The benefits of multisensory learning

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Having all the problem-solving skills in the world won’t help unless you have enough information to make sense of the problem. You can’t answer questions without facts; you can’t even formulate the right question without knowing enough about the problem at hand.

To help your child make sense of the world, you need to teach him how to gather important information using his five senses. Modern research backs this up – a multisensory approach has been shown to improve learning outcomes.

For younger children, start off with fun activities that explore each of the five senses:

1. Play a game of Guess Who? using blurry or pixelated pictures.
2. Play “I spy” when stuck in traffic or at the supermarket.
3. Experiment with light and shadow using silhouettes or puppets.

1. Explore your spice cabinet and investigate how different spices smell.
2. Go to a beauty counter in your local mall and try out different perfumes and lotions.
3. Visit a florist and check out the various flowers – which ones smell best? Which flowers don’t even have a smell?

1. Engage in lots of messy play. Try making your own playdough, cloud dough, slime, flubber, kinetic sand and more!
2. Paint in a variety of media, using a variety of techniques. Try impasto or finger painting.
3. Experiment with face painting, make up or nail polish.

1. Blind taste tests are a lot of fun – can you guess which flavour cookie you have?
2. Hit up the samples at the next food fair.
3. Try some experimental new mooncake flavours during the Mooncake Festival.
4. Experiment with eating or cooking food from different cultures.

1. Go on a listening walk through the park. Every few minutes, stop and listen for different bird and animal sounds. What do you hear?
2. Make your own rattles by experimenting with different containers and materials.
3. Listen to a variety of musical styles.
4. Check out the free music concerts at the Botanic Gardens.

For older children, think about activities that can help integrate more than one sense. Cooking, for example, is a fantastic way to do that. Read the recipe together, smell your ingredients and taste your recipe as you go along. Ask your child – how does the taste change? How does the texture change? How does it smell? Can you hear it sizzle (or steam)?

Lastly, think about how to incorporate different senses when it comes to learning. The more ways you learn something, the easier it is for your brain to retrieve that information at a later date. For example, if you are teaching your child a new word, don’t just endlessly repeat it: try integrating different senses. Say it out loud, and perhaps sound out the phonics. Write it out or have your child copy it – this creates a tactile memory of the word. The more ways your child can experience the word, the more neural pathways you create and the better chance he has of remembering it.

You can apply this concept to all areas of learning, so if your child is stuck at a particular topic or idea, maybe it’s time to shake things up and take a different sensory approach!


This is part 10 of a 16-part series on Habits of Mind. Follow the series here.

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