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Developing the Senses - Touch

Lately, I've been talking a lot about how we support Gus' language development here at home, in particular his path towards writing and reading. I can't write more about that without pausing here to write another article about developing the senses. That's because sensorial work is so so important. As a Montessori parent, I know that I cannot separate Gus' development into neat little categories. By working on developing his senses, we are supporting his path toward academic work. It's with and through those senses that young children learn. 

Montessori parenting advice on developing the sense of touch - an important step in children's learning plus some easy activities to support this need

When there's a tactile sensory experience connected to movement, the brain makes more connections and more easily retains that information. It's through the sense of touch that children will further learn about the things in their environment. It will help them discover different shapes, textures, and temperatures. And in supporting their journey toward writing and reading, touch becomes an important as you introduce the sandpaper letters. 

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Babies and Young Toddlers

Babies and toddlers are experiencing their world through their senses from the moment they are born. The sense of touch will be developed naturally as they start to explore everything from their own clothes, to the toys in their environment. 

Practice skin to skin and baby massage. Even the youngest babies can learn through the sense of touch, and then they are too small to explore, your touch is beneficial. Not only does skin to skin time and baby massage promote connection, there are tons of other benefits for your baby

Offer lots of material types in your environment. There's sometimes a myth that in Montessori environments all the the materials should be made of wood. That's really not true. We want to offer a variety of textures and materials to even young babies. So take stock of what you have available to your baby or young toddler. Do you have something metal? Do you have something soft and cosy? What about hard? Or rough? Or squishy? Think about the materials and textures your baby is experiencing and try to expand on that. 

Read Touch and Feel Books. These types of books are engaging for young toddlers in particular and involve lots of textures, These DK touch and feel board books are some of my favorites but there are lots of different types available on the market.     

Older Toddlers 

Older toddlers are often ready for more direct experiences with their senses. At this point the experiences can be more intentional and should include lots of language to accompany their learning. 

Offer lots of natural sensory experiences. I know that sensory bins are all the rage online and I've used plenty myself but the best experience you can offer is just getting outside to play and explore. Go barefoot, run around, play in the rain, play in the snow, play in the mud, walk in the leaves. Go on a texture hunt, pick up rocks, collect things. There are literally endless sensory possibilities right outside. 

Get in the kitchen and work. Much like nature, there are so many great, natural, easy sensory experiences in the kitchen. From baking bread to washing dishes, there are so many great opportunities to explore the sense of touch. And, toddlers love this type of practical work and are often very capable of this kind of work.

Give language to the texture you explore. "Wow, that's really rough!" "Oh, I like how fuzzy that blanket is." "Oh, that spoon is cold."  Just talk, talk, talk about how things physically feel. Give that language. 


At this age kids are ready to refine and isolate their experiences with their senses. You might want to consider more specific work that isolates the sense of touch while continuing to give language. There are lots of these opportunities in a Montessori classroom, and many of them could be modified to be used at home. 

Match fabric samples by touch. This is such a simple idea that can be used in a variety of ways. Basically all you need is a few fabric swatches that match. You can either use fabric that looks the same but feels differently (Spoonflower has a great sample pack that works for this) or use different fabrics in a mystery bag. Then, have your child try to match the swatches together through touch. 

Don't shy away from rough. Sometimes we have a lot of soft in our lives, but don't forget rough! You could create something like the touch boards (although I wouldn't bother if you child goes to a Montessori school.) Or create some sanding work with different levels of sandpaper and some wood - this is actually on my to-do list to make for Gus. But, get used to working with rough texture, because it's important to tolerate it with sandpaper letters. 
Play with a blindfold. If you need an even bigger touch challenge, get a blindfold! Gather some natural materials in a tray, use a blindfold and see if your child can identify them by texture. Or, use other toys or materials with a blindfold so the sense of touch is heightened. This is a great fun way to isolate touch and make work that was previously getting a little too easy a little more challenging. 

Montessori parenting advice on developing the sense of touch - an important step in children's learning plus some easy activities to support this need

How have you worked on developing your child's sense of touch? 


holly said…
This is great. It's easy to just associate touch with sensory bins but you are so right-kids are learning through touch from the time they are born. I love the idea with the blindfold.

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