“The training and sharpening of the senses has the obvious advantage of enlarging the field of perception and of offering an over more solid foundation for intellectual growth. The intellect builds up its store of practical ideas through contact with, and exploration of its environment. Without such concepts the intellect would lack precision and inspiration in its abstract operations. ” ~ Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

Without effort, Toddlers work unconsciously to refine their senses each day. Especially when outdoors, toddlers innately lead with their senses as they explore and discover the world around them. Knowing this, opportunities for sensorial experiences during a walk are abundant!

Walks Can Refine the Senses

While on a walk with a young toddler, we passed a brick side wall with a gate. I led him to the gate and said, “The gate is smooth. Would you like to touch it?”  He moved his hand across the gates edge.

Next, while touching the brick beside the gate, I said,“The wall is rough.” He touched each cautiously and repeated “smooth” and “rough”.

These moments provided simple sensorial learning and language. And as early sensory connections, they offered a point of reference for future experiences. 

Sensory Predictions

Now older and more confident, he can make more experienced predictions as we walk, e.g., “The bricks are rough,” while reaching to touch them. Watching as he moves his hand along the rugged brick, his smile reveals his growing confidence.  

Developing the Senses

The child’s senses begin developing at birth, however, the refinement of these senses is heightened between the ages of two to six years. Real and concrete experiences or activities in nature expand the child’s sensorial awareness. All that they see, smell, feel, hear and taste is logged in their memory. 

🪵Visual Discrimination Activity—Long, Longer, Longest

Activities can support and refine the child’s developing senses. Below is a visual discrimination activity to try:

  1. Place several sticks of various lengths randomly on a sidewalk square.
  2. Invite the child to place the longest stick on a square several feet away.
  3. Ask the child to get the next longest and lay it beside the first.
  4. Continue until all the sticks have been lined up. The child will feel the stick’s length as he carries it and see the stick’s differences once they are in order.
  5. To begin, “This stick is long.”
  6. Next, “This stick is longer.”
  7. Continue until the last is placed, “This stick is longest.”
  8. Isolate this language and repeat “Long, longer, longest”, while pointing to each.

🔎Relationships in Nature

Similarities and relationships can be found in nature, at home or most anywhere. Activities can help the child experience these discoveries in a meaningful way. Have fun and be creative! And as the child’s developing senses are revealed, their new language learning will be too! 😉

“It is exactly in the repetition of the exercises that the education of the senses exists; not that the child shall know colors, forms or qualities, but that he refines his senses through an exercise of attention, comparison, and judgement.” Dr. Maria Montessori

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