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Using the  5  7 Senses

By Barbara Greenspan, OT, Occupational Therapist


Do children learn with just their brain?  Absolutely not!!!  Children learn by using their senses in everyday activities.  We are all familiar with the five senses: touch, taste, hear, see and smell. There are actually two more senses that are crucial for learning and these are body-related senses.  No one talks about these senses, but they are so important.  They are movement-based senses and are known as Proprioception (feedback from the muscles and the joints) and Vestibular Processing (feedback from movement of the head).


All of our senses are used for learning.  Just take a look at children playing in pre-school.  These days pre-schools are quite savvy and know how to expose children to a variety of sensory-rich experiences. Pre-schools understand that children learn through their senses.  There are sand and water tables for experiencing touch, there is music to experience sound, there are art projects hanging for visual input, there is snack time to experience different tastes, they cook to experience new smells.


During playground time, watch the children dig in the sandbox, climb up the ladder, jump and run. These common activities give children proprioceptive feedback to their muscles and joints. This feedback tells all of us where our body parts are located without using our eyes. It also tells us how much strength is needed to do a task, such as how hard to throw a ball or how much pressure to apply to a pencil to write on paper.


Watch the children use different swings: tire swings that they spin around in and regular swings that they sit on flying high in the air, or lay on floating back and forth. All this swinging gives feedback to their Vestibular systems— the system that helps teach us about balance. The movement of swinging with the head out of its normal upright position is especially important in teaching children how to move their bodies in more coordinated ways, so that eventually they can feel confident doing jumping jacks, playing soccer, swimming or whatever activity they chose to pursue.


We need to expose our children to so many things that stimulate ALL their senses.  A two dimensional world of TV and computers is just not activating the sensory systems enough.  In order for children to learn and really understand our world and their bodies, they need to experience movement, touch, taste and smell along with using their eyes and ears to learn.  Remember the song… “I know we’ve come a long way, we’re changing day-to-day.  But tell me where do the children play?” Get them out and about.  Expose children to sensory-rich experiences as often as possible, and remember, learning is a whole body experience-it’s not just in your head!


We have many toys that stimulate these senses. Check out our Outdoor Toys, Sports Toys, and Arts & Crafts


If you liked this article, you may also want to read our other developmental articles:


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Guidelines for Summer Activities Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Learning Through Movement… A Sensory-Rich Way to Help Children Barbara Greenspan, OT
Five Elements of Successfully Disciplining Your Toddler Andy Eig, PhD.
Preventing Family Headaches Andy Eig, PhD.

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Helicopter Parenting Barbara Greenspan, OT
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Giving is MORE than Toys Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
Using the  5  7 Senses Barbara Greenspan, OT
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What to Expect During the Sixth Year of Your Baby's Life Gopi K. Patel, MSE.d
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What to Expect During the Second Year of Your Baby's Life Barbara Greenspan, OT
What to Expect During the First Year of Your Baby's Life Deanie Barth, MSPT
Psychiatric Medication and Young Children: Is there too much pill popping? Andy Eig, PhD.
Exersaucers, Swings and Jumpers— A help or hindrance to development? Deanie Barth, MSPT
Technology — A Chief Culprit in Language Delays Shari Harpaz, MS, CCC-SLP
Great Indoor Winter Play Ideas Barbara Greenspan, OT