In Montessori Meanings we will explore the meaning of the word Sensorial. This word refers to an area of our environment that is dedicated to the child's need to refine his ability to distinguish sensory input.
In the first three years of life the child is exploring and amassing a great deal of raw data about his world. It is important that the very young child has rich and varied experiences the more the better!
As the child begins to mature, he still requires rich and varied experiences, but he now has a need to be able to tell the difference between big and "almost as big" or heavy and slightly heavier or loud and just a little bit louder. Most of our sensorial materials are designed so that the child is asked to "grade" them from largest to smallest, heaviest to lightest, darkest to lightest, highest pitch to lowest pitch or coolest to warmest.
Some of the materials are designed so that the child matches things by sight or by taste or smell or sound. When a child attempts to grade or match and doesn't quite get it, we refrain from correcting the child. We trust that the child will eventually correct himself. When he does, we see the sense of real accomplishment on the face of the child who has mastered this work on his own!
In the Montessori Environment we also encourage the child to give a name to what he perceives. It is not enough, for example, to be able to match 11 colors in seven shades each. He should also be able to name them. "This is dark blue, but this blue is the darkest." The rich sensorial education that occurs in our environment helps that child to develop his power of discrimination, helps him to refine his concepts and his language skills as well.
Some of our sensorial materials are also related directly to Mathematical concepts. The materials that help the child grade by size, thickness or length are all related to the base ten system. There are ten pieces to grade. The Pink Tower, Brown Stair and Red Rods are very directly related to Math, and there are reflections of these works in the math materials.
Some of our materials are related to concepts of geometry. The Geometric Solids are a material that help the child give names to various solids that occur in nature, such as the sphere, the cylinder or the cone.
The child learns to identify these by sight as well as by feel. The Constructive Triangles show the child, in a very hands on way, the relationships between several different shapes. There are many sensorial materials, many ways to challenge the child's need to categorize and put order into his concepts. It is exciting to see the growth of the children in this area and the delight they often take in exploring these materials.