Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Montessori Sensorial Activities and Material for Sensory Processing Disorder

…To lead the child from the education of the senses to ideas. ~Edouard Séguin

The studies conducted by Edouard Séguin and Maria Montessori, both physicians and educationists, have given us proof that children need sensory experiences to grow and learn. This is all the more true for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Carol Kranowitz (The Out-of-Sync Child) says that "Just as the five main food groups provide daily nutritional requirements, a daily sensory diet fulfills physical and emotional needs”. Studies have also shown that stimulation of the tactile (touch), vestibular (inner ear), and proprioceptive (muscle and joint) senses help develop and grow dendrites and synapses in the brain.

So what about the children who have difficulty processing sensory information? These children need a way to have their needs met. Developing the senses improves energy, focus, and the ability to self-regulate behavior. Sensory activities facilitate whole brain learning and children will be more successful academically and practically. A child with hyper-sensitivities may need more calming sensory input while children with hypo-sensitivities will need more arousing input. Such activities help restructure the nervous system so that, over time, the child is better equipped to:

Montessori Sensorial Activities and Material for Sensory Processing Disorder

  • tolerate challenging sensations and situations
  • reduce sensory seeking and/or avoidance behaviors
  • make transitions with less stress
Sensorial Activities in the Montessori Environment

The sense exercises constitute a species of auto-education, which, if these exercises be many times repeated, leads to a perfecting of the child's psycho-sensory processes. ~ Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method.

With ample opportunity for hands-on learning and freedom of movement throughout the day, the Montessori environment provides a safe, nurturing place for children to develop their senses. Additionally, Montessori developed the Sensorial Activities to develop and heighten the awareness of the child’s senses. Through repetition, the Montessori child is able to differentiate between the slightest differences and variations in the world around him. The Montessori Sensorial exercises isolate one specific sense at a time, maximizing its refinement.

  • Visual Sense – The child learns to perceive differences in size, form, and color.
    • Montessori materials: the Pink Tower, Brown Prisms, Red Rods, Knobbed and Knobless Cylinders, Geometric Solids and the Geometric Cabinet
  • Chromatic Sense – The child learns to perceive differences between primary and secondary, as well as the various gradations of each.
    • Montessori materials: Color tablets
  • Stereognostic Sense - The child learns through his hands to perceive size and shape of objects.
    • Materials: Activities are conducted with the eyes closed.
  • Tactile Sense – The child learns to perceive her world through touch.
    • Montessori materials: Sandpaper tablets, Fabric swatches
  • Thermic Sense – The child learns to differentiate temperature by touch.
    • Montessori materials: Thermic tablets
  • Baric Sense – The child learns to differentiate the weight of objects.
    • Montessori materials & activities: Baric tablets, moving child-sized furniture around the room
  • Auditory Sense – The child learns to differentiate the sounds of her world.
    • Activities: The Silence Game.
  • Olfactory Sense – The child learns to differentiate the smells of her world.
    • Montessori materials: Scent bottles
  • Gustatory Sense – The child learns to differentiate the tastes of her world.
    • Activities: Food Preparation, food tasting
Children with SPD do best with a predictable routine. They like to know “what happens next”. Transitions are difficult if they are not adequately prepared ahead of time. They need a clear sense of order. All of these needs are clearly met within the Montessori environment. Materials are kept in the same order on the same shelves. Activities are set up in a left-to-right progression. While they are free to chose their work for the day, there is a certain routine to the day: they greet the teacher and enter the classroom; they put away their coat; they get out a work; there is a three-hour work cycle; they may eat a snack when they are hungry; they have group time; they play outside; and they are dismissed to go home. There is a quiet underlying structure which supports their freedom to choose work and move about the Montessori classroom.

The Montessori teacher is a carefully trained observer who thoroughly constructs and prepares the environment and Montessori lessons to meet the needs of all children.

Related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, May 12, 2010.


  1. Thank you so much for writing these articles. My son has SPD - specifically visual and attends a Montessori school. I struggle to educate the teachers on which materials are best for him, this is awesome!!

  2. Thank you so much for this very helpful information, it puts things into perspective.I am about to begin my Montessori training in the Republic of Ireland, and I am very excited!
    Thank you once again.

  3. Thank you for this article enjoyed reading1


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