The 8 Senses We Use to Teach a Montessori Child!

Posted on by Helena Eddings

The signature of the Montessori method is teaching the child through all of the senses. You won’t find much worksheet or flashcard time in one of our classrooms–they just don’t stimulate the kind of learning we know works best.

Instead, we intentionally create situations where a child can learn through multiple senses. Research and our own experience tell us that when a child learns in this way, she is more engaged and retains what she learned in a deeper way.

sense 4

Oh, and did you know?

In Montessori education we recognize 8 senses, not just the typical 4. What’s better is that every one of these is easy to incorporate into your home life. Our senses are how we experience and interpret the world. Read on to see what each is and how we teach it, to see how you can too.

Visual Discrimination

What it is:

Learning to differentiate visually between form, color, and size. This is the beginning of the child’s affinity for sorting everything in their wake, and it starts with learning to differentiate.

How we teach it:

You’ll see manipulatives all over the Montessori classroom. The term “manipulatives” refers to materials that a child can interact with in multiple ways. To teach visual discrimination, we’ll make available one kind of material presented in multiple ways.

For example, wooden blocks in varying shapes, cylinders of different size, or blocks of different colors.


What it is:

What things feel like when we touch them with our hands or bodies. Does it feel soft, scratchy, smooth, rough? Is it hard, grippy, or bumpy?

Teaching this builds a child’s vocabulary, as well as helps her learn to distinguish whats she’s interacting with.

How we teach it:

By making as many options as possible available, and talking with the child about what she’s experiencing. This can include books, but in it’s best form comes in everyday interactions, especially outside.


What it is:

When a child is able to figure out what something is without seeing, smelling, or hearing it. Removing these senses strengthens the other senses.

How we teach it:

The classic “mystery bag” experiment. We place an object the child knows into a cloth bag and let him feel the shape to discover what it is. Children love the delight of solving the problem!


What it is:

Learning to distinguish differences in weight.

How we teach it:

Children already have an innate sense of this (just ask them to put you on their back!), but don’t readily have a vocabulary to describe it.

We use weighted objects to teach this, often controlling for size, shape, and color in younger years to focus their attention on the weight.

At home, you can do this with objects around the house, including citrus fruit at the grocery store (did you know that heavier ones are juicier?).

Let your child start holding things to experience the sense of weight, and let him stand on the scale to connect the concept mathematically.

Your child will also delight in seeing himself grow bigger and gain weight in this activity. Try letting him hold objects while on the scale to further connect this concept.


sense 2

What it is:

The sense of difference in temperature.

How we teach it:

As much a safety exercise as it is educational, teaching children about difference in temperature allows them to learn about the world around them.

As the seasons change, talk with your child about weather appropriate clothing, and let her feel the cool morning or hot afternoon and connect this to a discussion about temperature. Put up an outdoor thermometer to help your child build a numerical vocabulary as it relates to temperature.


What it is:

Developing the sense of smell through matching, sorting, and classifying based on strength.

How we teach it:

We let children smell everything, and give them a vocabulary to describe it. We keep spices, smelling cylinders, essential oils, and scents in nature to help children define, describe, and sort scents.

In addition, we help children determine the strength of a scent by giving them faint and strong smells.

You can easily do this at home in the garden, when you cook, at the grocery store, and on walks outside. Give names to everything you smell, and help your child find her favorite and least favorites.



What it is:

Developing the sense of taste by trying, testing, matching, and identifying various tastes.

How we teach it:

By tasting, of course! Every mealtime is an opportunity for developing this sense, and in addition to that, we use tasting jars to develop this sense apart from mealtime.

Discussions about safety are essential, so we always talk with children about asking an adult before putting anything they don’t recognize into their mouths.



What it is:

The sense of perceiving variations in color.

How we teach it:

We talk with children about the saturation of a color, the amount of white or black a color has in it, and teach them to differentiate between them.



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West Side Montessori is an independent, accredited Montessori school educating children 13 months through 8th grade (preschool, kindergarten, elementary and middle school) with locations at 13587 Roachton Rd in Perrysburg, Ohio, and 7115 W. Bancroft Street in Toledo, Ohio.