Buttercup Learning
January 27, 2022

What is multisensory learning and why is it important?

Whether you’re a teacher, parent or carer, you may have come across the term multisensory learning.  It's become a bit of a buzz word in the early-years teaching world.  So what exactly is it?  Multisensory learning simply encourages learners to…

Whether you’re a teacher, parent or carer, you may have come across the term multisensory learning. 

It’s become a bit of a buzz word in the early-years teaching world. 

A child using an abacus, a multisensory tool for learning maths
A child using an abacus, a multisensory learning tool.

So what exactly is it?

Multisensory learning simply encourages learners to use multiple senses when taking in new information. This learning style uses activities that appeal to the visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile senses. It is a particularly popular teaching method for children who have learning differences like ADHD or Dyslexia, or those with learning disabilities, but it can be beneficial to every child or adult. 

How does it work?

The basic science is simple. It’s widely believed that the best way to teach new concepts is by involving multiple parts of the brain. Multisensory activities focus on utilizing more areas of the brain, ​​by engaging more than one sense at a time. 

For example, by adding auditory or visual components to reading assignments, like illustrations or online activities, you can help children develop stronger literacy skills. 

Multisensory learning is supported by academic research and theoretical knowledge, such as Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

A young boy waters flowers

Why is it so important for a child’s learning and development?

Multisensory learning helps to make teaching more inclusive – giving children lots of ways to access new information which doesn’t just depend on writing, reading and listening. 

This is particularly helpful for kids who learn and think differently. 

Moreover, if children learn something using more than one sense, they will connect more deeply with what they are learning and the information is more likely to stick.

So, in summary multisensory learning makes it easier for children to:

  • Collect information
  • Make connections between new information and what they already know
  • Use nonverbal problem-solving skills
  • Understand and work through problems

Children playing instruments 

How can we incorporate this into our teaching and parenting?

Here are some of the different types of sensory learning that we can try to involve in our teaching. Multisensory learning includes at least two of these different sensory learning styles. 

Visual – learning through watching and seeing.

For example: 

  • Looking at things closely – like flowers and insects 
  • Demonstrations
  • Watching movies, documentaries, plays and cartoons
  • Playing games
  • E-learning
  • Augmented reality

Auditory – learning through sounds, hearing and listening.

For example: 

  • Listening to audiobooks and podcasts
  • Reading aloud
  • Watching and listening to plays, films and cartoons with subtitles

A grandparent reads to two of their grandchildren

Tactile – learning through using our sense of touch.

For example: 

  • Playing with sand, earth and water
  • Touching nature – such as bark
  • Growing vegetables
  • Children’s books with page textures
  • Holding objects

Child holds leaves in their hand

Gustatory and Olfactory – learning through taste and smell.

For example: 

  • Tasting new fruits and vegetables
  • Smelling flowers

Kinaesthetic – learning through physical activity and body movement

For example: 

  • Acting, role play
  • Physical games like scavenger hunts
  • Sport

Some of our favourite multi-sensory learning activities:

  • Reading aloud, while looking at the words
  • Talking about where materials come from, while passing around objects to smell and touch
  • Talking about the life cycle of plants while planting seeds
  • E-learning with words, images and sounds
  • Answering questions by moving to a labelled area of the room
  • Drawing from life
  • Singing educational songs and reading the words

We hope you found this article interesting and informative! 

If you have any more activity suggestions for multisensory learning don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Instagram. 

The Buttercup Team

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