Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning
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Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning

Sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell — the five senses are wonderful tools for fostering learning and building on essential cognitive skills during a child’s development. The Reggio Emilia approach uses sensory activities to not only introduce children to new ideas but also enhance the overall learning experience. In this blog, we’ll explore the role of the five senses in a child’s development and how we incorporate them into Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres.

 

Making sense of their environment with sight

When babies are born their sight is very limited. They struggle to see far away and overall their vision is blurry and indistinct. Over the first year or so their eyesight gradually develops, and with it their understanding of the world around them. In early childhood, it’s important to provide visual stimuli such as colourful toys, shapes and patterns to strengthen their visual acuity further. Hand-eye coordination is another essential skill that should be explored, as it applies to everything from simple, everyday tasks to more complex activities like sports, art and writing. 

The Reggio Emilia approach emphasises the importance of providing enriching visual experiences in the classroom and during play. Following the philosophy of the “Third Educator”, the child’s learning environment is enhanced with colours, lights and designs, providing a space where they can interact and explore. The child also engages in a variety of activities aimed to stimulate their sense of sight, including arts and crafts. Activities such as colour mixing with paint or observing colours under magnifying glasses allow children to develop a deeper understanding of colour and how it applies to the world around them.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning

 

Increasing understanding of the world with hearing

Did you know that unborn babies can hear and process sounds within the womb from about 18 weeks? Studies show that they can even recognise and respond to familiar sounds such as their mother’s voice. Hearing, then, is a powerful tool for bonding and one that makes socialising and communicating with others more meaningful. While children can hear quite clearly from a young age, they have a harder time discriminating between sounds and interpreting them. In early childhood, it’s crucial to introduce and repeat new sounds to increase a child’s understanding of them. 

At Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres, fundamental skills related to speech and language are prioritised. We reinforce new words through engaging activities such as reading out loud and singing songs, providing repetition where needed to increase comprehension. Our included Reggio 5 activities Reggio Music and Reggio Language are aimed at enhancing children’s auditory skills further. Through these programs, children join in activities that stimulate their auditory processing abilities, such as rhythm exercises, playing games, and storytelling. By fostering language and communication skills through these enriching experiences, children learn how to better interact with one another, laying the groundwork for cognitive development and lifelong learning. 

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning

 

Nourishing their diets with taste

Early childhood is a critical period for building familiarity with different tastes and adding variety to a child’s diet. Limited exposure to different foods can lead to picky eating and may cause difficulties with cognitive, emotional and physical development. By tasting a broad range of foods early on, children can adjust more easily to unique textures and flavours. This has a huge impact on their preferences and eating habits later in life, leading to better health outcomes.

Providing nourishing, healthy food is a priority at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres. Meals are lovingly prepared by qualified chefs, with a focus on variety and meeting all of the essential food groups. Additionally, our educators encourage the children to experiment and take initiative at meal times by implementing fun ideas like tasting plates and finger foods. Fostering a positive attitude towards nutritious food from a young age is a priority, and can be vital in establishing a lifetime of good health and well-being.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning

 

Interpreting new information with touch

For children, the world is an exciting place, with many lessons to be learned each day. One of their primary senses is their sense of touch, which promotes curiosity and creativity, and is essential to their physical development as well. As babies and toddlers learn to grasp and feel different objects they gain valuable sensory information about them. This stage of development was coined by Piaget as the sensorimotor stage. During this stage, children learn about the features of different objects, experiment with new stimuli and gain a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Moreover, tactile experiences often involve problem-solving and critical thinking, skills that are crucial to a child’s cognitive development. 

Tactile activities are very common within the Reggio Emilia approach, as they allow children to deeply engage with their learning. By introducing elements to playtime such as soft foam, rough natural materials and grainy sand, children build sensory awareness of their world all while exploring different textures and surfaces. One great learning technique that we use at the centres is sensory baskets. In each basket is a different sensory sensation for the child to investigate and describe, giving them the skills to interpret new information. For example, children may choose to describe shells as “rough” or slime as “squishy”. This not only builds their awareness of the world but also helps to enhance their ability to communicate and express new ideas. 

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning

 

Enriching their experiences with smell

Smell is the sense most linked to regions of the brain associated with emotion, learning, and memory. Hence, smell can be a wonderful tool for enhancing development and advancing skills. As with all the senses, children also rely on their sense of smell to better understand and interact with the world around them. One example of this is that they begin to decipher between good and bad smells, which can alert them to potential dangers such as smoke and spoiled food. 

In Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms, educators often create environments that stimulate all the senses, including smell. Children are invited to describe and investigate different smells and connect them to objects. This might involve activities such as smelling different flowers in a garden or exploring different scents like herbs during cooking activities. As mentioned above, scents are a powerful way to improve memory and cognition and can help children connect different ideas in the learning environment. 

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning

 

As explored in this blog, our senses are valuable tools in making sense of the world around us. In early childhood development, the senses introduce children to new ideas, help them to further engage in learning activities, and build on essential cognitive, physical and emotional skills. At Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres, we encourage children to explore their senses in a variety of ways. To find out more about the Reggio Emilia approach, feel free to reach out to us on 02 9891 2222 or via email at mail@reggioemilia.com.au

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning
Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | The Reggio Emilia Approach and Sensory Exploration: How the Five Senses Transform Learning