The child starting at birth uses senses to explore the world around them. Maria Montessori believed that all learning comes from the senses, and when discussing education of the senses she was one of the first to recognize that in order for a child to learn properly, a multi-sensory approach is essential. Montessori observed that the young child is attracted more by stimuli than by reason or hands-on experiences. Sensory training was not for new knowledge, but for refinement of what the mind has already absorbed. Montessori's aim was to first sharpen the senses, then teach the child to make comparisons using prepared works. Children's ability to have different sensory experiences allows them to start gaining vocabulary to go with those experiences.
Olfactory Experience (Sense of Smell)
Today we are going to explore the olfactory system (sense of smell). This system is important to develop because it supports young children to identify smells around them. The sense of smell closely relates to the brain’s limbic system, a part of the nervous system that is responsible for emotions and memory. This is why certain smells bring back specific memories.
Developing the olfactory system supports the child in tolerating different odors in the environment and the child can sort out “good” smells from smells that mean danger such as the smell of smoke or burning. The first model for children on how to complete a smelling activity is by modeling how to place the spice close to your nose, but not on your nose then to think about the smell. A teacher can describe the smell out loud to children. Then the children can try the activity.
Simple activities to sharpen the child's senses:
- Smelling fresh spices: A tray of ramekins with three different spices for children to smell. Have children use adjective to describe the smell of each spice.
- Mortar and Pestles: Children crush herbs or spices to bring out a stronger smell. Cloves are a great choice for this activity. Children need to use strength and pressure to break up the spices.
- Fruit slicing: Cut up bananas and add taste to the olfactory experience.
- Boiled egg peeling: this fine motor activity combined with a different olfactory experience is perfect for a young child.
- Flower dissection: Model smelling the flower then give some adjectives to describe the smell. Take a closer look at the flower, model pulling petals carefully. Older children can dissect the flower and name the different parts.
Advancing Sensorial Experience
Maria Montessori believed in preparing sensorial works such as soft and hard to introduce making comparisons. Through observation the teacher can determine when to move the student to make their own observations and support children in making their own judgements (if I do this, then this will happen), the Simple Machine: Wood Block and Tackle Model supports the child in making their own discoveries and scientific predictions. The sensory classification kit will have children sorting and thinking about what sense they use to explore different objects. This interactive kit is a perfect addition to the sensorial area of the classroom.