Introducing the Sensorial Materials

Aims of Sensorial Activities



Direct Aim:

  • To increase awareness of the ‘essential properties’ through sensorial experience, independent of discreet objects.
  • To refine the senses
  • To consciously recognise that each property exists in an infinite array of (degrees) qualities



Indirect Aim: 

Each activity has a specific indirect aim, generally they are to help prepare the child for intellectual activity in Mathematics, The Sciences and The Arts, Humanities and Language skills.




The Sensorial Materials are displayed separately from the other areas on low open shelves which allow them to stimulate the child’s interest, they are accessible to her and enable her to freely choose and use them.  When taking a set, unless the lid is part of the activity, leave the lid on the self to indicate to other children that it is in use and to hep the child replace it correctly.  The materials are kept in developmental succession, in groups of similar sets and to indicate the sense organ material is stimulates and ow it will be used.  The materials are kept ‘completed’, like the frames to build in the child’s mind an abstract ‘Criteria of Perfection’.  Some materials require specific ‘furniture’, stands to hold the successfully completed materials and to enhance the voice which calls the child.




The Directress is responsible for ensuring that the materials are ready for use, in good condition, clean and complete, they are scientific instruments and must be kept consistently to build the child’s mental impressions.  The materials beauty will call the child.



Presentation of Sensory Activities:

  • This is done individually as a response to observations of a child’s emerging needs, with  subtle mental movements shown in exaggerated forms alongside with careful physical movements, to model comparing and analysing before moving.  To bring attention to the mental movements presentations are done as simply as possible, with total clarity;
  • Personal invitation, giving the name of the object to be shown and the property and asking for consent.
  • Presentations happen at the child’s place of work, unless conditions prevent it (light, noise, space etc)
  • Name the material and show how it is held
  • Let the child demonstrate the ‘technique of handling’ by moving the pieces with her from the shelf or furniture to the place of presentation
  • Technical features
  • Analysis of Movement to help to show the physical sensations and mental nature of activity, movements covey the processes of pairing, sorting, naming.
  • Be as quiet and economic with movements as possible
  • Be as brief as possible while fully serving the purpose – show mental and physical movements and the Criteria of Perfection, leave when she is in a position to continue the activity
  • When the nature of the activity is clear the adult increases the challenge by suggesting to the child that she repeats with a blindfold, or with the eyes closed (unless the essential property relates to sight) as this will increase the sensitivity of the other senses.




When the child can complete successfully, with ease other exercises are shown



Variations (Explorations):

The child will see her own ways to use the materials, which shows her intelligence is engaged, this is to be encouraged as an ‘ease’ to explore, providing that the materials are not misused.




Only with awareness and knowledge through experience is the child able to internalise the concepts in her mind and communicate her discoveries, when she is able, doing so will further establish them in her conscious.  Before the ‘Three Period Lesson’ she will have randomly absorbed many labels, (For Example – big, large, long), now specific terminology is given.

When the child becomes aware of the different intensities of a quality the terms are given in degrees of comparison, the positive, comparative and superlative, to increase her awareness of grades.

Using specific terminology fixes, seals or crystallises the abstract impressions in the brain and allows them to be communicated.



Age at Presentation:

Sensorial materials are first presented when the child can function independently after the child has settled into the Children’s Home and when the Sensitive Period for order is at it’s peak, the Sensitive Period for the refinement of the senses has begun and when it peaks the child will benefit from preparations made earlier.  The Elementary Exercises of Practical Life are offered before the Sensorial to allow the child time to orient herself to her new physical and social environment, become accustomed to receive an individual presentation and so that she can co-ordinate her movements, concentrate and as an attitude to work which anticipate purposeful behaviour behind even unfamiliar activities, will power and can make decisions.


Games (Further Exercises):

  • A familiar exercise performed in a new way reignites interest and offers the material more fully, making further links in the memory.
  • Once knowledge is consolidated and verbally expressed ‘games’ help the child to generalise her conceptual understanding to familiar objects her environment.  Linking the properties she has found in abstract materials to all objects proves her sensorial development.  The Directress may notice that she begins to explore properties in her environment deliberately analysing them and paving the way for scientific thing, links with the natural world are a particularly good way to do this.
  • The games can be played by two or three children who understand all aspect of the material and so bring a social dynamic to the materials and the practice of specific terminology allows the children to further practice newly acquired language.



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