Why is stimulating the senses important in learning?

Why work on the 5 senses? Why is it important to cultivate and develop our senses ? Why is it so important to cultivate and develop our senses from an early age? This is really what 5 senses for kids Foundation is all about. And the answer to these questions is directly related to the well-being and development of children. Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Stimulating your child’s 5 senses

Children experience the world through their five senses. And they do not perceive it in a monosensory way. We are always multi-sensory at all times. All the senses are involved at the same time.

During their development, children will tend to favour one sense or another. At first, it will be touch. The sense of touch plays a fundamental role in the toddlers. But as soon as they acquire clear vision, sight will be favoured. However, the other perceptual channels work together.

During the first 1000 days, children will constantly optimise the functioning of their sensory channels. Their sensoriality is then explosive. This is the best time to awaken the senses: to make children see, touch and smell new things..

And as the children’s sensory capacities are solicited, a virtuous loop begins.

This virtuous circle of learning is particularly visible in studies on language. Children from culturally advantaged backgrounds have a richer vocabulary by the age of 6. Every child’s brain is capable of storing millions of pieces of information when stimulated.

5 senses for kids Foundation” advises you to use a rich vocabulary, even with an infant.

Studies show that as early as 3 months of age, children can already isolate words within language. They recognise phonemes, even if they do not yet know what they mean.

The learning period between 4 and 5 years is extraordinary. Children become familiar with the meaning of words. Not only those that describe objects, but also those that describe emotions such as anger, sadness and even aesthetic experiences. It is in these early years that the foundations of language are laid.

All this learning is implicit. They happen naturally. The human brain is designed that way. It happens so naturally that we don’t pay attention to it.

We don’t imagine all the little learning moments of children. They will capitalise on the first time they have an experience. They will already have made progress when they repeat the same experience a little later.

To stimulate your child’s senses, we recommend that you encourage sensory experiences, rather than training or sensory awareness.

For example, you can have your child smell a strawberry and touch the fruit. Then you can offer them to taste it. Throughout the experience, you can comment on the sensations.

The child will gain a sensory experience of the strawberry and at the same time develop the concept of the fruit. A strawberry has such and such a smell, such and such a flavour, and Mum (or Dad) says that “it’s good” or “it’s sweet”.

Awakening the five senses naturally

The best way to learn is to follow the way we learn naturally. Offer a child to experiment and let the child draw his or her own conclusions: touch, taste, see and smell. These sensory activities stimulate children’s senses and they develop on their own.

Children who have had a special experience with a parent will stand out. Take cooking, for example. If children have a grandmother who has cooked with them, they will have an idea of what the mixture of food will be like; and they will be able to talk about it.

We can observe the same thing with musicians. Family motivation or adult attention promotes the development of an ability. This means that we have fantastic implicit learning abilities, which then form the basis of our future life.

Childhood is a special time to invest time and energy. The toddler has enormous potential for development.

However, we must not forget that small children have a short attention span. They learn through microlearning.

It takes effort for the child to learn something. But once something is learned, it becomes automatic. And it is easier to learn the next thing.

Our tips for awakening the 5 senses

1/ Learn in safe environments

It’s not just the experience that counts. The conditions in which it takes place are also crucial. It is important to foster a relaxed atmosphere.

The development of skills can be exponential if it occurs from the start in favourable conditions.

2/ Benevolence

Not so long ago, in the middle of the 20th century, children were still swaddled like chrysalises. They could not move. Fortunately, today we allow children more freedom.

Here we should emphasise the importance of the joint attention of the child and the adult. Naturally, the child will look to the other for guidance. If we encourage their trial and error, with encouragement and benevolent attention, the child will quickly progress.

Smile, be patient and do not rush the child. The support of an adult contributes to the child’s enjoyment. This will increase their curiosity.

3/ No over-stimulation

Stanislas Dehaene, who works on the development of children’s brains, emphasises their fantastic capacities. Even if over-stimulation can in some cases be positive, if we take virtuoso musicians for example, there is a real risk in pushing for super-performance.

Parents should not expect a child to have a bachelor degree from kindergarten! It is necessary to temper this. The individual rhythm is important. Remember that Albert Einstein began to speak at the age of 6.

Françoise Dolto said that children should be allowed to be bored. There are indeed areas of the brain that are activated when we do nothing. It is a mode of knowledge consolidation where the brain takes the time to order and prune. And of course, sleep is important. It is during these rest phases that the child can recharge its energy reserves

Physical exercise also strengthens the brain. In the end, it’s all about variety.

Sharpen your senses even after infancy

After early childhood, the brain retains its plasticity. There is always time to enrich the senses with new experiences.

The second major brain shift occurs during adolescence. Current research shows that the brain becomes mature between the ages of 20 and 25.

Understanding how the brain works is interesting in order to better understand what the practice of multi-sensoriality brings.

There are no new neurons being created. But there are new connections and pruning that occur as a result of learning. The brain sends “tentacles” everywhere, extensions between neurons. When these extensions are working, they are stabilised; when they are not used, they are pruned. This is why the performance of neural circuits increases as life goes on.

Pruning: this term means that synapses that have been created between two neurons will regress if they are not functional. The neurons do not die, but the communication between them no longer functions.

To find out about fun activities to offer your child sensory experiences, go to the pages for each sense sight, hearing, taste, smell or touch in the “parents’ corner”.