objects through colored blocks, brown stairs, long red rods, or pink towers. Touch materials such as touch boards and tablets, along with fabric boards, can be utilized to develop the tactile sense – the sense in which a child explores the world through their touch. Baric sense involves using tactile sense with wooden tablets of the same size but different weights. This combined with pressure cylinders teaches children how to distinguish between different weights. For the refinement of a child’s sense of temperature or thermic sense, thermic tablets are utilized, which are made up of felt, cork, wood, slate, and steel.

A sound cylinder comprises two sets of contrasting colored cylinders that, when shaken, make a distinctive sound, which refines the auditory sense and aids in maintaining concentration while listening. Using the gustatory sense, a child differentiates tastes through food preparation and tasting, while the olfactory sense helps children differentiate smells. Finally, stereognosis refers to the ability to recognize an object without taking a visual, auditory, olfactory, or gustatory view of it. Instead, it depends on touch and muscle memory, for which mystery bags filled with randomly shaped objects are perfect.

Embracing Sensory Learning

Each classroom at Springdale Academy is meticulously designed to be intellectually stimulating with a wide range of accessible learning materials. Instead of staying static at desks, children can choose materials that interest them and work with them for as long as they wish! Besides writing and reciting the alphabet, our students do much more; The first step involves feeling alphabet shapes by tracing them and saying them aloud. They can also put their thoughts into words while touching and feeling wooden letters through the moveable alphabets as they progress. Practicing this builds excellent motor control and muscle memory, and it isn’t until these are mastered that children begin writing. While making it extremely enjoyable, sensory activities can help students learn to associate letters and words with sounds more quickly than conventional methods.

Utilizing wooden number rods and spindle boxes that teach numbers up to 10, we introduce math exercises at a sensory level. This ensures that children can relate quantity to symbols. Racks and tubes are used to introduce short and long division, with colorful, engaging objects representing numbers and their quantities. The numbers and symbols are much easier to understand and relate to when touched and visualized.

It is a Springdale teacher’s philosophy to regularly take the children into nature whenever possible. Green space is critical for learning and growth because it encourages sensory learning. This is true whether you’re visiting a local pond, walking in the woods, or enjoying a nearby city park. There is always sensory learning in action when you are outside. This is whether you are listening to birds chirping, having a picnic, watching bugs, or planting herbs and flowers that smell like spring.

It is safe to say that sensory learning has a long list of benefits over traditional learning. These benefits range from developing nerve connections to enhancing memory to enhancing critical thinking to developing social skills. As children play and learn through sensory activities, they become more capable, resourceful, creative, optimistic, and capable of self-examination.

In the words of Confucius, “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I comprehend.” Become a part of Springdale Academy and give your child this unique experience!

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