Skip to main content

Sensorial Learning at Home at 3-years-old

Children have a deep need to develop their senses as they explore the world around them. It is through this development that they prepare themselves for the deeper learning that comes with many academic subjects. Unfortunately, many mainstream educational methods ignore the need for sensorial development and they skip right to traditional academic subjects like language and math. But, by doing so, children are often under-prepared to tackle these other topics. 

Older toddlers start to refine their senses, in a Montessori classroom this is done through sensorial work. Here are some alternatives to traditional sensorial work that can help compliment these Montessori materials at home!

You may notice this need for sensorial exploration start to creep in between 2.5-years-old and 3, although children are developing their senses from birth. I know that I have with Nora. It started with examining heavy objects. But, moved to questions like "what's that noise?" with far away or quiet sounds. Lately, it's been a lot of, "I smell something! What I smell?" 

In these instances, it would be great to recreate a Montessori classroom at home for Nora to explore all the different sensorial materials. There are so many to help children isolate and refine their sensorial skills, but it's often unnecessary to do so. These traditional materials can be expensive and extensive. Also, for children who will attend children's house -- like Nora will this fall -- it's not necessary to repeat work at home that they will have at school. 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

But, that doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do at home! There are a lot of ways to support sensorial learning at home at 3-years-old! Here's a list of some of the traditional sensorial work that a 3-year-old may use and some alternative activities to consider trying if you are noticing a need for sensory play, or sensorial exploration, to meet these needs! 

  • DIY sound cylinders -- we used Easter eggs to make ours when Henry was homeschooling
  • Sound Boxes {similar} -- like Nora is using in these pictures 
  • Sound games -- hide with a small bell and see if your toddler can find you!
  • Nature walk -- listen and talk about sounds you hear 

Older toddlers start to refine their senses, in a Montessori classroom this is done through sensorial work. Here are some alternatives to traditional sensorial work that can help compliment these Montessori materials at home!

  • Sort common objects by size -- rocks for example 
  • Stack nesting blocks 
  • Give children language as you talk about size -- small, smaller, smallest, large, larger, largest -- part of these work is just acquiring this new descriptive language 
  • Puzzles that focus on length  
  • Bake and cook together -- stop to enjoy the way things smell 
  • Grow herbs or flowers indoors and talk about how they smell 
  • Nature walk -- stop to smell flowers, herbs, and other plants
  • Explore spices in your home, can even match small containers by smelling only
  • Play smelling game with some kid-safe essential oils and cotton balls -- trying to find matches 

  • DIY a version with sandpaper 
  • Nature walk -- collect natural materials that appeal to your child then sort by rough or smooth 
  • Sort common objects by the way they feel
  • Give your child the rough and smooth language when talk about experiences in your home 
Tasting Bottles 
  • Make lemonade together -- taste ingredients individually and talk about differences
  • Bake and cook together tasting spices as you go
  • Eat new and different foods 

  • DIY your own version with common fabrics in your home 
  • Nature walk match different "materials" found in nature
Binomial Cube
This list is by no means exhaustive or complete! Nor is it meant to be a list of things that could replace traditional Montessori sensorial materials. These are things that can be done to compliment traditional materials at home! 

Older toddlers start to refine their senses, in a Montessori classroom this is done through sensorial work. Here are some alternatives to traditional sensorial work that can help compliment these Montessori materials at home!

Have you noticed the need to refine senses in your child? How have you supported it? 

12 Months of Montessori 

This post is brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori series. This month's theme is sensorial. Don't miss these other Montessori and Montessori-inspired sensorial themed posts!

Montessori Baric Tablets | Welcome to Mommyhood



Unknown said…
I love how open-minded kids are at this age! They are eager to explore everything! That is why Sensorial materials are so precious!
Unknown said…
I love the list and how doable it is especially for parents who wanted to experience Montessori at home - Jae

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2019

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure!

2019 UPDATE: This post has been updated to include a variety of brands and new product finds! Just a reminder that no one child will be interested in all of this or needs all of this. These toys are just here to spark ideas and give you a feeling for some Montessori-friendly options available! 

So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. 

First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created to…

Working from Home with Kids - A Montessori Schedule

One part of my life that I haven't talked a ton about here on The Kavanaugh Report is how I'm a work-from-home parent. Eight years ago I started to work at home while parenting full time. For the first several years, I worked as a legal writer while maintaining this space on the side. When Gus was born, I moved into working on sharing our Montessori life full time. It has blossomed into a full time career sharing content here, teaching courses, and now the podcast! Through it all, my kids have been home with me. 
This all seems more relevant to so many of us now that Covid-19 has closed schools and forced parents to stay at home and work while caring for children. I'm not going to lie - it's tough. It's hard to balance work and kids, especially when children are used to a completely different routine. But, it's not impossible! And, it can even be enjoyable. 

As I talk about in my podcast Shelf Help, we block our days into 3 hours groups. It helps me remain fle…

Which Open-Ended Toys are "Worth it?"

As a Montessori parent, I try to provide a mix of materials in our home to engage my kids! That work that will spark joy, concentration, and repetition. It's not always an easy task, as Maria Montessori said, "Life is mysterious...only the choice of life can choose the work that the child truly needs. Therefore, the teacher respects this mysterious process and knows to wait with faith." So, there does sometimes feel like there is a bit of trial and error when it comes to choosing materials that your children need. 

For us, the right balance is easier to find when I spend time deeply observing my children. Watching their interests, sitting on my hands if I have to, letting them struggle a little with things, and letting them get bored. And what I have personally found is that here at home, a combination of open ended materials and more structured work have been the right balance. Open ended toys wouldn't necessarily be found in a Montessori classroom, but they are perf…