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Early Childhood Today

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Learning Through the Senses

All our senses teach us about the world. However, some of us may approach learning most actively through sight; others, through sound. To build on children's natural tendencies, tune in to their preferences. Then encourage them to try new approaches as well. Here's some help.

  • Imagine that you've just read a story together. Most children who:
  • remember the pictures best are absorbing information through their visual sense.
  • repeat particular snatches of conversation, dialogue, and description prefer the auditory approach.
  • dance, act out, or use creative movement to portray a portion of the story are most involved in a kinesthetic approach.
  • look back over the pages, touching the illustrations while talking about them, are using the tactile approach.

A Multisensory Approach

There are some children who have a multisensory approach to learning, which means they need to use all of their senses to truly understand a concept or idea. Here's an example: While at the beach, three-year-old Louis saw children scooping water into pails, digging holes with shovels, and pouring the water into the holes. He wanted to do the same, so his mother gave him a pail and told him to go to the water's edge and fill it up. He tried, but because he was scooping backwards, he had nothing to show for his efforts. His mother then explained how to use the pail, but Louis still didn't understand. She decided it was time to demonstrate, explaining what she was doing as she went along. Now Louis took a turn. Bingo! Seeing other children involved in the process wasn't enough. Hearing an explanation didn't do the trick either. But a demonstration accompanied by an explanation and the opportunity to try it on his own brought a multisensory success. 

As you strive to reach all of the children you work with, don't hesitate to try approaching learning through as many senses as possible. Its fun, and children will relish experiences even more.

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