What is the sense of learning - Understanding multisensory learning

What is the sense of learning – Understanding multisensory learning

Multisensory Learning

From the What Every Parent Needs to Know set of talks and materials


What are the senses involved in learning? How can you begin to understand multisensory learning in your child? During early childhood, children learn and experience more than at any other time of their lives.  Forging connections deep within their brain, determining how they will grow up to think, feel and behave.  And they are receiving these experiences of learning through their senses – multisensory learning in action.

Through every object they touch, every image they see and every sound they hear. Through the flavours they taste and the smells they are detecting, memories are formed and messages are sent.  All these sensory inputs are processed in the cerebral cortex, at the front of the brain. Along with their thoughts and feelings.  This explains why our senses are so powerful at triggering our emotions, and why understanding multisensory learning is so important.

When multiple senses are involved in an experience, more connections are made

So, think for a moment of the experiences you offer your child and the senses that they engage.  Imagine slicing open a juicy orange, the vibrant colours, the smell, the juice trickling through their fingers as they grasp its slippery texture before tasting it – now compare this to offering them a plastic one.  When we are actively understanding multisensory learning, we can make much more sense of it.

Multisensory learning is hugely powerful and is why young children make such good use of it, especially during the early years when critical growth is occurring.  Raised in a sensory rich environment, children develop brains more densely packed with connections. And any core experiences missed during this vital time are not easily made up for in later life.

No toy or resource is as valuable as the time, engagement and understanding that you can offer them.  

Every moment of these precious years should be cherished and seen for the connections that you can offer them.  So, turn off the screen and have a conversation.  Look into their eyes and really connect – even during a nappy change.  Find time each day to eat together or share a story. 

When you appreciate just how engaged their young brains are, you can respect their powerful drives to explore and understand the world.  You can also see how important it is that you facilitate the opportunities they need.  Helping them to gain meaningful experiences, to investigate and to feel the result of their actions.

As you spend time with your child, be careful not to dampen their motivations

Children are not only learning – they are learning about their desire to learn.  When you meet these desires with disapproval, you are simply teaching them not to bother – even when this means additional washing.

  • Allow your child time and opportunity to explore at their own pace
  • Avoid correcting their efforts when they differ from what you expected
  • Allow them to develop their social and communication skills
  • Offer varied opportunities within rich and varied environments
  • Offer them permission to investigate, trying things out just to see what happens.

And as you do so…

  • Consider whether their touch, sight or hearing, or their sense of taste or smell are being engaged… or could they be?

Childhood, and especially early childhood when much of this growth is occurring, lasts such a short period of time.  So, engage with your child, and consider all their senses as they fully explore every experience.


Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk

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