Introduction to Sensorial
Adults and children alike experience the world through their senses - their eyes, ears, hands, nose and mouth. A young child in particular meets the world through the constant use of all their senses. To examine a new object, a baby will look at it, hold it to feel the texture and weight, shake it or lick it.
As the child quite naturally uses all powers of observation during the early years, Dr. Montessori believed that this was the ideal time to give them the equipment to sharpen their senses and enable them to understand the many impressions they receive through them.
The Sensorial materials in a Montessori classroom help children become aware of details by offering, at first, strongly contrasted sensations, such as smooth vs. rough or light vs. heavy to appreciate differences. Secondly, children develop likeness through matching exercises, for instance the 1st Colour Tablets include matching two red tablets, two blue tablets etc. Following this children move into variously graded sensations, for example the 3rd Colour Tablet box grades colours from darkest to lightest.
Each of the Sensorial materials isolate one defining quality. For example, colour, weight, shape, texture, size, sound, smell, etc. The materials emphasise one particular quality by eliminating or minimising other differences. Therefore, the Colour Tablets, for example, are all the same size, the same shape, the same texture - their only difference is colour.
Why do we educate the senses? It’s possible for adults and children alike to receive a plethora of sensory impressions without any increased effect. Two adults can attend an art exhibition together. One experiences great pleasure and the other, with equally sharp eyesight, is bored and weary. Sense impressions are not enough by themselves. The mind needs to be educated and trained to be able to discriminate and appreciate.
Likewise, children can also remain unmoved by a myriad of sensory impressions in their everyday environment. They don’t need more and more impressions, but rather the ability to understand what they are perceiving.
The Montessori Sensorial materials help children to distinguish, categorise and relate new information to what they already know.
Some of the most widely recognised Montessori materials are Sensory materials - The Pink Tower, The Broad Stairs and the Red Rods - were the first materials Dr. Montessori introduced in her classroom, over 100 years ago. She did not invent them, but rather borrowed them from tools that were used by psychologists at the time to test psychological capacity of adults. The psychometric tests at that time were an indicator of an adult’s intelligence as they either passed or failed depending on whether they had learned and ingrained the concepts at a young age. By introducing these materials in the classroom with children, she ensured that their brain’s developed to learn these concepts from the start.