What is multi-sensory learning?

The concept may sound complicated, but it is a very simple and fundamental one. It is the way we learn through our 5 senses sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste and their combinations

This approach can be illustrated, for example, by the multisensory pedagogy in day care centres with our partner Cap Enfants which is based on the natural development of a child.

The children who have benefited from this approach have obtained astonishing results, such as a score 70% higher than the national average in vocabulary acquisition tests.

Multisensory learning adapts to our natural functioning

Multisensoriality is at the heart of the latest scientific discoveries on the integration between the senses in children.

The question of integration between the senses during development has long been debated in the scientific community. Do children develop each of the senses in isolation to learn how to operate them well before making the connection between them?

Or is learning multi-sensory initially before each sense learns to function in isolation?

In the scientific community, there is a consensus on this idea. Recent work tends to validate the second hypothesis with an integration between the senses observed in babies.

Proof of multisensoriality in infants

For example, an experiment has shown that a smell can have an effect on visual perception in a 4-month-old baby. Babies are exposed to sequences of images, presented fairly quickly. There is a great variety in the images and in the different objects that are presented. Among them, faces are presented. The face is one of the visual categories that toddlers learn to recognise quickly. These are not familiar faces, but rather very different people: men, women, from the front, from the side, in the dark, in the light..

An additional element is added to the sensory experience: a T-shirt is placed on the babies and they keep it on while they watch the images. In some cases, the T-shirt is nothing special. In other cases, a T-shirt that was worn by their mother for three nights before they came to the laboratory is placed on them.

The newborn’s sensory experience with the mother’s smell

The study shows that in the presence of the garment with their mother’s smell, there is an increase in the baby’s brain response to the sight of a face. The mother’s smell therefore improves the toddler’s ability to identify faces among other objects.

The mother’s smell thus contributes to the perceptible categorisation of faces. What scientists suspect is that the mother’s smell is the first discovery of human sensory stimulation in the infant. This is then associated with the discovery of the mother’s face. It is probably this link that makes the baby understand that face and body odour are two sensory facets of the same object, the human being.

Multisensory education helps cognitive development

Sense (meaning) develops from the senses (sensory pathways).

The combination of various sensory information gradually helps children to understand that they can group things together and create mental categories. This will later lead to generalizable abstract concepts and language learning. We start with the senses and go on to cognitive development in general. (Céline Spriet, Etienne Abassi, Jean-Rémy Hochmann and Liuba Papeo -30 December 2021)

Sensory integration plays a key role, because it allows a certain form of abstraction to be achieved. At the same time as the baby notices the shape of an object with vision, by touching it he can make the connection with the tactile sensation of the object, with the smell (if it is a fruit), etc. And so the concept of fruit is born. It is no longer simply a shape from a strictly visual point of view. It is also a texture, a smell, a particular noise when you cut it..

All the information that comes from different senses, by combining, will allow to create meaning.

Here is an interesting exercise. When parents introduce a child to an object, they should first give the child time to look at it. Then they can allow the child to touch it. If it is an object that makes noise, they can show the child the sound it makes.

And of course, as parents, that’s what we do.

In this way, we create the basic building blocks to teach them to develop everything that will lead to language and abstract concepts.

Multisensoriality favours the development of language and cognitive development.

Scientific bibliography :

Providing your child with sensory experiences

You can contribute to your children’s development at home by encouraging their multisensory exploration of the environment. In our “parents side” pages, you will find ideas for fun activities for your child to do

This will allow you to gently facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, language learning, later school learning, etc. from home. But it will also give you the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with your child.