As an infant, a child's physical and mental powers are developing. By the time the child reaches 2-3 years of age, he has accumulated and absorbed very many impressions from the outside world, but these impressions are confusing and scattered in his subconscious mind. At this time, the child is ready to rediscover his environment and the opinions he has of it. The process of creating and organizing intelligence is to know objects in his surrounding, their places, and qualities and helps him adapt to it.
The child's intellect does not work in an isolated manner. His understanding is everywhere and is bound to his body at all times. The union of mind and body is what Dr. Montessori based her sensorial education theory.
The intellect of the person is concerned with universal and abstract ideas, pure reason, and will. From birth, the child has the capacity of abstraction. The potential for the concept is developed later in life. This unique capacity was recognized and analyzed by Aristotle. He said that "there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in senses, but that it exists in the intellect in a different mode in the senses."
It is through contact and exploration of the environment that the intellect builds and stores practical ideas. Without manipulation and connection with the environment, intellectual functioning will lack foundation and precision. The link establishes through the senses and movement.
The primary purpose of these materials is to help to sort out many impressions given by the senses. The sensorial activities help develop order, broaden, and refine sensory perception. The human sense faculties are the instrument by which the 3-6 years old child measures, explores, and defines his environment.
The activities in the Sensorial area help develop a child's senses through exercises that gradually build from simple to complex. The child's sense perceptions receive the order as the activities identify a unique perceptual quality or show differences in quality. Dr. Montessori called the sensorial materials, "materialized abstractions." When the child has abstracted the feature from the content with complete understanding, these clear classifications will lead him to a systematic and orderly mind. Each piece of equipment for sensorial activities consists of a set of objects which, when experienced together, show a unique quality such as color or length. This experience of quality occurs because each item in the collection is identical except that one quality.
We offer at least one activity for every one of the human sense faculties, that is visual (sight), auditory (hearing), tactile (touch), gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), however, we limit their quantity. That way, the child does not become overwhelmed.
The sensorial materials, as well as all activities in the Montessori classroom, are beautiful and appealing to the child. Color, brightness proportion is a vital part of everything that surrounds a child.
All materials, including sensorial ones, contain in themselves control of error, which allows the child to use his reason, critical thinking, and ability to draw a distinction. Activity is another characteristic of the material. It provides the child with the action needed in using the equipment and moving it around as he pleases. A child can make and unmake something over and over again. It is an example of repetition, which is crucial for the development and refinement of the senses.
We present the materials in a calm and isolated are. Using simple movements and minimum conversation in an exact way, we model how he should practice these activities.
The education of senses precedes the teaching of the child's higher intellectual faculties such as math, language, or sciences. He must first discover, use, and order his senses so that he carries with him tools to judge and evaluate his surroundings at a later stage. The child learns to recognize differences and similarities in objects and to grade them, which are very important for him to master tasks involving math, language, and sciences.