As we started our walk, he pointed to things that are rough and smooth and reached out to confirm his observations. I began introducing him to these sensorial differences when he was just a toddler by saying, “The gate is smooth”, encouraging him to touch it. I would then guide him to the bricks on a side wall and say, “The wall is rough.” He would cautiously touch each and repeat “smooth” and “rough”.

He is now older and more confident in his tone as he states in advance whether something will be rough or smooth, adding description to his findings, “The bricks are rough!” As his outstretched arm reaches to touch, he does it without hesitation and for confirmation. Satisfied, he smiles. His senses are on it!

The development of the child’s senses begins at birth, however the refinement of these senses is heightened between the ages of two to six years. Introducing examples of the sensorial differences while outside can be a wonderful opportunity to expand his awareness through real and concrete experiences in nature and the outdoors. This can apply to all of the child’s senses: auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile. Pack a ‘travel snack’ and drinks and the child can explore textures and tastes as well.

Building on this, children love to match and grade objects. As an activity, for example, place several sticks of various lengths randomly on a sidewalk square. Ask the child to place the longest stick on a square several feet away. Then, ask the child to get the next longest and lay it beside the first. 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. Continue with, “This stick is long.” Next, “This stick is longer.” Pause and then continue until the last is placed, “This stick is longest.” Isolate this language and repeat “Long, longer, longest”, while pointing to each.

Activities can be created with all kinds of objects and can help to refine any of the child’s senses. Using things in nature or at home, similarities and relationships are everywhere! Children love to grade colored objects from lightest to darkest; identify the various saltiness of foods; determine the strength of smell of pre-made solutions of concentrated soap… Together, you can be creative! These complex activities are intended to encourage the child to engage in deeper sensorial exploration and discovery, and to develop an always important life skill … attention to detail.

“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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